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Straight Talk on Project Management

Best practice bingo

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Best practice bingo. 16 IT Project Management experts share best practices. How many can you guess?

Forbes recently published an article where 16 Project Management experts shared best practices.

For “fun”, one rainy lunchtime in the Stoneseed office, we played a game of “Best Practice Bingo” to see if we could guess them all. This is how our assembled (in person and virtual) team got on.

Maybe there will be a day where your team all can’t face going out and getting soaked, if you play Best Practice Bingo too, let us know how you get on. Better yet, if you think up some best practices you believe should have been on the list, drop us a message!! Even better still, if you read this and realise that you could benefit from some of these best practice tips, but don’t currently have the capability, ask how Stoneseed, as a Project Management as a Service provider, can help.

That’s the take-away for us. The best practice ideas that we sussed first were ones that we had helped or are helping clients with in one way or another, so if you’re ever on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the question is about IT Project Management Best Practice – we can be your Phone A Friend (50/50 split, right?).

As self-appointed quizmaster, I started by reading from the introduction to the Forbes article, “There are myriad development philosophies, tools and media in the tech industry market dedicated to “proper” project management. 16 members of Forbes Technology Council discuss the keys to successful IT project management they would recommend and why they’re effective,” adding, “What did they say?”

Straight in was Nicol Cutts, Stoneseed’s Head of Project Management with, “Define scope … robust governance … solid robust communication.”

Two in one guess from Nicol! Indeed, from the Forbes panel, Neil Parekh (Netrix, LLC) said “Communication (or the lack thereof) can make or break the success of a project. There needs to be a defined governance structure around project communication that dictates project kickoff, status updates, financial impacts, schedule changes, change orders, stakeholder checkpoints, and proper signoffs along the way. The project teams should also use a single source of truth of a project’s status.”     

Isn’t “a single source of truth of a project’s status” a powerful sentence? No room for confusion or ambiguity – nice one Neil.

Also, on scope, Kiran Palla told Forbes, “It’s essential to identify what is and is not within the scope of a project and stick to it. What is within scope is easy to define, but what is not can be hard to define and manage. During project kickoff, think in terms of the project being operational, and work backward to define stages, stakeholders, actors, methodologies and so on. Projects fail for two reasons: scope creep and poor operational readiness.”

Well done, Nicol!

Scope, governance and great communication are pillars of Stoneseed’s PMO Services. So far, so good!

Next to suggest a best practice was Emma Jordan, Stoneseed’s HR & Recruitment Manager, who offered, “Fill your team with passionate and motivated people?” At this point it became like a tag wrestling match as Amy Baker, Stoneseed’s Senior Resourcing Specialist added, “And be clear on expectations and goals so they stay motivated?”

Amy and Emma had nailed point number 13 from the list – “Hire Truly Interested Professionals”. Slava Podmurnyi (Visartech Inc.) had written, “Successful IT project management lies in motivated team members. When they are driven by passion for the job, people deliver higher performance. So, when forming a team, hire professionals who are truly interested in the things they’re going to do on the project. Once that’s settled, provide the team with well-defined goals, and expected results. That will give them an understanding of where they’re moving to and encourage them.”

At Stoneseed, we are scrupulous in our hiring practices, so our clients know that when they add a Stoneseed PMaaS resource to their team, for however long, that person will be engaged and ready to hit the ground running. If you’re reading this as a passionate, motivated project professional who loves a challenge and the prospect of stretching and expanding your skills across a wide range of exciting projects – find out more about working with Stoneseed – we’d love to hear from you!

Next up, David Cotgreave, Stoneseed’s Professional Services Director and governance evangelist said, “I was going to say governance, but as Nicol pipped me to that post, what about taking a helicopter view, great visibility, everyone on the project being able to see what’s going on across the project?”

Yep, Lewis Wynne-Jones (ThinkData Works) covered this with his “Visualise Everything” tip, “It seems simple, but putting a project up on a Gantt chart that everyone can see is critical to success. It ensures your project management team has taken the time to consider how long everything will take, and it provides insight for everyone else into how the project will unfold. Visualizing the work is the best way to ensure accountability and on-time delivery.”

Often, clients tell Stoneseed that they do not routinely take a helicopter view or visualise the wider context of their project and portfolio because they do not have time – they are too busy working in their project to assess how well everyone is working across it. Addressing resource issues, capability gaps and strengthening key areas with PMaaS resources gives managers breathing space to do this and the ‘fresh pairs of eyes’ that come with PMaaS talent can help point out areas for improvement or easily fixed flaws that you may be missing! “Low hanging fruit” as Stoneseed’s Managing Director, Jamie Buttle calls it.

