Project Management in a Rapidly Evolving IT Landscape

With companies evolving their platforms and services every day we know that technology is constantly changing. New efforts are constantly bubbling up to transform old 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 readily admit that at times I feel rushed and challenged to find the right time to insert myself into a project, and I am seemingly always trying to regroup, get organized, and hit the ground running (or slamming on the brakes in red flag situations).  Regardless of the stage at which you find your projects, be aware of insights and strategies you need to employ to establish the appropriate roles in fast and competitive environments.

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 potential problems you can use to assess 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 that has not occurred 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 in which you are performing multiple roles you are a unicorn for a standard project! Personally I love unicorns (I feel like one myself) but I know often it will stress out standard IT structures. What I would tell you is that even though you can wear multiple hats it does not mean you can abandon either the quality of work or the time to invest in each role.)

Tips for hitting the ground running in IT projects:

First, please work with the proper people to clarify and to understand the importance of your role in a project. Without the education and the understanding to help people temper their desire to push forward without the right help, people will not realize the cost of rework or of 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 may be required, you first need to get a good perspective on where the project is.

Finally, understand your role and the deliverables you need to provide. It is important to know what you need to do and when you need to do it so you can plan within the project schedule for a successful delivery. Above all, allowing enough time for the task is crucial so that teams know what to expect from 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 artefacts 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 the current state of a project, don’t hesitate to insert yourself into the resource plan and project timeline. Allow ample time to ensure your role is not lost due to something being rushed or dependent on a date. Chances are your business partners will be flexible to shift your dates if you have done a good job at establishing the importance of your role and its prominent place in the project timeline.

Finally, perform the work and deliver your artefacts and recommendations specific to your role. If this is accomplished, it either will validate that the proposed solution accommodates 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 the alternative:  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 should be done differently in the future. Without this education and course correction, you may find yourself suffering the same issues over and over again. Learn and grow from the retro!

Update (10/15/2019) -> This write-up is now featured in CIO Applications!