Initiating the Project

Managing an IT project may be the most exciting — and challenging — task you ever undertake in your career. This article will show you how to get started. It is excerpted from the book, IT Project Management, by Joseph Phillips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN: 0072232021).

Welcome to information technology (IT) project management. IT project management is different from managing any other project you may have worked on in the past. In the world of information technology, we’ve got attacks on all fronts: ever changing business needs, hardware compatibility, software glitches, security holes, and network bandwidth, not to mention careers, attitudes, and office politics.

Don’t be scared off! This is also the most challenging and exciting place to be in a company. What you do here will affect entire organizations, and have an impact on profits, and can boost your career, confidence, and life to the next level.

IT project management can be as exciting as a white water rafting excursion or as painful as a root canal; the decision is yours. What makes the difference between excitement and a sore jaw? Many things: leadership, know-how, motivation, and, among other things, a clear vision of what each project will produce, what it will cost, and when it will end.

This first chapter will help you build a strong foundation for managing successful IT projects. Like anything else in the world, adequate planning, determination, and vision are required for success. Ready to start this journey? Let’s go!

Gathering Project Information

Everybody talks about project management, but what is it exactly? In some organizations, any task or duty is considered a project that requires someone to manage it. Puh-leeze! Project management is the ability to administer a series of chronological tasks resulting in a desired goal. Some tasks can’t be completed until others are finished, while other tasks can be done in parallel. Some tasks require the skill of a single individual; other jobs in the project require that everyone chip in and lighten the load.

A project, technically, is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service. Projects are an undertaking outside of the normal operations of an entity. For example, you might roll out a new application, install new monitors, create a new portion of a web site, or establish a new call center for application support. In some organizations, such as ones comprised of application developers or consultants, or IT integration companies, everything they do is a project because they complete projects for other organizations. Consider a company that creates custom applications for other organizations. Their operation is an ongoing series of projects. The organization that completes the project work is called the performing organization.

IT project management is the ability to balance the love and implementation of technology while leading and inspiring your team members. Of course, the goal of project management is not technology for technology’s sake, but rather a movement toward things like improved customer service, enhanced product quality, and increased profitability. As you can see in Figure 1-1, project management is a high-wire balancing act.

Establishing the Project Requirements

Before the actual project work can begin, the project manager must establish the project requirements with the project stakeholders. Stakeholders are any individuals, groups, or communities that have a vested interest in the outcome of the project. On some projects, the stakeholders may be just one department. On others, when projects may affect every department, the stakeholders may be throughout the entire organization. Identifying stakeholders is important because their input to the project requirements early in the project initiation can ensure the project’s success.

Of course, on most projects there will be key stakeholders who influence the project’s outcome: department managers, customers, directors, end users, and other folks who have direct power over the project work. With the input of these key stakeholders, specifically their requirements for the project, constraints on the project, and time and cost objectives for the project, the project manager will be able to gather the project requirements to begin building a project plan to create the project deliverables.

Clarity is paramount. When the decision has been handed down that your company will be implementing some new technology, and you’ll be leading the way, you need a clear, thorough understanding of the project’s purpose. Ambiguous projects are a waste of time, talent, and money. Before the project begins, you need to know what exact results signal the project’s end. A project truly begins when you know exactly what the project will produce.


Figure 1-1.  A project manager must balance the team and the technology.

Once the project is defined, you need a clearly stated start and end date. The role of a project manager is not permanent but temporary. You, the project manager, are responsible for seeing the goal, developing the steps to get there, and then leading the way for your team to follow.

How will you know what the end result of the project is to be? Ask! Who do you ask? People like the project sponsor can answer these kinds of questions. More about that later! You must have a clear vision of the end result, or the project will drone on and on forever and you’ll never finish. Too often IT projects can roll into project after project stemming from an original, indecisive, half-baked wish list. Whether you are a full-time employee within an organization or a contract-based project manager, you must have a clear understanding of what the end results of the project will be.

Imagine your favorite archeologist maneuvering through a labyrinth of pitfalls, poison darts, and teetering bridges to retrieve a golden statue. In the movies, there’s always some fool who charges past the hero straight for the booty and gets promptly beheaded. Don’t be that guy. Before you can rush off toward the goal of any given project, you’ve got to create a clear, concise path to get there.

To create this path, you’ll have to interview the decision makers, the users the change will affect, and any principals involved in the development of the technology. These are the stakeholders—the people who will use the project deliverables on a daily basis or will manage the people who will use the project deliverables. You must have a clear vision of what the project takes to create it or you’re doomed. Often projects start from a wish list and evolve into a catalog of complaints about the current technology. One of your jobs in the early stages of the project will be to discern valid input from useless gripes.

As you begin your project, consider these questions:

Does the Project Have an Exact Result?

Projects that are as indecisive as a six-year-old at an ice cream stand rarely are successful. As a project manager, you must ensure the project has a definable, obtainable end result. At the creation of the project, every project manager, project sponsor (the initiator of the project), and team member should know and recognize the end result of the project. Beware of projects that begin without a clearly defined objective.

While you should be looking for exact requirements that a project is to include, you must also look for requirements that are excluded from a project (for example, a project that requires all mail servers to be upgraded in the operating system, but not the physical hardware). As the project takes form, the requirements to be excluded will become obvious based on management, the time allotted for the project’s completion, and the given budget.

Are There Industry or Government Sanctions to Consider?

Within your industry there may be governmental or self-regulating sanctions you will have to take into account for your project. For example, in a banking environment there are regulations dealing with the security of the technology, the backup and recovery procedures, and the fault tolerance for the hardware implemented. Government regulations vary by industry, and if your company is a government contractor, there are additional considerations for the project deliverables.

Within your industry there may be standards and regulations. Regulations are “must-haves” that are required by law. Of course, pharmaceuticals, utility companies, and food packaging companies have regulations that dictate their practices. If companies break regulations, fines and lawsuits may follow. Standards, however, are generally accepted guidelines and practices within an industry. Standards are heuristics, rules of thumb, which are not laws but are usually followed. The project manager must be aware of regulations and standards that affect the project’s work and deliverables. 