Talking of Jamie, he pitched in with one of his favourites, “Going a step further from what Nicol said – How about having single touchpoint or point of communication.” Nailed it boss!! A Acharya (Radixweb) shared the value of having “A Single Point Of Contact For Queries”.

As Dharmesh told Forbes, “Project management is one of those key factors that can make or break an offshore project. Most IT firms dread working with offshore teams because of faulty project management. I think the key to acing this is to have a single point of contact who is responsible for answering queries. Also, periodic reporting of project updates through scrum meetings and video calls is essential to keep everyone on the same page.”

With Stoneseed you can have a single point of communication for all your PMaaS resources, Project Managers, IT Technical Advisory, Business Analysists, PMO Services, Programme & Project Delivery Specialists and with Stoneseed’s innovative commercial model you can also benefit from a single bill for the services you use!    

“ITIL? The importance of processes and methodology? Tools? Don’t mess around with spreadsheets, get yourself IT Project Management software that works for how you work – is that there?” asked Head of Technical Advisory, David Gilmore – skewering at least three of the thoughts on the Forbes list!

Bhushan Parikh (Get Digital Velocity, LLC) said, “Successful IT project management requires processes and technical skills. ITIL and Agile processes for project management should be introduced to everyone. Companies should take a stand and say, “Agile is the way to work,” whether it is in terms of IT or the overall business. Additionally, IT project managers must have technical skills or familiarity with the tools, software, and hardware they are deploying.”

Jyoti Prasad Bhatt (ImpactQA) covers processes in the point “Follow The PDCA Cycle And Establish A RACI Matrix” saying, “The “plan-do-check-act” principle works well for all sorts of companies, both newer and older and IT and non-IT. Hiring the right set of people, putting the right processes in place and selecting the right set of tools is what you need to accomplish the PDCA cycle. Additionally, new companies often struggle with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, so putting together a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) matrix can help tremendously.”

And …

In his point “Invest Early in The Proper Tools”, Nicholas Domnisch (EES Health) adds, “Starting out, you might lean toward setting up your own project management system in a free tool such as Google Sheets. But that is a mistake. Right away, you need to implement true project management software, such as Jira or Asana. Building the foundation of your operations on a structured project management system will enable you to evolve quickly and scale when the opportunity arises.”

Stoneseed’s PMaaS talent can work with whatever software works best for you, and which ever methodology is your preference (Agile, Waterfall, Hybrid) and, you can benefit from their years of experience and maybe find even better ways to work!

Lastly, as our wet lunchtime almost came to an end, Recruitment Administrator Alice Owen and Stoneseed’s Head of Client Engagement, Dale Beeton came up with a best practice tip that wasn’t exactly on the Forbes list! “Business Analysis,” said Dale, “clients are really engaging with Business Analysis as a Service”. Alice added, “I was going to say BAs. Demand means we’re always looking to recruit BAs”.

Oh, 16 experts of Forbes! I scanned the list but couldn’t find a specific nod to Business Analysis!

Hanno Ekdahl (Idenhaus Consulting, LLC) came close with his tip “Bring on A Project Manager”, when he wrote, “They say that IT has lots of rules and no mercy. The devil is in the details, and that is precisely where an IT project manager can add the most value. Engaging with both business and IT stakeholders to facilitate deep dives into the use cases, process flows, supporting data and desired outcomes ensures the solution is both correct and aligned with business priorities.”

Project Managers are, of course, generally great at all of the above, but it could be argued that a lot of what Hanno is describing here is Business Analyst territory. So, controversially, only half a mark for Dale and Alice.

Stoneseed’s Business Analysis as a Service (BAaaS) gives your Business Analysts with a keen eye for detail, business case deep dives and supporting data. We offer BAaaS as part of PMaaS. Whether it is production of a business case for an IT Project, requirements gathering or data analysis to help with project implementation, BAaaS can be tailored to your specific requirement and Stoneseed’s team are experienced across multiple technology solutions, sectors, and industries.

After an appeal by Dale and Alice, VAR ruled we scored 9/16!!!). Not a bad score, it certainly helped pass the time as the rain lashed our office windows!

Can you guess the other seven tips from the Forbes list?

And … like Dale and Alice, who insist they should score extra points for a tip that’s not on the expert list – feel free to get in touch with your own.

Stoneseed can help with many of the things we have discussed, get in touch here or call us on 01623 723910.

And, we’re always on the look out for new talent to deliver all of this for our clients, find out more about joining the Stoneseed team – for the next round of Best Practice Bingo – if nothing else!

Thanks for reading – it’s stopped raining now. Typical!