In reviewing my experience with numerous information technology projects, it is very clear that the key to success was the IT project planning process. With most failed IT projects, the failures were planned to happen from the start.
The five “W”s you must cover prior to creating the IT Project Plan
It’s easy, we learned it in high school – always consider the 5 W’s when writing an essay or embarking on a project – yet somehow as we moved through life, we over-complicate and forget these basic principles.
WHY – Why is this project being considered?
Is it a regulatory requirement? If so, then the plan must address all regulatory requirements. However, because often there is no business gain in implementing these changes the IT Project Plan should focus on least cost and least impact on the organization.
Introduction of new products and services tend to make up the majority of the IT Projects. When introducing new products and services the IT Project Plan needs to focus on the business, technical and corporate cultural impact.
Projects dealing with new or improved process should focus on the impact on the corporate culture. These projects must address the end user experience while keeping the technical and business goals well in sight.
WHAT – What is the project goal, what will it deliver?
Regardless of why the project is being considered the plan must address what the deliverables, throughout the project life cycle and at completion, will be. This must include cost considerations. Can the “what” we outline as a deliverable be done within the budget allocated. You must ensure that the project is affordable and the return on the investment is in line with corporate goals.
HOW – How will the project be delivered?
There are a number of options to consider when deciding on how the project will be delivered. The project could possibly be best delivered as a single entity, but based on experience I recommend breaking up the project. This provides a natural decision gate regardless of the project management style, be it traditional, waterfall or agile.
Delivering in meaningful usable phases with measurable benefits keeps everyone engaged and “in the loop”.
WHO will deliver the project?
There is usually more than one option as to who will deliver (execute) the IT Project Plan. A large number of projects are done by an in-house team. Alternately the delivery can be outsourced or addressed by a mixed team of external and internal resource. Regardless what type of team will execute the project plan, it must clearly outline the processes and expected outcomes
If it is an internal team the plan must address a number of resource oriented questions.
- Are the right skill sets available?
- Will they need additional training?
- Do they have sufficient time over and above their regular jobs?
- Will they be dedicated to the project?
If it is outsourced or a mixed team the plan, in addition to the above, must address a number of specific areas.
- Clearly segregate who is responsible for what regarding project tasks and deliverables
- Detail any training that the outsourcer will need from the organization
- Create a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and attach it to the Project Plan.
WHEN is the best time to do the project?
The best time to start the project and to deliver (roll out) usually depends on the focus of the project.
The time for the rollout for regulatory projects is generally dependent on the regulator. All other projects should be started and rolled out when they will have the least impact on the LOB (Line of Business). It is prudent to implement the new service or product during the slow periods in case any unexpected issues arise. Note, make sure there is buy-in from all levels and a clear understanding of when the project will start and the impact it will have on the business.
If you are diligent in asking these questions you will increase the chances of having a successful project. You owe it to your employer and yourself to ensure that the IT Project Plan addresses the business needs of the organization.
Which way will you turn?