Let’s review the three things I listed in the overview article. They are:
1. Build an appropriate project schedule and manage projects to deliver on time, within budget and meet your client’s expectations.
2. Communicate the status of active projects.
3. Demonstrate your organization’s project success rate and the benefits derived from your efforts.
At any given time, your IT organization will have several active projects. It’s obviously important for you to execute and complete them successfully, , , on time, within budget and meeting client needs as we talked about for Step-1 in the last article.
It’s also important for you to keep interested parties aware of where you are and what’s going on in your IT organization, , , specifically senior managers of your company. You must communicate effectively.
Let me share a recent experience. Last year I took on a consulting engagement to provide interim IT management services for an organization while they looked for an IT Director. When I got there it was clear there were many projects in the works.
What was not clear was that there was nothing in place so we could see the landscape of active projects. What I mean by this is that nothing was in place so we could even tell how many projects were underway or being positioned to get started.
Understanding the need to be able to see the active project landscape and to communicate the status and key issues of each project, I quickly developed a simple monthly Project Summary Report. In fact, I think I developed this the first week I was there because I needed to know what was going on.
When I completed my initial discovery work and finished the report for the first time it showed we had over 30 projects underway. It was a surprise to some. Over the next few weeks we discovered even more projects so the actual total was over 40 active projects being worked on or projects that were getting started.
Here is a blank form from the one I created. Click on the image for a closer look.
Let’s go through it so you better understand how effective this simple tool can be in communicating the status of active projects.
There are 4 main parts to this monthly project summary report:
1. Project Name – Descriptive name of the project.
2. Project Manager – Who you look to for additional information and who is accountable for the project’s success.
3. Key Issues List – Below each project name there is room to list up to 6 key issues or important comments for each project.
4. Timeline – I used the area shaded in beige to show milestones that I thought important enough to communicate. I’ll give you an example in just a minute.
We had all types of active projects underway, , , big ones, smaller ones, , , projects that involved many people to projects that involved very few people, , , expensive and not so expensive projects, , , and projects that would take many months to complete to those that completed in just a few months, , , all types.
Many of our projects required 4 to 6 months or longer to complete. For these, I felt it important to be able to communicate certain milestones. For example, if we were installing a new software application, I wanted to show the installation date, file build time frame, testing and training time frames and targeted Go Live month.
Below is an example:
First thing to notice is that I updated the month cells to reflect current time frames.In this sample, I just made up two fictitious projects and used upcoming months for 2013 and 2014.
Under each Project name are the key issues I think need to be communicated.
And finally, I color coded and inserted short descriptions in the top row of each project to reflect:
– when we are starting the projects (green shaded cells)
– when certain real project work takes place (yellow cells)
– when the Go Live or launch month is targeted (red cells)
You can use any color code you desire, , , the important thing is that this helps you see the key timeline milestones of each project as well as the key issues for each project.
Not only will this simple tool help you stay abreast of what’s going on in your IT organization, it’s a great aide in communicating IT project activity to others who need to know, , , including your boss.
Another thing you can do if you want to be able to view everything on one or two pages is that you can copy your workbook to a new one and delete all the key issues rows to create a higher level summary of all projects. This is great for senior executives because they usually aren’t so much interested in the key issues as they are in just having an idea of what the IT organization is working on.
Here is a sample:
What I’ve found to be the easiest is to update the workbook that includes the key issues. Then, when you are done with updating it copy the entire workbook to a new tab called “Executive Summary” and then strip out the key issues rows. It’s quicker and insures both worksheets are consistent with one another.
This tool is simple and quick to start using. More importantly it helps you communicate every month where you are and what’s going on in your IT organization, , , something you cannot afford to neglect.
Effective communication contributes to IT credibility as much as completing the projects successfully, , , both are required!!
More details of the entire project management process and customizable tools I use are available in my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach