The walk of shame

April 29, 2008 at 12:26 am | Posted in Project Management | 1 Comment
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Yes we have all been there.
Scenario:
You put your project plan together, made the proposal, it was accepted and the project was given the go ahead.
You estimated 5 days, starting Monday, for a particular phase to be completed.
Wednesday comes around and it is becoming abundantly clear that you are not going to reach the deadline.
After some soul searching it is decided to go cap-in-hand back to the key stakeholders and ask for more time. I remember the first time I had to do this. I dubbed it my ‘walk of shame’ as I made my way down the corridor. It was my first big project and I was so confident.
We had crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s and yet here I was, about to admit failure (in my eyes) before the group that so confidently had entrusted me with managing this project.
Well I’m older and wiser now, and I thought that I would offer a seasoned perspective that some of you may find helpful.

It Happens!
First of all you need to get into your head that this stuff happens. Despite all our best efforts, things change! Sometimes it’s our fault and other times it is the result of something outside of our control.
Usually (as in my case) the estimations were incorrect, and this occured because there was not sufficient requirements  gathering at the outset. remember – you can’t ask too many questions!
Sometimes a key resource is pulled off the project for one reason or another and this can set all your expectations back by weeks or even months.

People Understand!
Remember that in most cases, we are all human, we have a mortgage, a job, a car and a mother-in-law. We are all trying to get through the day and do the best we can. I have found that if we communicate clearly people will usually understand. Yes there is going to be the one argumentative, type A, grumpy pants – there always is. Just deal with it – and Always be honest! Accept blame where it is due and commit to move ahead and bring things back in line.

Don’t take it personally!
Wow this was a big one fo rme. Once it sunk in I felt much better. Remember that you are a professional. Absorb the moment, deal with it, learn from it, and move on.

Communicate!
I have found that regular communication (even a once a day email) helps to position people’s expectations, and lessen the blow when you eventually knock on their door. People are usually open to most things, just try and lessen the surprise by keeping them in the loop.

Never overpromise! 
Guys, this is the most important thing – and I am talking from experience here. Be honest. Always be realistic and don’t be afraid to say “No” it can be a PM’s best tool.

How to cost a project

April 28, 2008 at 2:53 am | Posted in Project Management, SDLC | 1 Comment
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If you have been asked to estimate the cost of a project, the best way to arrive at a reasonable figure is to breakdown the project into its SDLC components.
SDLC milestones may vary but a general breakdown is as follows:
1) Analyse
2) Design
3) Develop
4) Test
5) Deploy
6) Maintain

Like I said, these are just a high level breakdown but they are a good place to start.
Let’s examine each phase in depth.

Analysis
This step usually involves the Business Analysts. Each BA has their own way of doing what they do, but it sometimes involves USE CASES and other analytical techniques to achieve a reasonable understanding of the client’s requirements.
Design
This task usually involves a software architect, who liaises with the BA team to gain an understanding of the solution requirements.
Development
This phase is usually led by a Lead Developer who takes the architect’s plans and converts them into a product.
Testing
Depending on the type of organisation you are dealing with, this will either be a specialised person / department or it may involve one or more developers from the development team.
Deployment
This part of the project involves the OPS or IT departments as it normally requires infrastructure assests such as servers etc.
Maintenance
On going bug reportng etc ….

(Please note that very seldom, and in fact never in my experience, does the SDLC actually flow from top to bottom in a linear fashion. There are usually several loops between development and testing etc This topic is on costing and not the SDLC)

When costing a project one needs to start with the following procedure:

  • Hold a ‘Vision and Scope’ meeting with representatives from each of the SDLC teams. In this meeting a high level understanding will be reached as to the expected outcomes of the project.
    Each member will go back to their teams with an outline of the expectations, and be required to gather estimates as far as resources, timelines etc
  • When the project team next meet, all figures are made public and the team members substantiate their estimates under the scrutiny of the other team members.
  • Once a concensus has been reached the Project Manager will draw up a cost estimation based on the outcome of these meetings.

Obviously costing is only one aspect of the PM cycle, and this particular example is based on the ‘Delphi Wideband Method’.

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