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

{mospagebreak title=Does the Project Have a Reasonable Deadline?}

Massive upgrades, software rollouts, application development, and system conversions take teamwork, dedication, and time. Projects that don’t have a clearly stated, reasonable deadline need one. Projects should not last forever—they are temporary. Acknowledge the work. Do the work. Satisfy the user with deliverables of the project. Once you’ve accomplished this, the project is done.

We’ll talk more about project scheduling in Chapter 7, but the project manager must be aware of the project calendar and the resource calendar. The project calendar defines the hours in which the project work can take place. For example, if your project is to rewire an entire building with new network cable, the project calendar may specify access to the building between the hours of 8:00 P.M. and

6:00 A.M. Resource calendars are specific to the project team members. They take into consideration the hours employees are available, their vacations, and company holidays.

In addition, the project manager must consider how many working hours their project team members will be able to devote to the project in a given day. Six hours of productivity is typical of an eight-hour day because of impromptu meetings, phone calls, and other interruptions. These factors directly influence the project schedule and if the project can meet the project deadline with the given resources.

Is the Project Sponsor Someone Who Has the Authority to Christen the Project?

Most IT folks hate politics, but we all know politics, personal interests, and department leverage are a part of every company. Make certain the project sponsor is the person who should be initiating the project—without stepping out of bounds. Make certain this individual has the resources to commit to the implementation and has the support of the people up the flowchart. And do it with the full knowledge and support of management.

The project sponsor should be an individual within the organization who has the power to assign team members, allocate funds, and approve decisions on the project work. The project sponsor is typically above the functional managers of the project team members assigned to the project work.

Does the Project Have a Financial Commitment?

If you do not have a clear sense of a financial commitment to the completion of the project, put on your hard hat and don’t stand under any fans. Technology costs money because it makes money. The goal of a project, in the corporate world, is the same goal of any company: to make or save money. A tech-centric project requires a financial investment for quality hardware, software, and talent. If the project you are managing has a budget to be determined somewhere down the road, you’ve got a wish list, not a project at all.

Is Someone Else Doing This Already?

In large companies, it’s easy for two projects to be competing against each other for the same end result. This comes back to communication among departments, teams, and the chief information officer. In a perfect world, IT projects fall under one umbrella, information is openly shared among departments, and everyone works together for the common goal of a company (to make money). This process can be administered through a Project or Program Management Office where projects are tracked across the enterprise. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. You should do some initial research to ensure this project isn’t being accomplished elsewhere in the company before you invest time, finances, and your career in it.

Possessing Multiple Personas

Are you an optimist? A pessimist? A realist? A project manager has to be all of these. You have to be an optimist so you may lead your people, manage the resources, and implement the technology according to plan. You have to be a pessimist, secretly of course, because you need to look at the worst-case scenario for each piece of the technology implementation. You have to be a realist because you need to look at the facts of the projects completely, unattached, unemotional, and unencumbered.

When your project is developing, you should play devil’s advocate to each cornerstone of the project. You need to question the concepts, the technology, and the time it may take for each step of the implementation. As you can see in Figure 1-2, you should question everything before you begin.

Questions to consider:

How Will This New Technology Affect Your Users?

Not all technology you implement has a direct effect on your users, but most of it does. Your life may be IT, but the accountant in the finance department doesn’t like change. She likes everything the way it is now; that’s everything from having to click OK on a redundant error message to installing her favorite screen saver. If your technology changes her world, you should let her know ahead of time; otherwise, she’ll be certain to let you know after. Your primary objective must be to make her job easier.

As technology has become integrated in practically all areas of an organization, users are becoming more tech-sophisticated. They will want to know why the change is happening, why the change is needed, and how it will help them. This brings us back to requirements gathering and communication. Ninety percent of the project manager’s job is communication. If the project manager wants buy-in from the stakeholders, particularly the users, he must communicate the benefits and rationale behind the technical project.


Figure 1-2.  Project managers must question all aspects of a project

Will This Technology Have an Impact on Any Other Software?

How many times have you installed software without testing it, only to discover it disrupts something as unrelated as printing? I hope never, but it happens. You must question and test the ability of the new technology to work with your current systems. Of course, if you’re considering a 100 percent change in technology, then there really isn’t a software compatibility issue.

Will This Technology Work with Any Operating System?

How many operating systems are in your organization? While the goal may be just one, I’d wager you’ve got two or three different OSs floating around. Think about those graphic designers and their Macintoshes. Remember those salespeople and their Windows XP laptops? And what about those mainframe and server-based Linux users? If your company has multiple operating systems, you’ve got to question the compatibility of the technology for each.

What Other Companies Are Using This Technology?

The assumption is you are buying this solution rather than building it. Therefore, is it a bleeding edge solution? Are you first in line? No one likes to be first, but someone has to be. When embracing and implementing a new technology, ask that question of the vendor’s salesperson. Hopefully, the salesperson will be happy to report about all the large companies that have successfully installed, tested, and implemented the vendor’s product. That’s a good sign. If someone else has done it, you can too.

Does the Vendor of This Technology Have a Good Track Record in the Industry?

From whom are you buying this technology? Has the vendor been around for a while and implemented its product many times over? Does the vendor have a history of taking care of problems when they arise? This is not to say you should not buy from a startup—every major IT player was a startup at some time in its history. You should feel fairly confident that the vendor selling the product today will be around to support it tomorrow.

What Is the Status of Your Network Now?

You may not always have to ask this question, but with so many network-intensive applications and new technologies today, it doesn’t hurt. You don’t want to install the latest bandwidth hog on a network that’s already riding the crest of 90 percent utilization. You and your company won’t be happy. By asking this question, you may uncover a snake pit that needs to be dealt with before your project can begin.

What If…?

Finally, you need to dream up worst-case scenarios and see if there are ways to address each. You need to find out how the technology will react when your servers are bounced, lines go down, and processor utilization peaks. You want to ask these questions and have answers for them now rather than when the crisis hits during your four-week vacation to Alaska.

