Top-down support critical for change

All methodologies are not created equal.

That, said William Bates, chair and CEO of Ottawa-based Bates Project Management Inc., is an assumption that organizations cannot afford to make.

While there are many methodologies that deal with systems development, not all of them deal with project management, he said. “Almost all of them also claim to be project management methodologies and it’s not really true.”

A good project management methodology (PPM) should do two things, he said. “It’s got to be both a framework and a how-to. Most systems development lifecycle methodologies show you a framework and tell you things you should be doing, but don’t tell you how to do it,” he explained.

Developed in 1983, Bates PMM is generic in nature. Though about 80 per cent of those who use it are involved in IT, “we’ve used it for everything from building roads to putting social services in place,” Bates said.

The methodology is built in three manuals: how to manage the corporate project environment, how to identify, select, plan and control a project, and how to understand the soft side: communications, HR and team building. Utilizing the PMM, a team can produce the plan manually or partially automated by using the Bates PMM Toolkit software package.

According to Bates, one of the unique features of the PMM is the way a project charter is handled. Unlike most charters that are “framed and hung on the wall never to be changed,” Bates said, “we have an evolving charter.”

Organizations can start with a first version or “planning charter,” but once the planning is over and changes are made the charter is updated as well. And if the project occurs in phases, the charter is updated with the rest of the plan.

To avoid the common pitfalls of inadequate planning and lack of support from senior management, Bates said his PMM takes a two-step approach to planning.

First “is a top-down look, so you take the product and break it down into all of its pieces down to a low level,” Bates said.

“When you get down to the low level this is where you find the work packages…and our methodology says those are assigned to the functional group in the company that is going to do that package and they go through the detailed planning of their pieces. Then you take all that information from the bottom and simply roll it back up through that structure.”

The support of senior management is crucial to success, Bates said. For example, “the thing that really made this click in the City of Brampton was John Wright. John said from the very beginning, ‘All of the courses run for IT will have the users mixed in.’ He always insisted on that and it was a good move. It worked like a charm,” he said.

“You’re talking about cultural change, changing the way people do things. They don’t like that…you’ve got to lead them into it. So if you don’t have a champion inside the house the odds of making it are not great.”