Tag Archives: project schedule

Use a Move/Relocation Checklist to streamline office moves

Here is a “no brainer” about our IT support role, , , our job is to keep the business ‘up and running’.  That’s right, most of us in IT have a 24 X 7, 365-day job to keep our technologies running and our business clients positioned to use them.

There is an old saying that you should keep in mind:

UPTIME IS KING !!

Sooner or later you are going to have to support a company move, department relocation, or opening up a new office. The very nature of these activities suggests downtime, , , and downtime is an IT organization’s worst enemy.

A move or relocation is a project just like any other project, and one of the things you want to do is to minimize the business impact in achieving your goal of getting the affected organization and people in place so they can be productive.

I was the CIO of a company in the mid-90’s that grew from $30 million in revenue to over $600 million in just over 5 years. We accomplished much of this growth by acquiring other companies that provided the same type of physician billing services we provided. Many times we would acquire a company that had an office right around the corner from one of our offices. To leverage our investment we either consolidated the two offices into one of them or moved both offices to a brand new location.

It seemed like we were moving a group of people to a new location or opening up a new office every week.

Relocation activities create lots of opportunity for downtime and loss of productivity. Downtime was a huge cash flow and client satisfaction problem in this industry, , , if our employees could not bill and produce insurance claims and collect the money for physician services, our physician clients didn’t get paid and neither did we.

Minimizing downtime was a key objective because our success depended upon it.

A checklist can help you with almost anything that you need to do from time to time, , , things like:

–        Office moves
–        Delivering classes
–        Deploying equipment
–        Troubleshooting specific technologies

Here is a sample Office Move/Relocation Checklist

Move Checklist

In this particular example there are three key sections:

  1. Move preparation tasks that include a responsibility and completion timeframe
  2. Day of Move tasks you should target
  3. List of equipment you need to support the move

CLICK HERE to download a customizable Office Move/Relocation Checklist

Checklists like this one and others we used helped our IT organization minimize downtime and disruption to our business by completing projects reliably and consistently, , , ingredients for a positive IT support operation.

Simplify Your Life with a Systems Conversion Project Schedule

If you are in IT, sooner or later you are going to need to convert some technology, , , install new hardware and software to replace some old equipment and software, or maybe install new equipment and software for a totally new application.

The tool I’m sharing with you in this article is a Systems Conversion Project Schedule. Systems Conversion Project Schedule

In most system conversions or new system installations, there are a few key groups of tasks required to do the job. Something that can help organize your project schedule is to group the detail tasks by category.

In the sample I’ll discuss there are six major categories of tasks:

  1. Assessment – Identifying everything required to complete the project.
  2. Order and organize – Ordering equipment, software and other items as needed plus organizing components of the project.
  3. Infrastructure – Infrastructure and desktop support tasks.
  4. Setup/Installation – Software installations, etc. File build tasks would also be in this category.
  5. Programming – Programming and Business Analyst work.
  6. Training – Training and testing tasks.

You may need other category groups depending upon the nature of your project. Most system conversion or installation projects will have at least the six I’ve listed above.

Organizing the tasks by category group will also help you when you run weekly status meetings to determine the status of the project as it organizes the discussion into logical work groupings.

What I like to do for each task is to put a “/” in the cell for the week the task needs to be completed by. When the task is completed, I change the slash (/) to an “X”. This way, it is very easy to walk through a status meeting quickly by just focusing on this week’s tasks that have not been marked as completed. It also makes it easy to visually see the status of the project.

Another thing to consider for your project is that there will be tasks that are critical to the project, , , in fact they may be bottlenecks that can jeopardize a successful delivery of the project. It’s easy to highlight these tasks for the team by shading the cell that shows the scheduled completion date for the task. By doing this, it will trigger you to ask about the status of the task weeks in advance of its scheduled completion date to instill a sense of urgency on whoever has responsibility for the task.

Project success is much more likely when you organize your project into a solid schedule, assign appropriate responsibility, and check on the status every week.

In the sample there is a generic project schedule along with an actual project schedule sample used for a past systems conversion. Feel free to use these to help you in your next systems conversion or installation.

CLICK HERE to download the customizable Systems Conversion Project Schedule template.

Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 1

Clock helpIn the first article of this “IT credibility through project success” series I outlined three key components required of you in delivering projects successfully in order to gain IT credibility.

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.

In this post we will discuss the first component – building an appropriate project schedule and managing projects.

First, let’s identify a few key tips that will help you manage and deliver projects successfully:

  • One of the biggest reasons projects fail is because IT people do not clearly define the goals, objectives and specific deliverable of a project. We charge off to do the work before getting it all defined and agreed upon by the project sponsor, , , when this happens, the project is already doomed.
  • IT people like to be “exact”. To manage projects successfully, you have to be conservative and add buffer to the budget and timelines. There is a golden rule to follow when managing projects. Always remember, , ,

projects take longer and cost more than you think they will

every time

  • Conduct a Project Kickoff Meeting to get project team members on the same page and to set their expectations on what you expect from them. It may be their first real project so spell out in clear terms that you expect them to have their tasks completed on time.
  • Explain to the team that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. IT employees don’t like to ask for help, but asking for assistance early gives you an opportunity to overcome something that might cause the project to be late or over budget.
  • Projects don’t get completed on their own. Good project managers anticipate early and often and they push the project along by having weekly project status meetings to keep their projects on target.
  • Identify key bottlenecks or critical tasks in the project and get after them quickly. These are the culprits that jeopardize completing projects on time.
  • Hold project team members accountable and expect them to complete their tasks on time. In the Project Kickoff Meeting, get commitments from everyone that they can complete all their assigned tasks by the designated due dates.
  • Inspect, , , inspect, , , inspect. Remember, what gets inspected gets done. If you are surprised to discover someone is late on a task at the status meeting, , , shame on you for not inspecting. If you don’t inspect, you will always be surprised and surprises usually spell trouble.
  • Managing client expectations is a key ingredient for project success. To do this, you must communicate effectively and regularly.