No Other Choices?

At the start of a project, in its very genesis, ensure that the proposed technology is the correct technology. Of course, sometimes you have no control over the technology that is to be implemented because some vice president decision maker heard about the product from his golf buddy who is CIO at another large firm and is now having you install it everywhere. It happens.

Other times, hopefully most of the time, you have some input to the technology implemented to solve a problem. You are the professional, the IT guru, so you should have a definite say regarding the technology that you’ll be in charge of delivering. You’ll need to create a list of questions and then find the appropriate technology that offers the needed solution, works with your current systems, and fits within your budget. Having the right technology to begin with ensures success at project’s end. 

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

{mospagebreak title=Interviewing Management}

To have a successful project, you need a clear vision of the delivered result. You need to know why the project is being implemented. You need a strong commitment of management to the project. You need to share management’s vision of how the end results will benefit the company. How will you discover these facts? Ask!

When your boss comes to you, for instance, and reports that you are to manage a project to upgrade the mail servers, you need to find out why. It may not be that the manager really wants the mail servers upgraded; he could just be having trouble

Well-informed decisions result in success for everyone, not just the project.

opening a cartoon his frat brother from Utah sent him and blaming it all on the company’s e-mail system.

When you approach management to find out why the project needs to happen, you aren’t questioning their decision-making ability. You are, however, questioning what their vision is for the project. In your company, your immediate manager may be the most technically savvy genius in the world and her decisions are always right on target. In others, if not most, managers know that a technology exists and can be implemented. However, they don’t know exactly which technology they’re after. Figures 1-3 and 1-4 show the difference between effective decision-making abilities and poor decision-making abilities.

As the project manager, your job is to ensure the success of your project and your career, and a successful impact on the bottom line. When you speak with management about the proposed project, you are on a fact-finding mission. Ask questions that can result in specific answers. For example:

  • What do you want technology so-and-so to do?

  • Why is this technology needed?

  • How did you discover this technology?

  • What led you to the decision this was the way for our company to go?

Sometimes a manager may come to you with a specific problem for you to solve. In these instances, the project is wider, more open-ended, and you’ll have to drill deeper into the problem presented. Let’s say for example that a vice president is complaining about the length of time it takes her to retrieve information on customers through your database. She just wants it faster.


Figure 1-3.  Well-informed decisions result in success for everyone, not just the project. 


 Figure 1-4.  Decisions based on complaints, wishes and sales spiels miss the mark.

 

Your questions may be something like this:

  • Can you show me how the process is slow?

  • Is it slow all the time or just some of the time?

  • How long have you experienced this lag?

  • Have others reported this problem?

There are several things we can do to increase the speed of the process. Each may require a financial commitment initially, but would result in faster responses for all of the database users. Do you want to investigate this route?

Notice how you’re thinking like an executive. It’s not technology for technology’s sake. A new multiprocessor database server, gigabytes of memory, and faster switches are all cool stuff, but if they don’t earn their keep, they are just toys. When you are inventing a project, think like an executive of a company and show how the investment in software, hardware, and talent can create more dollars by increasing productivity, safeguarding data, or streamlining business processes and ultimately making customers happy.

Interviewing the Stakeholders

As you know, stakeholders are individuals, groups, or organizations that have a direct interest in the outcome of the project. Your project’s success or failure will directly affect the way they complete their work, use their existing technology, or continue to buy from your company. Stakeholders can include

  • Management

  • The project manager

  • The project team

  • Project sponsors

  • Customers

  • End users

  • The community

In a technical project, the largest group of stakeholders is typically the users. Any project that has an impact on users needs to be discussed with them. This can be done several different ways. The most popular, and sometimes most disruptive, is a focus group. Fair warning: focus groups have a tendency to engage in gripe sessions about the problem rather than the solution. If you choose this route, take control of the discussion and keep the participants focused on the solution.

A focus group allows you to take a sampling from users from each affected department, present the project to them, and then listen to their input. You need to explain how the proposed technology will be better than the current, how it will solve problems, and, if necessary, why the decision is being made to change. Input from focus groups can alter your entire project for the good or the bad.

Another way to interview users is through an intranet site. This method can be an effective form of communication because users have the opportunity to share their opinions and have some say on your project. Of course, with this route, it’s best to have your intranet site request responses to a survey so the results can be tallied quickly. See Figure 1-5 for an example of an online survey.

Some project managers rely on the Delphi Technique. This approach is often used in risk management, but can be applied to any consensus-gathering activity. The participants and their comments are anonymous. The participants are allowed to freely comment on the technology, their concerns, and desires for the requirements. All of the comments are then shared with all of the participants, and they can agree or discount them based on their opinions and experience. Because the process is anonymous, there is no fear of retribution or backlash, or offending other


Figure 1-5.  An online survey can quickly tally users’ input to a new technology.

 

participants. After several rounds of discussion, a consensus is formed on what is needed. An intranet site can automate the method and keep users anonymous.

Finally, learn how the users do their work now. This is especially important for situations like new software development, application upgrades, and new hardware technologies. This can be accomplished in a usability laboratory where mock screens, resembling the technology being implemented, are made available. Feedback from users helps design the solution to be implemented. By working with a user one-on-one, you can experience how the user is using the current technology, how the new technology will affect the user, and what the ultimate goal of a technical change should be: increased productivity and increased profits. Don’t lose sight of that fact. 

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

{mospagebreak title=Identify the Project Needs}

Thanks to Intel’s Gordon Moore, it is a common belief that the processor chip speed of technology doubles every 18 months. This law has spread to practically all areas of technology, which, in turn, means the role of an IT project manager can be expected to change just as rapidly. IT project managers everywhere struggle with keeping teams, budgets, and goals focused. IT project management becomes even more tedious when you consider the economy, the instantaneous expectations of stockholders and management, the constant turmoil in the IT industry, and the flux of each team member’s commitment to their own career.

