Many an Information Communication Technology (ICT) project has started with much enthusiasm and optimism, only to see the company’s hopes dashed halfway through the initiative. This is usually due to a lack of communication regarding expectations and desired project outcomes, as well as a lack of co-ordination of efforts. Having a Project Manager (PM) take charge of a project is akin to having a pilot to fly an airplane – it is essential for the plane/project to take off and reach its intended destination.
This is according to Craig Moir, Technical Director at RDB Consulting, a company established in 1995 that offers professional database and operating system support, consulting, project management, solutions architecture and more.
The role of the PM, put simply, is to understand the purpose, scope and objectives of the project. To do so, a PM must explore and understand the nature of the business and, importantly, understand what the company is trying to achieve.
Explains Moir: “If, for example, the business needs a data warehouse, the technology brief may be the creation of a platform that forms a solid foundation for a robust information management and Business Intelligence solution. The business driver for the project and the expected outcome, however, may be ‘the improvement of the organisation’s relations with its customers’ which is achieved by gaining a better understanding of the customer profile via use of a data warehouse. If the PM does not understand the desired outcome, he/she will not fulfil his/her role effectively. This can ultimately result in an unsuccessful project that exceeds the budget.”
The scoping of a project can be described as a set of high-level descriptions defining how the project outcome will be achieved. This is where many problems can occur that ultimately affect the success of a project. To remedy this, the first step is to ensure the customer clearly understands his/her company’s objective and can effectively communicate it to the team handling the project. Failure to do so or perhaps providing an unclear ‘picture’ is sure to result in problems.
Says Gerrit-Jan Albers, BI consultant at RDB Consulting: “This commonly results in ‘scope creep’ where the ‘goal posts’ are moved and new development requests must be accommodated. This can prove to be an extremely costly exercise as much time is spent trying to achieve these new development requirements, budgets may be severely impacted with cost overruns and delivery deadlines may not met. A worst case scenario is project failure. It is therefore imperative to create a signed scope document (signed by both the client and the PM) that outlines the objectives and how they will be achieved, as well as the timelines that must be met.”
PM’s assist greatly to reduce the incidence of scope creep yet there is usually a certain amount of changes with an ICT project. This is often due to the fact that the users only think about their needs once they have access to the solution. This results in new requirements. It is therefore crucial for a PM to manage this process and highlight the impact of change requests.
Moir recalls encountering a classic example of poor project management. “A business embarked on a large ICT project with an unrealistic time frame defined by management. It was decided that the project should be completed within two years, yet a three to four year plan was probably more realistic.
The task of project management was allocated to an internal resource in addition to their existing job description. This was a recipe for disaster.
Without a focussed PM driving the project, the company exceeded its deadline by two and a half years and, as a direct result, exceed the budget by millions of Rands.”
There are great benefits in outsourcing the PM function for an ICT project.
The key advantages of outsourcing are that the PM is not influenced by the company culture and environment and is completely objective. And there is no better ‘true’ accountability or results orientation than with an outsourced provider that is bound by a contract linked to deliverables. In addition, they feature many years of ‘focussed’ experience. And when they have completed the project and their services are no longer required, they are not a drain on the company payroll due to the ‘pay-as-you-go’ nature of outsourcing.
Adhering to best practices is another area that a good PM will incorporate into the project. It makes sense as best practices deliver just that, a qualified guideline to the path of success that was achieved through lessons learnt by failure, trail and error.
Established in 1995, RDB Consulting is a Database and Operating System outsourcing and consulting company that also offers project management, solutions architecture and more. Our services are designed to provide businesses access to expert technical resources whether full time, part time, co-managed or via remote administration.
We worry about your database systems so that you can focus on your core business.
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