Managing Enterprise IT Project : Lean Approach, Project Governance

Managing Enterprise IT Project : Lean Approach, Project Governance

Once you have technical as well as project leadership for your projects and deliberated about project management processes to follow, you will also have check whether you will follow traditional project management approach or agile or hybrid. Also one has to understand that project governance is irreplaceable for effective enterprise IT project management.

Lean, Adaptive Approach to Enterprise IT Project Management:

Agile Project Management Approach for Enterprise IT Project

Gone are the days of following 3 years project plan. Why? Because business dynamics changes, your assumptions change. I am not exactly suggesting you to subscribe to agile project management methodology for enterprise IT projects right away. Not every other project is cut out for agile methodology. While you may have already faced agile or traditional methodology dilemma, it is better to understand risk & benefit associated with both approaches and learn to-what-extent you can be lean to accommodate changing business dynamics, changes in assumptions.

Iterative and adaptive project management approach can highly suitable to clients; as they can now see tangible results more frequently rather than 2-3 years release cycle. You will have plenty of opportunities to avoid bad-surprises for clients.

Questions you will have to ask

  • Will/can customer/end user be able to considerably involve on a regular basis? If not, agile project management may not be the best approach
  • If customers/end users can get heavily involved, how well can you use enterprise unified process across all projects or will it fail to achieve deliver with selective projects approach
  • If enterprise IT projects were to be delivered in agile/lean way, what would be the organizational, behavioral changes involved; will you be able to drive those changes without compromising employee morale
  • Can you look for examples where enterprise IT projects have been delivered successfully using agile project management approach?
  • Now think of it, from planning, implementation/execution perspective; to what extent enterprise IT projects be delivered in iterative or phase-wise iterative manner.
 

Well Defined Roles, Governance, Decision Making /Approval Hierarchy

Project Governance in Enterprise IT Projects

As much as customer (end user) involvement and its feedback are critical for success for enterprise IT project, such project also need well defined and clearly outlined decision-making process.

By the very nature enterprise IT projects are complex in terms of technologies involved, user requirements and workflow among other. Any technical problem, ad hoc request by customer can poise to change overall project picture. Unless organization has a decision making/approval hierarchy, decisions will not be taken in most effective or timely manner. It causes bureaucratic delays, projects to become directionless or in worse case projects can be put on hold. And this situation can pretty much arise in enterprise IT projects because it involves multiple teams working discretely (time and location).

But why do you need such clearly defined decision making process including well defined roles, governance structure? - To streamline the process, avoid bureaucratic delays or help everyone understand answers to questions like

  • Who should accept change request from customer at what level?
  • Who should raise or approve budget, expenses, schedule change related requests?
  • Who should make decision or approve change request, set agreement and document it
  • What is escalation process, chain of command?

Anthony Finkelstein, professor of software systems engineering at University College London and dean of UCL Engineering has quoted in ComputerWeekly that project failure statistics wouldn’t surprise any IT professional. And the repetitive instances of project failure does mean that same mistakes are getting repeated. The problems are fundamental although not necessarily technical is about project governance. The objective of project governance is to establish the structural relationship to bridge business and IT functions.

You can keep the decision-making process active by organizing weekly working group meeting(s) for team leads, in addition to monthly steering committee meetings for executives. The purpose of the working group meetings is for team leads and business leads to make decisions about detailed requirements and imminent issues. The purpose of the more infrequent steering committee meetings is to inform the committee about progress and for the executive sponsor to make decisions escalated by the working group. Many projects fail due to lack of buy-in and access to decision-makers. A locked down decision-making structure is one of the best ways to mitigate that.

As McKinsey insights article about delivering large scale IT projects provided an example of such authorization process for an organization which established clear project control by defining an high-level scope in an first six-month phase having all stakeholders to approve the plan. Now after this phase/timeline, it is the company’s board that had to approve all subsequent change requests, and the project was given a pre-defined cost-overrun buffer of less than $2 million. In another example McKinsey found out that a high-tech company, established clear quality mandate for a master project plan such that it required teams to break down all project activities to have fewer than 20 person-days to complete and shouldn’t take more than four weeks.

Points you will have to consider to establish project governance, approval hierarchy:

  • What is the current / To-Be decision-making structure in your project organization?
  • What changes are required to make project Governance and decision-making process effective?
  • Are you looking at Delegation of Authority (DoA) thereby decentralization of decision making at appropriate level?
  • Project governance should be like easy-to-access playbook that everyone involved can refer to and understand what they should do under certain situation
  • Neither should project governance become a stale reference that everyone hate it or wants to skip it; in short, it should become go-to reference at all times