According to the Standish Group, a respected IT industry analysis and research firm, IT project management is getting better, but still out of control. Consider these statistics from their 2004 version of the CHAOS report:

Project Attribute 1994 Statistics 2004 Statistics
Cancelled before completion

31 percent

23 percent

Missed deadline, over budget,

88 percent

51 percent

or both
Average cost overrun

189 percent

45 percent

Schedule overrun

222 percent

63 percent

While this news is encouraging, it’s still far from success. Some would argue that these tighter values put more requirements on the project manager because they have less “wiggle room” on their projects than just a few years ago. You could also make the argument, however, that the education, expertise, and granular approach to project management provides more successful projects than ever before.

Still, there’s that 23 percent of project cancellations and the 51 percent of projects that are late, over budget, or both. How can this be? Why do so many projects fail from the start? Projects fail for many different reasons: other projects take precedence, team members lose sight of the purpose of the project, and project managers try to do the work rather than lead the team, among others. At the root is a fundamental problem: vision. Vision, in project management terms, is the ability to clearly see the intangible and recognize the actions required to get there. One of your jobs is to develop, nurse, and transfer the vision to everyone on your team. The project manager, however, cannot have a clear vision of the project if the project needs are never clearly established.

Creating Reasonable Expectations

Once you’ve discovered your vision, create a goal. A goal should be a clearly stated fact, for example, “The new database will be installed and functional by December 6 of next year.” A goal sums up the project plan in a positive, direct style. Every member of your team should know and pursue the goal. It’s not all up to you. The goal establishes the direct need and purpose for undertaking the project.

When creating a goal for your project, be reasonable. Just like it would be foolish for a fat man to say, “I’m going to lose sixty pounds this month,” it would be as unreasonable for you to create an impossible goal.

A logical goal is not just an idea, a guesstimate, or some dreamy date to be determined. A goal is actually the end result of a lot of hard work. Each IT project will, of course, have different attributes that determine each goal. Let’s say, for example, that your company is going to be migrating your servers and desktops to the latest and greatest operating system.

With this scenario, certain questions would have to be answered to determine the ultimate goal: Is the hardware adequate for the new OS? Will the applications work with the new OS? Will the team have adequate time to be trained and experiment with the new OS? These questions will help you create the end date for the goal.

Creating the Project Charter

Once you’ve determined the business needs for the project, it’s time to create a project charter. A project charter is similar to the goal, but more official, more detailed, and in line with your company’s vision and goals. Obviously, a project can stem from a broad, general description of an IT implementation. A goal narrows the description and sets a deadline. A project charter formalizes the goal and serves as a map to the destination. Above all, however, a project charter formally authorizes the project.

Not only does a charter clearly define the project, its attributes, and its end results, it also identifies the project authorities. The project authorities are usually the project sponsor, the project manager, and the team leaders (if necessary), and the charter specifies the role and contact information for each. See Figure 1-6 for the evolution of a project charter.

Why do you need a project charter? Why not just hop right in and get to work? In a small company, plowing right into the project may turn out just fine. However, in most companies, including smaller ones, a project charter is the foundation for success. Consider what the charter accomplishes:

  • Authorizes the project

  • Defines the business need in full

  • Identifies the sponsor of the project


Figure 1-6.  The project manager must lead the process to create a project charter.

 

  • Identifies the project manager

  • Makes the project manager accountable for the project

  • Assigns authority to the project manager on behalf of the project sponsor

Project Charter Elements

When you create the project charter, you can include just about any information on the project that you’d like. Generally though, consider these elements:

  • Official project name

  • Project sponsor and contact information

  • Project manager and contact information

  • Purpose of the project

  • Business case for the project (reasons why the project needs to happen)

  • High-level results and deliverables of the project

  • General statement about how the team will approach the work

  • Basic timeline of when the work will be implemented (A more detailed timeline will exist in the project plan.)

  • Project resources, budget, staff, and vendors

Every project needs a charter. It authorizes the project, creates a sense of responsibility for the project manager, a sense of ownership for the sponsor, and a sense of teamwork for the project team. The project charter will save you headaches, establish who’s in charge, and move you to your goal more quickly and with more confidence.

Following is an example charter, based on a fictional company called Best Enterprises. The company’s network currently consists of 380 computers running Windows NT, 11 Windows NT 4.0 servers, and 5 Novell NetWare servers. It has made a decision to move all the workstations to Windows XP and all the servers, including the NetWare servers, to Windows 2003 Server. 

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

{mospagebreak title=The Project Charter}

Project: Operating system upgrade: XP and 2003 servers
Project Sponsor: Sharon Brenley, Chief Information Officer (x. 233)
Project Manager: Michael Sheron, Network Administrator (x. 234)
Project Team: Edward Bass, Ann Beringer, Brad Bobich, Carol Fox, Charlotte Harving, Don Khunle, Casey Murray, Mick Suskovich, Mark Turner, Stephen Utmeyer

Project Purpose All desktops will be upgraded to Windows XP by December 3, 2005. All servers will be upgraded and moved to five Windows 2003 Servers by December 20 of the following year.

Business Case Windows NT has served our company for the past five years. We’ve learned to love it, embrace it, and grow with it. However, it’s time to let it go. We’ll be embracing a new technology from Microsoft, similar to Windows NT, but far superior: Windows XP. Windows XP will allow us all to be more productive, more mobile, more secure, and more at ease.

In addition, there are new technologies that work excellently with XP, such as infrared networking for our manufacturing shop floors and new accounting software that will be implemented later this year.

Of course, our company will continue to embrace our web presence and the business we’ve earned there. XP will allow us to follow that mindset and create greater opportunities for us all.

As our company has experienced over the past year, our servers are growing old, slow, and outdated. We’ll be replacing the servers with six new multiprocessor servers loaded with RAM, redundant drives, and faster, reliable tape arrays—which means faster, reliable, more productive work for us all. The operating system we’ll be implementing for all of our servers will be Windows 2003.

Windows 2003 will allow our users to find resources faster, keep our network up longer, and provide ever-increasing security.

Project Results
  • Windows XP on every desktop and portable computer

  • Windows 2003 Server installed on six new servers

  • All implementation complete by December 20 of the following year

Basic Timeline
  • September Test deployment methods, capture user and application status, finalize deployment image, and create scripts.

  • October Initial deployment of 100-user pilot group. Test, document, and resolve issues. Redeploy 100-user pilot group with updated images and scripts. Begin Windows 2003 Server testing and design.

  • November Begin month-long four-hour training sessions. While participants are in class, XP will be deployed to their desktops. Troubleshoot and floor support in coordination with Jamie Bryer, Help Desk Manager. Continue to test Windows 2003 Servers. Three Windows 2003 Servers will go live on November 15.

  • December Finish deployment of XP. Install new 2003 servers and create infrastructure. Convert each existing server to Windows 2003. Project completed December 20 of the following year.

Project Resources
  • Budget: $275,000 (includes XP, 2003 server, client access licenses, consultants, training)

  • Test lab reserved for four-month duration

  • On-site consultant from Donaldson Education

Your project charter can include as much or as little information as you deem necessary. Project charters are often shared with the entire company (with the exception of the budget) so you may have a few revisions before the charter is complete. Sharing a project charter with the entire organization, especially one that will affect all users as in the sample charter, can get everyone involved, excited, and aware of coming changes. A project charter also creates a sense of responsibility for all involved.

Your project team members will get distracted, pulled in different directions, and lose interest. Vacations pop up, kids get sick, people quit. Realize at the onset that not everyone will be as dedicated to your project as you are. Do your best to inspire, motivate, and lead. Set aside politics, egos, and aspirations and work toward the goal.

Finally, keep in mind that a charter can be called different things in different organizations and that the level of detail can vary depending on the company or the project being created. Most charters, however, accomplish two primary things: authorizing the project work and defining the project work.

Finding the Completion Date

There’s a cartoon that’s probably posted in every auto mechanic’s garage. In the cartoon, there’s a bunch of people rolling around laughing uncontrollably. Above all this mayhem is the caption, “You want it when?” Of course, as an IT project manager, you can’t take that same approach, but a reasonable deadline has to be enforced.

A firm end date accomplishes a few things:

  • Creates a sense of responsibility toward the project

  • Gives the team something to work toward

  • Signifies a commitment from sponsors, team members, and the project manager

  • Confirms that this project will end

How do you find the completion date for a project and how do you know if it’s reasonable? The magic end date is based on facts, research, and planning. In upcoming chapters, you’ll get a more detailed look at project end dates and how you establish them. For now, know that projects are a sequence of steps, and each step will take time. The completion of each step will predict when a project should end.


Figure 1-7.  If a project stays on schedule, so will the budget and the morale.

Some project managers create a flexible deadline. Don’t do it. If you allow yourself a deadline that is not firm, you’ll take advantage of it. And so will your team, your sponsor, and your management. Set a deadline based on an informed opinion, and then stick with it. The charts in Figure 1-7 demonstrate how a missed completion date is bad for the project, the company, and morale.

A rule of economics that affects scheduling is “Parkinson’s Law.” Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fill the time allotted to it. In other words, if you give yourself extra time to complete a project, the project will magically fill the extra time. A firm deadline gives the project manager and the project team a definite date to work toward.

Some projects have a self-contained deadline. Remember the Y2K scare? With the year 2000 rolling in like a summer storm, every programmer and company found a way to make the deadline because it wasn’t moveable.

Other factors can have impact on your projected deadline:

  • Business cycles Does your project deadline coincide with busy times of the year? Think of a retail giant. How willing do you think it would be to overhaul the database that handles shipping and store management around December?

  • Financial situations A company may be more (or less) willing to invest in new hardware or software at a particular time of the year due to taxes, fiscal year ending, or the advent of a new budget. You’ve got to consider these factors when you request finances for your project.

  • Times of the year When will your team members take vacation? How will their vacation plans coincide with your deadline? What other internal time commitments do they have? Will they be traveling to other sites? These factors can delay a project for weeks and months—ultimately resulting in a missed deadline. Work with your team members to ensure their availability coincides with their responsibilities within the project plan.  

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

{mospagebreak title=From the Field}

Interview with Kevin Kocis
Name: Kevin Kocis
Title: Manager of Information Technology
Years in the IT field: 10

Kevin Kocis has been working in the information technology field for over 10 years. He is currently the Manager of Information Technology for a division of a Fortune 100 company, where he develops strategies for network and server infrastructure, Oracle implementation, and platform interoperability issues (Windows, UNIX, and Macintosh).

Q: What is the best part about IT project management?
A: The best part about IT project management is leading an initiative that resolves a business need and/or contributes to business success. Another great part about IT project management is the challenge of leading new cross- functional teams.

Q: How do you start a new project?
A: The project is usually started in response to a broad objective or a business request. Once a performance analysis and feasibility study are completed, it can be determined whether the objective or request can be deemed a project. A project can also be initiated to optimize internal processes and to leverage return on investment.

Q: When you start a new project, what is the first thing you do?
A: The first thing to consider when starting an official project (assuming performance and feasibility tests are complete) is to gather requirements and document flowcharts to develop the project plan. Of course, requirements often change throughout the project, but the initial requirements will be based on current knowledge. Make it a priority to update the business champions and sponsors in regular project meetings.

Q: When starting a project, what’s the most important thing a project manager should do?
A: When starting a project, the most important thing a project manager should do is to identify the business goal and determine the business champion or sponsor. The business sponsor needs to understand the project scope and help convey this process to the senior management team.

Q: How do you manage the relationship between upper management, your team, and the project?
A: The IT team manager manages the relationship between the upper management team and project by acting as interpreter. One of the challenges is that senior management may not understand the IT role for the project and vice versa. The project manager should debrief both groups to ensure a synchronous understanding.

Q: How important is a project goal?
A: The goal is always significant as it is essentially the initial reason for pursuing the project. However, the goal cannot be achieved without certain conditions. Factors such as scope creep, team relations, and communications will become important as the project progresses. These factors will contribute to the success of the project, so while a project manager must maintain a focus on the goal, she cannot ignore the factors contributing to the project’s success.

