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Straight Talk on Project Management

holiday cover matters

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How to avoid IT projects getting beached during the holiday season

The summer holiday season is almost upon us – a little “R and R” incoming?

If, for you, R and R means regretting agreeing to that August deadline and resourcing headaches! We get it. We’ve been there. And we can help!

After all, rest, relaxation, recharging are much more desirable Rs!

So, maybe your team is firing up an app like Kayak, browsing AirBnB for that hidden gem or, perhaps, even going old school – with a coffee table covered in glossy brochures, there is one more resource that you need to bookmark – PMaaS.

PMaaS (Project Management as a Service) is an innovative way to ensure that you have the IT project management resources and services that you need all year round, and at this time of year it really has its day in the sun. It’s one of the ways that, with reasonable planning (and forward planning is key, like in every aspect of IT Project Management), you can sail through the holiday cover season.

WHY EFFECTIVE IT PROJECT MANAGEMENT HOLIDAY COVER MATTERS

A robust holiday cover strategy is essential for IT Project Management, especially now, with increasing pressures on expenditure, heightened ROI expectations on that spend, and tighter time schedules. Effective holiday cover provision can have a positive impact on six big areas:

Project Continuity – Project teams that have adopted a good holiday cover protocol are more likely to ensure that their projects continue smoothly even when key personnel have switched on their “out of office”.

Better Decision Making – With adequate holiday cover, your portfolio will have capable individuals available to identify any issues, make quick decisions, resolve problems, and keep projects on track, reducing the risk of delays.

Risk Mitigation – Having effective talent on hand to provide IT Project holiday cover, (i.e. backup resources who are familiar with your project details and how you do business) mitigates most common project risks. (Stoneseed’s PMaaS is designed to provide the exact resource that your project needs, meaning challenges can be addressed more quickly, reducing the impact of any unforeseen events.)

Stakeholder Engagement – Have you ever been on the other side of the IT Project fence, as a stakeholder? Losing your key contact to the sunbeds for a fortnight can be frustrating and stressful, IT Project teams must ensure that communication with stakeholders is ongoing, providing updates, addressing concerns, and maintaining trust throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Knowledge Sharing – Properly planned holiday cover eases knowledge transfer across the team, upholding project management standards, methodologies, and best practices. When these are consistently applied, holidaying inhouse talent can return to the workplace without that Sunday night knot in their stomach, no one wants the restorative benefits of a holiday to dissipate the moment they log on! Which leads nicely on to …

Work-Life Balance, Team Morale and Productivity – When you have a well-planned and effective holiday cover strategy, you are promoting a healthy work-life balance for project managers and other team members, you reduce the risk of burnout and improve overall morale and productivity. Selfishly, of course, this is also good for the business and efficacy of your project team, but on a human level, it’s essential for their mental health – your people work hard and deserve time to chill!

To help keep your IT Projects on track, we’ve packed this suitcase of handy holiday essentials:

THE IT PROJECT LEADER’S GUIDE TO A STRESSLESS SUMMER

1 – Have An Effective Holiday Planner

It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many teams are caught out by “forgotten” holidays or double-booked annual leave. Ensure that each project team has a holiday planner that shows the dates that its project resources are out of the office, best practice is to start a holiday planner when the project begins and update it regularly. There are plenty of software solutions for this now, so really no excuse!

Also, if your project operates across multiple territories, be mindful of holiday preferences in other geographical locations and factor these into your plans. Here in the UK, we tend to have four weeks of paid holiday a year but rarely take more than a fortnight at a time, whereas it is not unusual for colleagues in Europe to be out of the office for four weeks straight. Colleagues in the USA manage expectations and try to avoid deadlines between Thanksgiving and New Year, Chinese colleagues have similar downtime around Chinese New Year.

The PMO with a clear understanding of holiday dates is better placed to assess impact on the project plan and deliverables. Then what?

2 – Align booked holidays with PMaaS resources

Stoneseed’s PMaaS model gives you access to project professionals and resources at a flexible and predictable cost, meaning that you can assess the impact of holiday requests and mitigate in advance while keeping control over your talent budget. Our services portfolio offers a true end to end service, from IT Technical Advisory, Business Analysis Services and PMO Services through to Programme & Project Delivery, so whoever just booked their holiday, we have just the talent to keep their seat warm and your projects on track.

Stoneseed’s team members are experienced across multiple technology solutions, sectors and industries, and we work on all types of projects and programmes such as Business Change, Transformation, Infrastructure, Digital and IT Project Delivery, this experience is invaluable in maintaining project momentum during holiday periods. Stoneseed’s PMaaS talent won’t just keep the lights on, indeed with us on your team it can be business as usual, allowing your holidaying talent to return to find the project has progressed along the Gantt chart as if they hadn’t even been away.

The best time to align holiday cover needs with PMaaS resources is the day the booking request is made; the second-best time is right now! Give yourself the competitive advantage of a fully resourced project team, even as your key talent is sipping cocktails by the pool!

3 – Governance, Documentation, Knowledge Sharing and Technology

Again, this is obvious, but amazing how busy teams can let documentation slip only to find it comes back to bite them by preventing a smooth handover during holidays. Take care to document project details, tasks, processes, and any critical information to ease the holiday transition period and encourage knowledge sharing within the team to build a resilient project management “hivemind”.

Leverage project management tools, collaboration platforms, and automation to streamline workflows, track progress, and support holiday cover operations effectively – Stoneseed’s new P3MO platform has the potential to be revolutionary in this regard.

4 – Clarity on DDMs – Deliverables, Dependencies and Milestones

Stolen this one! A PMO Director I know has (what he calls) his Portfolio DDM Check List for the period through June, July, August and September. The theory is that project managers keep, share, and update a list of all key deliverables, dependencies, and milestones during that summer period. This can then be aligned with holidays to flag any potential gaps in vital areas.

Having both an overview of key deliverables, dependencies and milestones together with knowledge of staff holidays and availabilities, this proactive PMO Director, and his team added huge value. They were able to reallocate resources from less urgent work to cover potential hotspots, and draft in PMaaS talent in a timely fashion, protecting project timelines and maintaining benefits realisation.

5 – Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Having synchronised staff availability with the key holiday project milestones, the same PMO Director went a step further and added even more value to his organisation – by creating a similar holiday schedule for senior management and sponsors.

Again, taking the summer holiday period of June to September, he listed any senior management or sponsor decisions and “signoffs” that would be needed during this time. He checked if the decision maker would be in the office and, where they would not be available, looked to bring forward the decision meeting, or agreed to whom the decision could be delegated if the deliverable had reached agreed criteria. In other words, “if the deliverable meets ‘criteria X’, then ‘person Y’ has the authority to sign off”.

SLIP-ADVISOR, BLIP-ADVISOR, GET-A-GRIP-ADVISOR

In conclusion, in IT Project Management, effective holiday cover is not just a logistical necessity – it’s a strategic imperative.

Operations with a robust holiday strategy have a better grip on project continuity and are well placed to avoid progress slippage, with better risk management and mitigation procedures to deal with blips. Furthermore, stakeholder satisfaction, team well-being and work-life balance all contribute to successful project outcomes and build ongoing organisational resilience.

I’d love to hear your experiences and additional IT Project Management holiday cover tips! As we’ve established, cover doesn’t just mean personnel, effective protocols will help too, but when you do need the best people, Stoneseed’s team are packed and waiting in the departure lounge to come and help!

When your time comes, have a great holiday.

One last tip…

Remember to turn on your “Out of Office” … and forget about your projects for a week or two!

 

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed