Overcoming Challenges for IT Project Planning

Changing Project Requirements

Clients change their minds

One of the most common reasons for changing requirements is that clients will simply change their minds which presents a challenge for IT project planning. We had a number of clients say to me “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll let you know what I DON’T WANT once I see it!” That type of attitude needs to be managed very carefully as there can be a tremendous amount of bandwidth consumed to find out what doesn’t work rather than finding out what does work.

Company strategies change

Another reason that IT project planning can be so challenging is that the strategy of the company that is sponsoring the project can change. There may have been a number of projects that were integral to the company’s direction. However, the direction of the company may have changed and thus the portfolio of projects that were supporting that direction changed as well.

Markets change

Any time a Sales Team attends a conference you are sure to have a monkey-wrench thrown into your IT project planning process. Your sales team will return super excited about all the neat products and services they just witnessed and then they’ll say that your company needs to do the same thing! New software functionality is demanded and of course they will want it yesterday. How can you deal with changing requirements?

1. Try an Agile Approach to Project Management and IT Project Planning.

The underlying concept behind using the agile approach is that it expects, anticipates, and even embraces change. Your IT project planning can go much smoother if you understand that change is something that will happen to nearly every project you undertake. Another concept behind agile project management is to not bite off huge, long-term chunks of functionality. Do small, bite-size chunks and then try them out to see how things work. This has the benefit of delivering value early and often and then making changes and corrections before things get too far out of line.

2. Technology is Complicated

Technology, by its very nature, is complicated and so IT project planning is a complicated and variable activity. Your team members may want to try out a new technology that is “guaranteed” to make everyone’s life easier and faster. The only problem is that it hasn’t been tested out before. The technology, by itself, does just fine. However, when you integrate the new technology with your existing technology then chaos ensues. These two technologies can conflict with each other and next thing you know your IT project planning is way off kilter. What can you do? A couple of things:

Set a time limit for experimenting with new technology depending upon the length of the project. For example, you may have a six month project that could absorb up to two weeks of experimenting with a new technology. At the end of two weeks, there is a go/no-go decision made on whether or not to use the technology. Resist the urge to agree to just two more weeks, as that’s how projects schedules fall behind.

Always have a “plan B” in your back pocket. The assumption should be that something is going to go wrong from a technology perspective on your IT project and there is a backup plan in place to compensate for this fact. The backup plan may not be pretty.

Inspire and empower the team to “get the job done”- Powering through the nights and weekends until the project is complete. Your team may hate it, you definitely will hate it, but it’s something that has to be done at times in order to get the project out the door.

Support their efforts – Deadlines put the pressure on people and we’ve all heard the expression “she looks like a deer in the headlights”, overwhelmed, unable to decide in which direction to move. If your project team members are stressed help they prioritize. Identify with them a list of all the things they need to do, prioritize them.

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