Q: How necessary is it for project managers to create a project charter?
A: A project charter is very important for the project manager as it serves as a roadmap for the project. As its name suggests, the roadmap should define the key steps of the project, as well as the high-level deliverables. The roadmap should also include the relationship of the project to the business’ operational or strategic goals. Project charters should be well publicized (such as through an intranet web site) in addition to the project’s progress.

Q: Can you share an example of how you started a project and the steps it took for you to complete it?
A: One of my projects (that saw plenty of challenges) was an internal domain migration in preparation for Windows 2000. My company was one of the first to install Windows 2000 in its production environment, and with several hundred internal Windows NT domains, there was a strong need to consolidate to a handful of key domains. To simplify the process for the scope of this chapter, we communicated heavily with our business group management. I met with senior staff to inform them the migration was a corporate initiative that would simplify a later transition to Windows 2000. I also informed them that to mitigate potential risks, we would test the migration in our test lab.

Since the timeline for this project was short (weekend transition with one week scheduled for follow-up issues), no project charter was created. We tested the feasibility to perform the migration in our lab, working with an outside vendor for our domain migration software. We communicated the transition to the user community on a weekly basis, and on the Friday of the conversion.
Unfortunately, we did not plan for the unexpected power outage, nor the virus infection that occurred that weekend. As a result of these unforeseen events, our team had to branch out to maintain progress on the project. The only issues that resulted from the project were vagabond machines or users, and this essentially helped us prepare for our internal audit, so I considered this project quite successful.

Q: How do you work vendors into your timeline?
A: I always notify vendors during the project proposal phase as a courtesy when a project need is identified. This enables me to arrange project-planning windows around their turnaround times. Many hardware vendors do not build or prepare hardware until they are issued a purchase order, but advance notice can help expedite the process. Vendors (depending on the project) often work in parallel paths with the project team. For example, if we are looking to upgrade our servers by replacing them, the project team can plan communications and documentation while waiting for the hardware to be built and shipped.

Q: What do you do if vendors are late on delivery, which may disrupt your project completion date?
A: To avoid vendor delivery issues, the project managers should address contingency plans for any vendor-related critical path that exists in the project plan. By discussing the critical nature of the delivery, vendors can assist with providing an alternative solution before the schedule is critically impacted. These issues should be discussed prior to committing to the vendor.

Q: How do you balance the time between projects and your regular work duties?
A: Unfortunately, when it comes to balancing time, there is seldom a right or defined answer. Individuals balance time responsibilities differently. In my case, I prioritize the projects and weigh them against my daily duties. Some project meetings I may not attend, and assign a team member to represent me. For the team, I prioritize their project tasks and communicate with management to ensure there is understanding that daily tasks will not maintain their priority.

For example, if a desktop support person is involved in a critical stage of the project, daily support will not be able to maintain the same expectation level. This can be leveraged with additional resources if the business wishes to maintain its support expectancy.

Q: What’s a common trap IT project managers fall into and how can they avoid it?
A: IT project managers often fall victim to making reactionary decisions based on a hardship or challenging situation. Often, the response time in light of a complication is limited, and if no contingency plan was developed or an unpredictable event occurred, the project managers may be forced to make a reactionary and critical decision without business support. To avoid this, make sure contingency and rollback plans exist for all projects. Listen to the project team, and form a consensus on the issue. The project managers may also have a tendency to become too hands-on or hands-off in the process if the plan is behind or ahead, respectively.

Q: What are characteristics of a successful project launch?
A: The characteristics for a successful launch include high publicity and management involvement. Start with a kickoff meeting (with goodies), and make sure all business management can participate, as well as the entire project team. Ensure that all communication standards are agreed to, and that management understands the goal of the project and its participants. Review the plan and its impacts in great detail. Listen to concerns and modify the project plan only if critically necessary.

Q: If a project has many steps to the final implementation, how do you keep the project moving and heading toward each milestone?
A: For long-term projects, accountability and strict deadlines are mandatory. A key to ensuring that the team does not burn out or fade is to acknowledge their successes at milestones, regardless of the size or magnitude of their contribution. Teamwork is critical for a successful project.

Q: What advice can you offer fellow IT project managers in regard to implementing new technologies?
A: My personal advice to fellow IT project managers regarding new technologies is to thoroughly understand the enhancements and changes. Make sure external resources exist (such as vendor training and demos). Test and document the technologies thoroughly.


Never underestimate how people (your users) are affected by change, even good change. Overcommunicate and focus on the positive results.

Q: What advice can you offer for aspiring IT project managers?
A: My advice to aspiring IT project managers is to remember that we grew from a certain “track.” Some of us are (or were) developers, DBAs, systems engineers, and network engineers. We may not have led people from other tracks. Learn to listen and be fair. Don’t be influenced by where you’ve been. Focus on teamwork. 

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

{mospagebreak title=Chapter Summary}

Did you ever see one of those movies with the ace reporter scrambling into the newsroom with just minutes to go before his deadline? He writes a fantastic article on the mayor, the mob boss, or the sports team with just seconds to spare. Meanwhile, his cigar-chomping boss is ranting about this reporter’s usual skin-of-the-nose behavior.

That’s how IT project management can be. The really awful part? Sometimes it’s not even that close. Projects are consistently late, over budget, and half- cooked. IT project management is not about implementing a technology. It’s about leadership, integrity, decision-making ability, planning, and time management.

To be a successful project manager, you have to start each project with a clear, concise vision of what the project will yield, when it will end, and how you can lead your team to that destination.

Project management is governed by business cycles, dedication, time, and sometimes weekends. Successful project management takes more than implementing the latest whiz-bang technology. To succeed in project management is to succeed in leadership.

