Get your projects under control

In these trying times…or some variation of that…is the first line inevery other article or post of the past 6 months, and I am gettingreally tired of it.

What usually follows is advice to get things in order, whatever thething of interest is, while focus is elsewhere and before it turns backto you. However, if your thing of is interest is the slate of currentIT projects in your organization, there indeed may be some opportunityhere. It’s time to get positive.

Do you have a lot of parallel projects? Probably figgting for thesame more limited (than ever) resources? Are they all target-datechallenged, i.e. all late or later than late? Now is the time to getthem under control.

The absolute first priority is to wind-up as many of these projectsas possible, as soon as possible. This sounds like common-sense; it iscertainly sensible, but not at all common.

No rocket-science here, you need to allocate all your resources to asubset of the on-going projects, get some successful projectdeliveries, and then look around for new opportunities. If you have alarge slate of current projects, you may need to do this again (andagain) for another subset of projects. Keep doing this until the numberof current projects no longer exceeds your capacity to resource them,or as close as you can get. Do your utmost to avoid initiating any newprojects while cleaning up the current projects.

(Of course, some projects cannot be delayed, especially changesneeded for new legislation or other compliance issues. Jump on thoseimmediately and get them done quickly so you can get back to the otheron-going projects.)

It also helps if you can manage to identify any existing projectsthat can be cancelled out-right. This will not be totally in yourcontrol, as the business unit or sponsor that wants the project donemay resist. It is just to your advantage to identify any projects thatare clearly no longer needed, and who’s sunk costs should be capped.

How many projects should you focus on as described above? You can’toverload a single project either, without incurring diminishingreturns. A rule-of-thumb would be to define the number of people on atypical project team in your shop, and then divide that number into thetotal number of people you have available for projects. There are manyideas and opinions about optimum team size, usually around 7 plus orminus 2.

Next time: which projects should you pick first?

David Wright

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