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Where to invest time in Project Management

- Yavanthi Shivakumar, PMP, CSM, ITIL

Agile Evangelist | Passionate Solution Architect | Business Strategist!

Even though we all know Project Management is the essential part of any project across industries and areas of work, I am sure most of us working as Project/Program Managers get lost in various activities that we perform every day. Our entire Project Management education is constantly challenged by pressure of deadlines and constant changes coming from clients. In spite of proper planning, are we sure we have made the perfect deliverables on time and with expected or enhanced quality?

I am certain most of us would agree with me that the answer is ‘no’, or ‘difficult’. So, does it mean project management is not required in today’s volatile environment? And, following strict Project Management guidelines, can we ensure to deliver the project on time and quality?

For Project Manager to be successful, one must know where to invest time. Time is the only credit a Project Manager has. Before investing time in every activity, one should judge the value of it. For example, only preparing reports will not add value, the reports have to lead to something tangible, fulfil certain objectives, or bring the team close to the project goals. Invest time in understanding the changing environment and putting proper strategies would help to manage the project in the best possible way.

“Agility” is the way to work in order to deliver the projects on time and with quality. In my experience, I bank on the 3 “A’s” – Adapt, Act and Acknowledge.

Adapt to change and align quickly to customer needs:

In the current market situation, where technology is both a boon and bane, we are expected to learn new technology and complete development within a very short lifecycle. Competition being very high due to exposure to transformation of trends in the market, business requirements change very fast. You need to support customer businesses and ensure they

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reach the market before their competitors. Development methodology has been moving from Waterfall to Agile in the current era. It is good for customers but how does that impact Project Management? Should a Project Manager have a lengthy documentation with traditional SRS, HLD, LLD, WBS? It is next to impossible to make detailed document with all the captured changes. So, should you start development directly?

The answer is No. Following agile doesn’t mean no documentation, requirements should be always documented. Plan to write short user stories and tag them to Features in Product Backlog. If possible, do whiteboard diagrams and show the workflow to the customer. If you have a good UI team, use the tools to come up with UI for the requirements and show to PO (Product Owner) and get a sign off. Using this process, it would take less than 2-3 hours to put down all the points. Most often the Business teams would give suggestions that are more valuable as they are the ones who face the floor test every day. Keep process simple and ensure you acknowledge the changes that keep coming.

Act to changes:

Once the customer gives additional requirements or changes in requirements, review the same and adapt your project plan. You have to always work with the team, product owners and stakeholders to ensure you meet the deliverables with set expectations. Is change only for IT Projects? Of course not. Change is everywhere, including war strategies. Changes are always required to align to the goals and bigger vision. Acting and adapting to change is a key success factor for a project manager.

Acknowledge and Embrace Changes:

After acting, the next step is to acknowledge. After all the efforts of the team, it is very important to acknowledge the team. In any industry, changes and working to achieve the changes is the most stressful. It is the responsibility of the Project Manager to keep the team motivated as we do to our customers. Our customers are always acknowledged, but we forget the team players. Project Manager plays a very critical role towards maintaining the team motivation and keeping the team together. This is where I feel Project Management fails if you do not invest time. Every day, spend time with your team, customer and stakeholders to understand the situation and align them to meet the set goal.

What happens when you keep taking changes?

You have a risk of scope creep, timelines slipping and impact on the cost. How do you mitigate this? In Agile projects, key factor of success is to collaborate. Keep customer informed on the factors influencing the changes and get their acknowledgment on the impacted areas. Keep your Management informed about the Risks as Early Warning System on daily basis. Focus on investing time and building relations and ensuring the customer business interest is managed within all constraints. If customer would see value, it would be easy to negotiate the scope, time and cost.

At least, we could see results which are closer to 80%, if not 100%.

Readers, please share your best practices on how you manage to keep projects within scope, time and cost. We project managers have the most at stake on a project, and it would help the community and together we can establish best practices.

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