CHAPTER QUIZ

1. What is project management?

A. The ability to complete a task within a given amount of time

B. The ability to complete a task with a given budget

C. The ability to manage a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service— on time and within budget

D. The ability to administer a series of chronological tasks within a given amount of time and under budget

2. Which of the following determine the start of a project?

A. Knowing the project sponsor

B. Knowing the project budget

C. Knowing the project completion date

D. Knowing the project results

3. Which of the following is the most important element of a project genesis?

A. Sponsor

B. Team members

C. Vision

D. Project manager

4. Why must you interview the project decision makers before starting the project?

A. To detail the budget of the project

B. To determine the project results

C. To gain their support and trust

D. To determine the project completion date

5. What is the purpose of the project charter?

A. To launch the project team

B. To identify the project manager

C. To assign a budget to the project

D. To authorize a project

6. Why must a project manager question every facet of a new project? Choose two:

A. To determine the project results

B. To determine the validity of the project

C. To determine the project budget

D. To determine the project resources

7. Why are new technologies implemented within a company?

A. To increase the speed of internal processes

B. To be more competitive

C. To be more profitable

D. To be more technically savvy

8. When considering the type of technology to implement in any given situation, what are things a decision maker must consider? Choose all that apply:

A. The steps required to implement the technology

B. The users the change will affect

C. The vendor’s ability to provide support

D. The business cycles the change may interrupt

9. What is a focus group?

A. An interview process for elective team members

B. An interview process by the team members to determine the success of a project manager

C. A sampling of users affected by the proposed technology

D. A sampling of management affected by the proposed technology

10. Why can a focus group be counterproductive?

A. The participants may not understand the technology.

B. The management involved may not like the technology being implemented.

C. The participants may focus on the problems of the old technology rather than the goals of the project.

D. Team members may have political agendas against the project manager.

11. A project manager would like to use an anonymous tool to gain a consensus on the needs of the project. Which tool is the project manager likely to use?

A. A survey on an intranet site

B. The Delphi Technique

C. An e-mail message to all users within the organization

D. A Monte Carlo simulation

12. Fill in the blank: Increased _______________ results in increased profits.

A. Technology

B. Speed

C. Productivity

D. Bandwidth

13. What is a project goal?

A. The end result of the project

B. A statement of the project and its end date

C. A statement of the project, its results, and its end date

D. The mission statement

14. What does a firm completion date accomplish? Choose two:

A. Creates a sense of urgency

B. Signifies a commitment to the project from the sponsor(s)

C. Signals a financial commitment to the project

D. Confirms the project will end

15. Why is a flexible completion date bad?

A. Allows the project to be delayed

B. Signals the project will end eventually

C. Increases time and cost, decreases morale

D. Allows other projects to overlap this project

CHAPTER EXERCISES

Exercise 1

You are the project manager for Ogden Underwriters Insurance Company. This company has offices in Chicago, Des Moines, Seattle, Lincoln, and Atlanta.

You have been tasked with managing the rollout of a new web-based training program. You are to interview several members of your company to find out what their goals for the project are and work those into your plan as much as possible. As this is a simulated exercise, you’ll find quotes from several key personnel in the following table.

To complete this exercise, analyze persons being interviewed, list their concerns about the project, and then record the objective of each.

Person Title Concerns Objectives
Nancy Gordon Chief Executive I am very excited about this project. All employees
Officer should have access to the web site, no matter where
they are located in the country. The training should supplement our existing classroom training and
provide new information as needed. I would also
like to see videos of common tasks for quick review. Finally, the web-based training must be searchable,
user friendly, and easy for learners to stop and
resume lessons with ease. Have fun!
Cory Owens Accountant Will this thing really work? Our network seems pretty slow already. I don’t have time to be waiting
on images to load, downloads, and other stuff like
that. My computer is so old, and so is everyone else’s in this department, that we can’t take another
software upgrade if we have to. By the way, when
are we going to get new computers? Mine at home is faster than the one here at work. Sigh.
Sarah Sullivan Claims Adjuster This is a great idea; I just hope I have time to
use it. I get interrupted a lot so I’d need to be
able to pause and restart if necessary. Will this web-based training work with my computer?
I’m using Linux here and Windows NT at home.
I will be able to access it from home, won’t I?
       
Michael Bogner Chief Information Web-based training will allow for training on demand in modular pieces. The thing to remember
Officer though is that all users will need computers with at
least an 800 MHz, 128MB RAM, and the latest
version of Internet Explorer or Netscape to take
advantage of this. In fact, there are 240 PCs that
need to be replaced in six months. Go ahead and work that into your budget and your plan. They’ll
need to use Windows XP. I guess that’ll mean these
folks will need training on XP, too.
Jill Vaughn Web Design Manager I’ve wanted to do WBT (web-based training) forever. My team will be using Macromedia’s ColdFusion, Flash, Authorware, and Fireworks for
everything. Make certain all the users have the correct plug-ins for their browsers.
Jackson Dahl Web Integrations We can do it—if a few things come true. We’ll need
Team Leader a fatter pipe to our ISP if we’re going to host the
pages here. Of course, if users are coming from all over the country to this thing, we’re going to need to
talk about security, authentication, and types of
access. We’ll probably need another server for Jill’s ColdFusion database.
Exercise 2

Now that you’ve gleaned the key pieces of information from each of the key staff members, you need to write a charter for the project. Your sponsor for this project is Nancy Gordon. Here are some facts that must be included in your project charter:

  • Official project name (use your imagination)

  • Project goal

  • Business case for the project

  • High-level results of the project

  • A basic timeline of how your team will implement the plan

  • Required resources for the project (If you would like to find the prices of the new computers, software, and operating systems, you may, but they are not required for this exercise.)

