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Tips for hitting the ground running in IT projects

With companies evolving their platforms and services every day we know that technology is constantly changing. New efforts are constantly bubbling up to transform new processes and operations must continue to work smoothly. And if you are lucky enough to be in a place where an implemented solution is doing well chances are it is time to start looking for the end of life or next release coming around the corner!

I can certainly attest that at times I feel very rushed and challenged to get inserted at the right times and am always regrouping to get organized with hitting the ground running (or putting on the brakes in some red flag situations). Regardless of where your projects are there are some insights and strategies you need to be mindful of to establish the appropriate role in fast and competitive environments.

So how do we keep up?

If you are in a fast-moving environment you will need to be able to assess and understand quickly just how good or not so good a specific project is going.

Here are some initial activities you can assess to see how far a project has come:

  • Initial high-level strategy conversations for potential transformational work without an Executive and Project Sponsor
  • Working of business relationships / partnerships without a Solution Delivery Leader and Product Owner
  • Kicking off schedules and coordinating resource & task plans without a Project Manager
  • Business requirements and process steps not reviewed or optimized from a Business Analyst
  • Attempting to drive towards integrations without defined data flows from a Data Analyst
  • Initial architectural designs or defined solution capabilities without guidance or approval from an Architect
  • Development and configuration activities for a solution without an Engineer

Based on which activity has not occurred this helps you to identify when a project is off. If one or more of these are true then it would be time to pause and to begin to seek the right people to understand what really needs to happen next.

(The Unicorn Exception -> if you are in a situation where you are performing multiple roles then you are a bit of a unicorn for a standard project! Personally I love unicorns (I feel like one myself) but I know it often stresses out standard IT structures. What I would tell you is even though you can wear multiple hats does not mean you can abandon on either the quality of work or time to invest in each role.)

Tips for hitting the ground running in IT projects:

First, please do work with the identified people to clarify the understanding and importance of your role in a project. Without the education and understanding to help people correct their mindsets of pushing forward without the right help people will not realize the cost of rework or having to acquire an additional solution down the road.

Next, understand the current progress of a project. In order to understand how much rework or backing up you may need to do to perform your efforts you first need to get a good perspective on where the project is.

Then, understand your role and the deliverables you need to provide. It is important to know what you need to do and by when so you can plan with the project schedule to deliver successfully. And above all, providing enough time for the task is crucial so that over time teams know what to expect in a reasonable schedule.

Tips on questions you can ask to hone in on current status:

– Has the project been approved? (money available to spend?)
– Has the working team been identified (Solution Delivery Manager, Product Owner, Project Manager, Business Analyst, Data Analyst, Architect & Engineers)?
– Have requirements been established?
– Has the process been understood and optimized (leaned) out?
– Are there completed artifacts for a defined target architecture or potential proposed solution?

Chances are once you get this understanding you will know approximately where a project is in the current process and where you need to contribute appropriately. Do not wait for someone to approach you first for help; be proactive instead of reactive!

Know what to do? Let’s get to work: Once you understand where a project is insert yourself into the resource plan and project timeline. Allow ample time to ensure your role of architecture is not lost due to something being rushed or leaning to a date. Chances are your business partners will be flexible to shifting your dates if you have done a good job at establishing the importance of your role & its need in the project timeline.

Finally, perform the work & deliver your artifacts & recommendations specific to your role. If this is done well it either will validate that the proposed solution build will accommodate the process and requirements with provided capabilities or that the parts completed thus far need another round of rework. Either way, these are both very positive outcomes compared to just marching on and hoping for the best with mixed results.

Done? Time to Retro: Once you’ve completed a certain milestone it is very important to educate your departments and teams about what you need to be done differently in the future. Without this education and course correction you may find your steps

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