Jul 19, 2008

Project Progrestination

If you look around the web for the term "Progrestination" you will find a number of different definitions. It is a term that we use quite a bit when it comes to managing projects in the public sector.

For us, the term is defined as:

Progrestination n. (pro - gres - tin - a - shun) - Creating the illusion that something is progressing nicely when actually it is stalled or going backwards.

For example, when required to provide an update to my team on how our data migration project was traveling, my reply was "... the project is currently in an advanced stage of progrestination and is tracking well against stage goals...".

In other words, we are waiting for senior management and elected officials to say the magic words that will empower the project with what it needs to undertake the work (i.e. resources, money etc).

We are being told that this data migration project (and its parallel migrations being undertaken at the same time, care for a resource conflict anyone...?) is of the utmost importance and priority to enable our organization to become a unified entity. While at the same time being stalled for commitment of, well, everything.

So there we have it, the project team are currently in a heightened state of "hurry up and wait!"...

Project Impact:

Staff Morale
The mixed messages from senior management have the tendency to cause angst in the wider staff population. There is a feeling that the project team are not doing anything with the project.

Project Momentum
Any momentum we were able to create has all but gone.

Project Schedule
This project has a definite end date but the start date is being delayed. May need to review other project tolerances to find areas of compromise that will allow the project to be delivered on time.

Jul 4, 2008

Project Momentum

I guess most of you who have been following the previous posts have been wondering when we are going to get down and dirty with some data migration action... Well, not just yet I'm afraid. Is this not a blog dedicated to managing data migration? I hear you ask...

True, true, however the reason we are lacking in the data area is simple; it comes down to momentum. When dealing with a large scale project like ours, never under-estimate its power.

So far in our project, we have been trying desperately to follow sound PRINCE2 project management practices but unfortunately our organization does things its own way (often, it would seem, in spite of any reasonable logic).

We entered the Starting Up A Project (SU) process a while ago and had we waited for everything we needed (according to PRINCE2) before moving on, we would still be sitting in the SU processes. The problem lies with our senior management structure and although I like to blame them (as much as possible in fact) the issues are understandable and, to be honest, expected.

In a previous post I explained our very new and widely dispersed management structure which is only just finding its feet. This has meant that although we have the go-ahead for the project, we are having difficulty getting anything else from them.

PRINCE2 tells us that all projects need a Project Board from which the project manager takes high level direction for the project. This is especially important for us as the project manager (aka yours truly) does not have the authority to do things like commit resources from the business, commit budget funds or set enterprise level priorities. Although we have hassled senior management to get their act together, they have to sort themselves out first (there's power structures to be built and reinforced don't you know...). At this stage we have a headless

We made the mistake of waiting for senior management to catch up with our fast passed schedules and in process we have lost some project momentum. People in our organization got a taste when the project was first mentioned (dare I say, even a little excited!) but because we were not able to follow up on that initial interest, we lost some focus and attention.

However, all is not lost.

While trying to get through this stalled period, the Project Team have been madly working through the Initiating a Project Stage and many other areas (PRINCE2 purists will be horrified) taking into account what we know and making assumptions left, right and centre.

Basically we are not prepared to simply sit and wait. What we hope to do when management get their acts together, is to flood the organization with our massive wave of project planning. Before they realise it, they will be swept up in the project and we will have our momentum back!

Project Impact:

Project Planning - Positive
We have used the delay in managerial decision process to gain more planning time that may not have otherwise been available. Extra time is spent on solidifying our communication plans to ensure the momentum is regained.

Project Planning - Negative
As we are currently 'headless', our planning in some areas has been based on assumptions or tentative schedules. These may very well turn out to be invalid further down the track.

Jul 1, 2008

Project Management Software

Those who have ever attempted to set up an organization with any form of project management software will know that it's a minefield out there. So many options each with their own spin on the "must-have" features and functions needed to make running your project easier. The one thing I have found is that there is not any single product out there that will be all things to all people involved with your project.

In our case, the decision making process was all but made for us. Our organization had, at one stage or another, purchased MS Project Server but had never really implemented it. The IT unit were already using Sharepoint for a few internal team sites and I have been using MS Project for a while so there we have it. Many project managers will recoil in horror at the mention of MS Project Server but for what we needed, it should do quite nicely.

The other reason it suits is due to the maturity of our organization in the project area. We are at a time of reasonably large change and even the concept of project management software is new to some. I really wanted a collaboration platform for our workgroups and the MS Project Server solution gives us familiar interfaces and integration aspects that MS Office users seem to have an easier time adopting.

That being said, I would by no means say that it is the be all and end all in the area. I would encourage anyone in the market for project management software to thoroughly research and benckmark their options against things like:
  • Is the software likely to be a time burden or a productivity tool?
  • Is the organization or project team ready for the level of functionality available?
  • What sort of reporting does your organization expect from the project and does the software easily deliver it?
  • Does the size and complexity of the project warrant a dedicated project management software solution?
There are many, many factors to consider and a big one for us was not to make the implementation of project management software a project within a project. In the end, it was the small implementation and learning burden on the end users that sealed the deal for us.

Project Impact:

Project Team Organization
Should (and I repeat, should) see productivity gains in day to day management of tasks, activities, issues and risks. Given that our project is likely to raise a high number of issues the ability for all project team members to raise issues directly into the central repository is huge advantage.

Project Team Training
Additional time required to familiarise some subject matter experts and team members with the new software.

Staff Morale
By keeping a constant collaborative channel open, all team members are able to contribute at their own pace. Some staff may prefer to raise issues in a passive manner rather than in front of a group. It also construes the message that every team member's input is valueable.