  1. C. Project management is the ability to manage a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service on time, within budget. Answer D is incorrect because completing a project under budget is nice, but reflects inaccurate planning of what the budget should have been at the project outset. In addition, the project goal must be met.
  2. D. When you begin a project, you must know what’s expected at the end of the project. You wouldn’t begin building a house without a plan; the same is true for project management. While knowing the project sponsor and the project budget is necessary, it still doesn’t determine what the goal of the project is.
  3. C. Before any effort is applied to the implementation of a project, the project manager and the team must have a vision of what the project will produce, how it will come about, and when it will be finished. Vision supercedes all other elements.
  4. B. Again, you must have a clear understanding of what the decision makers’ vision of the project results are before any other factor of the project implementation. After you have a clear understanding of the project vision, address issues such as budget and the completion date. Answer C is incorrect because you will gain the support and trust of the decision makers once you have obtained their vision of the project, not through an interview.
  5. D. The purpose of the project charter is to authorize the project. Answer A is incorrect because the project team may not be selected until later in the project. Answer B, identifying the project manager, is also incorrect. The project manager is named and identified in the project charter, but the purpose of the charter is to authorize the project. Answer C is also incorrect; the project charter’s purpose is not to assign a budget to the project.
  6. A, C. A project manager must first determine the project results before beginning a new project. You must know the end results of a project before beginning a project; to do otherwise is asinine. Technology costs money because it makes money. You must know what is required to obtain the desired results. From this information you can form a required budget. Answer B, the validity of the project, is incorrect because answer A will determine that. Answer D is also incorrect because answer A will lead to D.
  7. C. As information technology specialists, it is easy to lose sight of the link between technology and why it exists. The goal of a technological implementation is, generally, to lead to more productivity, which in turn leads to higher profits. If technology does not earn its keep, it should be considered an unwelcome houseguest.
  8. B, C, D. Answer A is not a correct choice because that’s why the decision maker has put you in charge of the project. The decision maker has made the decision and then delegated the implementation to you.
  9. C. A focus group is a collection of users your project will affect. It should consist of a sampling from management and staff, not just management.
  10. C. The participants may focus on the problems of the old technology rather than the goals of the project. An improperly organized focus group can result in a gripe session about the old technology and its flaws rather than the benefits and goals of the new project. A focus group requires a strong leader to help the participants focus on the future implementation rather than their complaints with the current technology.
  11. B. The Delphi Technique allows for anonymous input from participants and provides rounds of discussion for consensus building. Answer A is incorrect because a survey on an intranet site may or may not provide anonymous input. Answer C, e-mail, is incorrect because it does not provide anonymous input from users. Answer D is incorrect. Monte Carlo simulation is a simulation tool testing variables, not a consensus building approach.
  12. C. Technology can be counterproductive. Technology should increase productivity, allow for a quick learning cycle, and ultimately result in higher profits.
  13. C. A goal is a clear, concise statement of the project. It should include the project end results and be positive in nature.
  14. B, D. A firm completion date shows a commitment to the project from sponsors and it confirms that the project will end. A completion date does not, however, signal a financial commitment to the project. A completion date should create a sense of responsibility, but not a sense of urgency or panic.
  15. C. A flexible completion date can result in the delay of the project. The delay of the project will result in higher costs and lower morale.

EXERCISE SOLUTIONS

Exercise 1: Possible Solution 

Person Title Objectives
Nancy Gordon Chief Executive Office All employees should have access to the web site.
Training should supplement existing training.
Offer videos of common tasks.
Site should be searchable.
Users must be able to stop and resume lessons.
   
Cory Owens Accountant Speed issues need to be addressed.
Computer needs to be brought current.
Sarah Sullivan Claims Adjuster Users should be able to pause and resume lessons. Need to take multiple operating systems into
account.
Include access from home.
Michael Chief Information Officer Upgrade computers to at least 800 MHz,
Bogner 128MB RAM.
Upgrade browsers. Replace 240 PCs as part of project.
Systems require XP operating system.
XP training required.
Jill Vaughn Web Designer Include plug-ins for browsers.
Jackson Dahl Web Integrations Team Leader Need faster bandwidth.
Keep in mind security issues.
Need new web server for ColdFusion database.

Exercise 2: Possible Solution

Project Charter

Project Name: Click and Learn: Web-Based Training Initiative
Project Sponsor: Nancy Gordon, CEO
Project Manager: Your name here
Project Goal: A new web-based training program will be created and implemented company-wide by January 2003.

Business Case: There’s something new and exciting happening at Ogden Underwriters Insurance Company, and it’s not a new life insurance policy. It’s web-based training (WBT). WBT will allow us to replace and supplement traditional classroom training on all topics.

No longer will you have to enroll in the same four-hour class because you’ve forgotten how to do one ten-minute task. No longer will you get hours and even days behind schedule because you needed to attend a class on the latest procedure for your department. No longer will you need to pester help desk staff, your neighbor, or your favorite computer nerd about how to write a macro.

Instead you’ll just click and learn.

Our WBT service will allow employees from around the world to access the information it contains. That means each office and mobile user, and even those who work at home will be able to log in to our site and access the information they need anytime, day or night.

We’ll provide forms, printable directions, and videos of various tasks for each department. Because this technology is web based, it doesn’t matter what operating system your computer is running. It’s going to be great.

You’ll be able to search for a specific topic or take an entire structured course. And thanks to our modular approach, you’ll be able to pause your training should you get interrupted and then resume it minutes or even days later.

Required Resources: Of course, with this technology there are fundamental changes that will affect all of us. For a start, all users will receive the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer and the additional software required to view the videos and complete the WBT classes. 240 computers will be replaced with new, speedy PCs running Windows XP.

Our web server farm will grow to add an additional database server. Additionally, our fractional T1 line will be replaced with a full T1 line starting next spring.

Timeline:
  • First 30 days Replace 240 older PCs with new computers. Begin offering classes on Windows XP as part of rollout. Work with web developers to create a schedule of course listings for each department .

  • Second 30 days Continue development of web courses. Order T1 installation. Install and work with Jill Vaughn and Jackson Dahl on integration for ColdFusion server and current web servers.

  • Third 30 days Begin creation of videos, streaming software, and bandwidth utilization issues. Work with Jill and Jackson on links for Microsoft Explorer upgrade scripts.

  • Final 30 days Go live with initial classes and test usage. Throttle servers and document results. As month progresses, continue to go live with additional offerings. Create form to request additional courses, troubleshooting, and support.

 

This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

 

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