As many organization leaders are aware, few (if any) IT projects materialize without running into problem issues. This is true for all types of projects. The larger and more complex the project plan, the more likely project managers will reach a point where their project schedule falls short of delivering what it initially set out to do.
Below are 8 steps for getting a slipping IT project back on track:
1. Evaluate Current State of Affairs
Project managers will need to review all available project documentation and assemble their team for a closer assessment of where the project stands. At the very least, it may be a good idea to engage a third party (not connected with the project) to be present to facilitate the review. This will allow a distance from the project and afford an objective assessment of how the project ended up off track. Several questions to raise at this point may include:
- At what point (and how) did the project go off track?
- Does the project contain all essential project management documentation? If not, why?
- How critical is the delivery date?
- What functionality is expected by the delivery date?
- What has been completed and what is still outstanding?
- How flexible will stakeholders be to change scope, dates and budget?
2. Communicate with the Project Stakeholders
Project managers are responsible for communicating with project stakeholders throughout the life of the project. Some questions to ask include, but are not limited to:
- What is the political situation within the organization? How about with the clients / end-users?
- Is the project sill aligned with the business strategy? Is it still required?
- Are the stakeholders willing to move forward with a new project plan?
3. Prepare the Project Team for Recovery
At this point, morale is likely to be low amongst the team. As a leader, it is the project manager’s responsibility to step in and get the team focused on recovery. Some actions to take in this step include, but are not limited to:
- Re-evaluating roles & responsibilities on the project team;
- Evaluating the team’s capabilities and capacity to execute going forward; and
- Clarifying personnel assignments. Does the project manager need more/different personnel resources at this time?
4. Develop a New Project Plan
At this point a new project plan will most likely be required. The following items should be considered:
- Halting/preventing all scope changes;
- Adjusting the scope of work;
- Re-assessing activities yet to be completed;
- Developing a new practical/reasonable schedule;
- Creating a risk management plan;
- Re-evaluating resource availability; and
- Developing new project planning documents.
5. Acquire Stakeholder Support for the New Project Plan
Before project managers can go forward they must obtain validation from the project stakeholders. In Step 2, the project managers notified their stakeholders that the project was failing and, presumably, obtained their approval to proceed in getting the project back on track. In this step project managers are obtaining stakeholder consent to press forward into plan execution. Without this critical step, project managers will lack the assurances that stakeholders are supportive of their actions and that the project is still viable.
6. Implement the New Project Plan
The project manager now has a new project plan, re-evaluated risk assessments, a motivated team and perhaps new subject matter experts. The new project plan can now be set into action.
7. Closely Monitor & Control Performance for the Remainder of the Project
It is important that project managers ensure that their performance measurement process and project management reviews are regular. For instance, some actions to take include, but are not limited to:
- Tracking performance daily/weekly;
- Reporting to stakeholders on the project’s progress; and
- Punctually dealing with all risks identified in the risk assessment plan and any change orders or issues that occur.
8. Learn from the Past and Adjust Processes Accordingly
Part of being a good project leader is identifying and analyzing the mistakes that led to a project going off track and enacting process changes to ensure they don’t occur in the future. For example, items to consider may include:
- Evaluating work processes;
- Reviewing how the team cultivates assumptions and evaluates risk;
- Assessing all project documentation from the initial and new project plans;
- Interviewing team members and stakeholders; and
- Auditing change orders.
The Litcom Approach
Often projects ‘come off the rails’ for a number of reasons and it takes a seasoned, skilled Project Managers to bring things back on track. Our seasoned Project Managers have deep knowledge of process and business to accompany their technical expertise. They are skilled at finding problems and bottlenecks and implementing solutions. We have the right people with the know-how and experience to take the appropriate steps and to make the right adjustments to put a project moving in the right direction. For more information, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org .