Tag Archives: project success

Communicate IT Value with an IT Initiatives Portfolio

One of the best tools I developed over the years is one that helps communicate IT value and the level of success you are achieving. I call it the IT Initiatives Portfolio.

IT Initiatives PortfolioIT Initiatives Portfolio

This is one of the Top 15 tools and templates I think every IT manager needs and I’ve written about it a couple of times, , , here is additional information that will be helpful in using this tool.

There are six key parts to this template, and the information on this report can tell you a lot:

  1. Success in completing projects on time
  2. Success in completing projects within budget
  3. Benefit results. I include columns for expected results and achieved results for both 6-month and 12-month intervals. You won’t use these columns for every project but it is certainly helpful to list some type of business value benefit for every project you work on, , , this is the value contribution your IT team is making.
  4. Success in meeting client needs
  5. Overall success rate of each project – on time, within budget, achieving expected results, and meeting client needs.
  6. Ongoing success rates of completing projects successfully. You get this by calculating the percentages of success for each of the key measurement criteria – on time, within budget, and meeting client needs plus overall project success rate. This is your track record, , , something you need people to know about because it shows how good your team is operating.

Let’s take a closer look at the information maintained on this report:

it initiatives portfolio_resultsExample

In this example I’ve rolled it up so you can see the results of three projects. The nice thing about Excel is that you can summarize all the projects to calculate overall performance indicators at the bottom as I’ve done here.

In the example it shows we have achieved the following performance track record:
– On time percentage – 66.6%
– Within budget – 100%
– 6-month actual benefits of $21,500 which is $500 better than expected
– 12-month actual benefits of $63,500 which is $5,500 better than expected
– Meets User Needs percentage of 100%
– Overall project success of 66.6%

It helps to prepare an annual report that lists every project the IT team completed during the year and keep copies for every year to show progress and to analyze to determine how you get better. You will find this information becomes valuable to have handy at times.

Something else to consider is that when people know you are tracking performance and you are serious about it, , , two things happen:
1.  Your IT team focuses harder to complete projects successfully.
2.  Senior managers view you more as a business manager than a technical manager.

Both of these are important for your credibility.

Summary
Project success is the path to IT credibility, something you must establish if you are to attain any level of IT success. To get there you need to do more than just complete projects successfully, , , you must also communicate the status of active projects and make others aware of the track record and results your team achieves in delivering projects successfully.

CLICK HERE to download a customizable IT Initiatives Portfolio template.

Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 2

success6Continuing with the three key things you need to do in regards to delivering projects successfully on your way to establishing IT credibility, , , this is Step 2 of 3.

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.

blindfoldedAs I mentioned in the overview article, this is like trying to drive blindfolded, , , pretty much impossible to be successful.

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.

Project Summary Report

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:

Project Summary_sample

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:

project summary_sample-executive

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!!

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

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

Project success is the path to IT credibility

arrowsupDelivering projects successfully creates IT credibility. Project failure causes you and your IT organization to lose credibility.

You must establish credibility to achieve IT success!

So, if project success is so critical to your success, what do you need to insure project success?

Well, it’s a little more than simply delivering a project successfully, , , there are other things to consider.

There are three key components to get the credibility you need. I’ll outline them for you in this article and we will follow-up with articles that dive into each to give you the substance you need.

3 Key components in managing projects successfully

First, you must be able to build an appropriate project schedule and manage a project to deliver it on time, within budget and meet your client’s expectations. To do this, you need a project management methodology and a few simple tools.

There are dozens of project management methodologies and thousands of tools and templates, even PM certifications to help you schedule and manage projects.

I use a simple spreadsheet to develop most of my project schedules unless a company requires me to use something like Microsoft Project. The tools are not nearly as important as how you go about the process of managing projects. I’ll show you my process in the next ITLever post.

Second, you need to communicate the status of active projects. At any given time, your IT organization will have several projects underway. Your ability to communicate the status and key issues associated with each project will help you deliver projects successfully as well as contribute to your credibility.

blindfoldedRecently, I provided management consulting services for an organization. When I got there they were in the midst of running many projects. I could tell there were a lot of projects underway or in the stages of getting started, , , but there was nothing in place so we could see what was going on. In fact, we couldn’t tell how many projects we had.

It’s sort of like driving blindfolded!

Understanding the importance of communicating project status effectively, I quickly developed a simple monthly report that showed the status and key issues of each project.

I’ll give you all the details in a future post in this PM series.

Third, you need to demonstrate your organization’s project success rate and the benefits derived from your efforts.

This is key. Your clients (senior managers, department managers and their employees) have short term memory, , , or no memory at all. They quickly forget what you and the IT organization have done for them.

You must keep a positive message of “IT value” in front of your clients. Otherwise, they don’t know what you are accomplishing for them or they quickly forget.

Again, I use a simple spreadsheet to track IT projects and to show the track record of our project success. In this simple tool, you will show how effective you are in delivering projects on time, within budget, and meeting client expectations, , , plus the benefits that were achieved.

I’ll talk more on this in the 3rd post to follow this one.

Summary
There will be three posts written this week that explains each of these three important components of gaining IT credibility with project success. In the posts, I’ll explain what you need to do and provide tools or templates to help you make it happen.

The additional articles follow this post or can be located at the links below:
Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 1
Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 2
Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 3

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

Risk #2: Project failure

The second risk listed in the Six Key Risks a CIO Must Avoid post is

Project failure occupies a very high place in my list of risks, , , right alongside the IT – Business disconnect. The reason is that an IT organization builds credibility by delivering projects successfully.

If you can’t “do what you say you will do”, , , in other words, deliver projects successfully, , , then you won’t be credible.

This means you have to complete projects on time, within budget, and meet the clients expectations of what you deliver (also known as delivering the expected value or benefits), , , three key ingredients for success.

Studies and surveys point out every year that IT projects have a high level of failure in most companies. It’s time to fix this problem and start building a track record that shows your clients you, “do what you say you will do”.

There are many reasons a project can fail, but I believe most project failures are caused by a few things we do, , , or fail to do, , , such as:

  • Fail to define clear goals and objectives
  • Fail to quantify the specific deliverables
  • Fail to gain agreement from the Project Sponsor on the defined objectives and deliverables

I call these three bullet points the “front end” work. Most IT employees (both managers and technical staff) have two personality traits that works against them in this area.

The first is that over 70% of us are shy and introverted. What this means is that we don’t really like communicating outside our inner circle, , , and clients are definitely outside that circle as you can see in the graphic below.

We may be “the life of the party” with our inner circle groups, but most IT employees tend to be much more reserved and shy in social situations with people outside that circle, , , we don’t communicate as well with groups outside our inner circle.

The second part that causes us to fail to clearly define the project is that 85% of us have a high sense of urgency so we want to start the work as quickly as possible, complete it, and then move on to the next project.

These two personality combinations can be “hazardous to your health” because what happens is that all too often we start working on projects before we have established specifics of what the project should achieve and what we have to deliver to be successful. Here is a key point to keep in mind, , ,

If you don’t identify the goal and quantify the specific deliverable
then there is no way you can complete a project successfully.

There are other contributors to project failure. Conquer the bullet points below and the odds of a successful project go way up:

  • Failing to put buffer into your scheduled completion of project tasks
  • Failing to put buffer into your project budget

 Projects tend to take longer and cost more
than you think they will

  • Failing to identify bottlenecks and eliminating them early
  • Failing to start working on tasks early enough to complete them on time

IT employees tend to procrastinate

  • Failing to prevent “scope creep”

Scope creep is where a project task was estimated to take 8 hours, but discussions with the client and others identify additional things that can be done to make the project “even better”. Before we know it, our 8-hour task is now 20 hours.

The biggest culprit in creating scope creep is our own IT people, , , not the client like you might want to think. Our people are smart, creative, and conscientious, , , they want to do a good job. So, they work with the client on an issue to complete their task and come up with great ideas to make things even better, , ,  before you know it the client wants more than what we originally committed to.

Coach your employees to prevent scope creep

With today’s project management methodologies, tools, and training there is every reason any IT organization should be able to improve upon its project success track record. When you do, your credibility improves and that leads to success as a CIO.

Need help? Take a look at IT Project Management: a practical approach

IT Project Management: a practical approach

In my last post, I discussed the importance of project management in creating IT credibility. You won’t be credible unless you deliver projects successfully. Period, , , end of story !!!!

My company mission is to “help IT managers of the world achieve more success”. The very first thing I did in this effort was to write a few books (10 actually) to provide insights and tips on things that actually help you achieve more success as an IT manager.

One of the keys is to deliver projects successfully, , , so naturally, there is a book on project management.

Delivering projects successfully is so important. The book is based upon my experiences in delivering projects successfully, , , both as a young IBMer and later as an IT manager and CIO.

IT Project Management: a practical approach is straightforward and includes the simple process I use and the tools to help you deliver projects successfully. It also includes insights and tips from my experiences that will give you an advantage or edge, , , something we all need.

Short, straightforward, practical, , , and to the point. That’s what we want so that’s how I wrote this one. It is one of my best sellers.

Buy the e-book for $29.95.

Buy the whole series of 10 e-books plus BONUS IT Manager ToolKit (a $175.00 value on its own) for $279.00

$279.00 — Full series + IT Manager ToolKit