Project Management:The Foundation to Successful IT Development
By Diane LeRoy, Vice President, USANA Health Sciences
Sounds familiar? If you are part of the project management world, these are current themes that happen in every project. Are we improving or is it just the same old story, with a new deadline? What makes a difference and how do we change?
Many of you are using the Agile framework in your IT environments. It works! Changing from a Waterfall environment to an Agile one doesn’t happen overnight. We have both IT Project Managers and Scrum Masters within my team, which isn’t the norm; but it’s been a winning combination for us. The IT Project Managers manage large global projects which involve multiple cross-functional departments and use a lot of the Waterfall traits to scope their projects. The Scrum Masters coach and mentor the Agile IT teams working with only IT team members. In our environment, both functions are critical. They work together but the responsibilities are defined so they don’t step on each other’s toes.
As I thought about how we manage projects today versus a few years ago,several key things are changing to make us more efficient and agile. Below I have shared some areas that have helped us the most in this transition.
Road Map: Create a road map of what you are trying to achieve both short and long term. Present it to your team, make them feel part of the future. Share your vision, goals and strategy. This helps from a project management perspective to provide clarity and a vision to follow.
Agile Environment: Lay out a plan of how you will implement Agile within your team. Designate an expert in Agile to be the owner of the implementation. They will be your expert and help your organization increase their Agile maturity level over time. Plan small steps to start. Begin with a few teams implementing the Agile approach. Create an Agile Governance committee. This committee meets weekly or bi-weekly to discuss what is working or not working. They strategize on what changes will increase the departments Agile maturity.
Change is difficult for everyone, however, you can make it less painful by involving the team and being open about the plans and future. No one likes to work in a vacuum
Collaborate: Involve your team. Talk about the benefits, what is working in your organization, what are the pain points. Are you periodically meeting with different teams to obtain feedback on how they perceive projects are being managed? Great minds working together come up with the best options.
Transparency: Be transparent in what you are trying to accomplish in your team. This will create trust, strength, and a feeling of ownership within your team. Change is difficult for everyone, however, you can make it less painful by involving them and being open about the plans and future. No one likes to work in a vacuum. This transparency is critical within your own team as well as with your business partners.
Tracking Progress: Determine metrics and KPIs you feel will be valuable for your team to track. We found this created collaboration and teamwork. The metrics give purpose to track against and present reports with other teams, a sense of accountability.
Visible Wins: Take time to celebrate. Reach out to teams and individuals when something is achieved. It can be an e-mail from you, a team luncheon, a gift card, or posting on a board designated for WINS. We have a dedicated scrum bulletin board posted in the IT area where scrum masters can post their teams progress.
Scope Creep and New Requirements: Adopt the following principle from the Agile Manifesto: “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage”.This is counter intuitive from traditional project management, but by delivering working features frequently, the overall project objectives are much more likely to be achieved.
Deadlines: As a result of Agile, we are beginning to shift our thinking from “meeting all the requirements by an imposed deadline” to “delivering the best possible product by the deadline”. Often this simply equates to delivering the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) after numerous iterations.
With a Waterfall approach, we never knew if a project met its objectives until it was done. With an Agile approach, we are able to assess customer satisfaction early on and make changes as needed. End result: job well done!
Timelines: Although timelines are not considered an Agile tool, many projects require integrating work from groups and departments outside of IT. Timelines become necessary to track dependencies, resources and progress with Agile burn down and velocity metrics being valuable information to integrate into the timelines.
Change in Priorities: Meet with your management team and establish priorities so expectations and priorities are agreed upon. When new projects arise, meet again to reprioritize. I have worked in environments where every request was a “YES we can handle that project”. Pretty soon you end up with a frustrated team and business partners and nothing getting completed. Setting priorities with management helps to focus on what matters and ensures you are working on the highest priorities for the company.
This has been an exciting year watching as our teams have worked through changes to improve our agility in how we manage projects. The silos are gone, the direction is clear, the road map is in place, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in 2018!