Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rules of Engagement

Big project, multiple teams, external vendors, multi-dimensional deliverables, MANY user groups, to many sponsors, lots of technology. The first step in the process is what I call Meta-Planning - aka Planning to Plan. What tools will you use, how will you communicate, arbitrate (aka manage the finger pointing), etc. You want to establish protocols and communications channels in order to reduce the overhead costs and exponential risks based on the various complexities. The same principals apply to large projects as they do with small ones, but more so. The biggest issues you will have is in cooperation and communication - resource issues. You will be working with teams with conflicting interests, various levels of engagement and varying skill sets. Some base items to establish:
  • Players list - who's on what team and what is their role, how do you contact them, who is their backup and who do they report into (org charts are great)
  • What planning tools to use? MS Project (hopefully you have something better)? Standardize the structure, terminology, information to be captured. Utilize milestones from the various teams (no one can track the meaning of 100,000 tasks, but 100 milestones is manageable)
  • Create a terminology dictionary - is blue - blue?
  • Ensure consistent definitions - what is a completed tasks? focus on the quality aspects and the hard delivery (task 23 - function X delivered to beta group with no severity 1 or 2 errors)
  • BE TRANSPARENT - the more you hide the more they hide the more no one knows anything.
  • Tool sets - ensure that a task in the plan is the same task in the bug tracker is the same task in the documentation - consistent cross tool level of definition.
  • Understand each teams deliverables - IN DETAIL.
  • Create a communication plan - who gets communicated on what - subscription (weekly updates), events (task W is being delayed), change management (the users would prefer blue to red), etc.
There's many more items to review - but the same approach taken to deliver the project should be used to create the approach to the plan. PM the planning, create a scope, requirements doc, communication plan, change management - for the planning. Project Management is a overhead cost to the project - it does not delivery a product it reduces risk - make sure you effectively manage the management or the costs will be as great as the 'official' project an increase risks instead of reducing them.

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