Simple tool for building a project schedule
Developing an appropriate project schedule and using it to manage the project is key.

I use a very simple tool to develop project schedules. It’s an Excel spreadsheet template. I’m experienced with Microsoft Project but I’ll always revert back to this spreadsheet tool whenever possible because it’s quick and easy.

Believe it or not, before we had laptops and spreadsheets I used a paper form similar to my spreadsheet template and a pencil (and eraser 🙂 ) to manage many large computer installation projects as an IBM Systems Engineer.

Managing a project schedule is not about the tool as much as going about your work appropriately and in a manner that works.

Here is what my blank project schedule template looks like, , , click on the image for a closer look:

project schedule template 2013

There are three key parts:

1. Task – These are the specific tasks required to complete the project. I organize my tasks by major groups or categories. For example, in a large systems conversion project, I might set up a group of tasks by the following categories:

  • Ordering and Setup
  • Infrastructure
  • Programming
  • File Build
  • Training

This organizes the tasks into logical groups and saves time when you work through a project status meeting to determine the status of this week’s tasks that are due to be completed.

My approach is to quantify the tasks to complete a project first. I focus on identifying and listing all the tasks first and then work from there.

Something else to consider as you develop the tasks is that some tasks will be bottlenecks or key tasks that can jeopardize your project if they are not completed on time. You want to identify bottleneck tasks as quickly as you can and place priority on getting them completed early. Eliminating a bottleneck may actually give you a time advantage.

2.  Responsibility – Each task needs one person assigned to be responsible in getting the task completed. It doesn’t have to be the person who actually works on the task, but it needs to be someone on the project team who sits in the weekly status meetings so you can look the person in the eye when you hold them accountable for the task.

Another note on this, , , keep responsibility for each task to 1 person, even if multiple people work on the task. It’s hard to hold more than one person truly accountable for a task and it’s easy for them to point at the other person if a task is not completed.

3.  Timeframe – These are the columns you see titled Month-1, Month-2, etc. Under each month, there are 5 columns. These are weekly columns for the month, , , five because some months have 5 weeks. I use Friday dates. More on this in a second.

So, let’s say the project starts in January and the first Friday is the 7th. I would put in the weekly columns: 7, , , 14, , , 21, , , 28 underneath the month of January to designate each of the Fridays in the month of January. Put in the Friday dates for the other months that are required to complete the project.

Once you have the week ending dates established, , , work through each task to determine the week the task needs to be completed in order to complete the project successfully. What I do is to key or write in a “/” (slash). When the task is completed, I change the “/” to an “X”. This creates a visual effect that makes it very easy to see the status of all the tasks. You will see an example of this in a minute.

You may have a very large project, , , 20 pages or more with hundreds of tasks. By using the “/” and “X” notations, you are able to work through a project status meeting quickly and thoroughly. You just focus on the tasks that are due this week and possibly next week plus bottleneck tasks you know exist in the future.

I mentioned bottleneck tasks earlier. You may want to highlight these by shading the cell background of the completion time to bring attention to the team that this is a key task that can cause the project to fail. It also makes the task easy to spot in status meetings so you can ask about its status weeks ahead of when it is due. Remember the point I made earlier, , , get after these bottleneck tasks quickly!

I also mentioned that I use Friday dates. Friday is the last day of the work week in the US so I show the tasks as needing to be completed by the end of the week. I hold my weekly status meetings early in the week on Mondays or Tuesdays and as we work through this week’s tasks it gives us a few extra days to complete a task if it’s not already completed.

Project managers have to push the project to completion, , , it’s not going to be completed on time if you don’t push to make it happen. By holding project status meetings early in the week and showing tasks required to be completed by Friday it gives you additional time.

Quite often, project team members will procrastinate and wait until the last minute to start focusing on their tasks, , , they think they have plenty of time. This can cause a project to fail because sometimes a task is bigger or more complex than anticipated and takes longer to complete. The additional few days after a project status meeting will help you keep the project on track.

Below is the first page of an actual project where you can see the visual effect of what I described in designating completed tasks with an “X”. You can easily see that we are about to hold a status meeting for the week of October 19th. Click on the image if you need to see a larger version.

projectplan

In the next post we will talk about communicating the status of active projects and I’ll share a simple tool I developed and used recently to do this.

it project management ebookMore details of the entire project management process and customizable tools I use are available in my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach

Download this simple project scheduling tool

Managing projects does not have to be complex, , , the simplest of tools can be very effective.

While there are plenty of tools you can use to keep track of everyone’s tasks and responsibilities, here is one that is easy to use and understand.

I’ve been using it since my IBM days in the late 1970’s, , , before spreadsheets and PC’s. I still use it today and teach others how to use it to deliver projects successfully. You don’t throw something away when it works well and gets you positive results.


How it works
Here are some instructions for using the spreadsheet template. These are also included in an Instruction workbook in the spreadsheet tool:

  1. Fill in the Project name.
  2. Fill in the Project Manager name and contact information (e-mail, phone number, etc.).
  3. Fill in the month at the top of the column groups (Jan., Feb., Mar., etc.).
  4. Fill in the week ending dates for each weekly column. There are five columns for each month to provide for five-week months.
  5. List the tasks required to complete the project.
  6. List the person responsible for each task.
  7. Place a slash mark (/) in the cell of the week in which the task should be completed.
  8. List the resource participants and their initials at the bottom of the first page for reference.

CLICK HERE to download the Excel spreadsheet tool.