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Keep to the plan

27 May 2016

By Kevin Smith

I am the Head of Consulting and Support at Yotta and have been managing teams for the delivery of computer systems for over twenty years. One of the questions I often get asked is “why some projects fail?”

To be honest there is no easy answer to that question as projects fail for a variety of reasons. To keep it simple and focus on what can be done to keep a project on track, resulting in a successful implementation, I always recommend these simple four steps.

  • Plan
  • Monitor against the plan
  • Revise as necessary
  • Communicate

Selecting a system does require a lot of work to make sure that the new system meets your requirements and is going to provide a return on your investment. Putting all the hard work in the selection process is true and justified but this is not where your involvement finishes, far from it, this is where the real work begins for a successful implementation.

Having chosen a solution that is going to solve one or more of your issues, whether it is using mobile to gain efficiencies and real time information or implementing a complete system for Highways Asset Management; the basic rules still apply and you have a project that requires managing.

It does not matter how many days are involved implementing your solution – you still have a project. The only difference is the amount of project management that is required. The bigger the project the more project management required, and this is not a straight percentage; the bigger the project the bigger the percentage.

The Plan

At the time of choosing the new system there would have been a set of documented requirements, and a plan would have been produced to implement the new system. This plan would have been based on all of the information available at that time. However things can change, even the placing of the order, which can delay the project start date. Most buyers are not too bothered about the delays in the order being provided, they are only bothered about the actual go live date. If the go live date is the priority then to achieve that, the order placement needs to be in line with the initial plan that was submitted at time of procurement.

All projects have plans, even if it is just for one day’s consultancy to switch on some additional features of an existing system, and for this one day a plan may often not be documented, but it will and should always be communicated. These communications are necessary so that all parties are aligned and expectations are agreed.

Without a plan, there is no communication that everyone can agree to and know what is expected of them and others. It is common that people think that a plan cannot be produced as there are too many people involved. With such a scenario, some may think it is not possible to say when other people can complete their tasks by, so there is no point in planning when subsequent tasks can be finished.

It is actually the opposite that applies, if you don’t have dates that you are working to and have committed to delivering your tasks, then they have no priority, and they will always get delayed as more pressing tasks take priority.

To prevent project slippage, make sure that you have a plan that has been communicated and signed up to by all parties. Even in the best plans not everything is done on time and there will always be delays for some reason or other, but the important thing is that the plan is reviewed, updated and communicated on a regular basis. Depending on the size of the project and the number of stakeholders this review, revise and communicated should be done on a minimum of a weekly frequency.

This keeps the plan a living working document that will guide the project to be a successful implementation.

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