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The Art of Software Delivery

A Project manager needs to be honest to themselves, their team and stakeholders

Often, estimates are initially made with an incomplete understanding of requirements. Estimation is done at the beginning of the lifecycle before the requirements are defined and thus the problem understood.

How can you accurately estimate unless you know what the problem we intend to solve? At this point, they often represent wishes rather than realistic estimates. As the project progresses and the problem become better understood, estimates should be revisited. For example, NASA advocates re- estimation at defined points in the lifecycle. Often, a Project Manager will know that they should revise their estimates as they get a better understanding of the requirements, but are afraid to; they feel they will be viewed as a failure. A Project manager needs to be honest to themselves, their team and stakeholders.

It is important that the Project Manager is not coaxed into setting a totally unrealistic completion date defined by a superior manager. It is a common mistake that Project managers fall into and commit to unachievable dates and it leads to failure and disappointment. In such situation, the Project manager needs to explain the key dimensions in project management: scope, time, quality, cost and risk. Altering these variables might allow the project to achieve the date specified by the demanding sponsor/manager eg scope and/or quality reduction.

Good Project management is about managing expectations. You must not surprise your customer. There are many projects I have seen which are considered a big success despite the fact they have only delivered a small percentage of what was specified at the beginning of the projects, but they managed expectation obsessively.

For project success, it is important to have Executive support; typically, each project should have a Steering Committee (or called Project Board in Prince 2 speak) chaired by an Executive or Project sponsor and consisting of senior user, supplier and project manager. Essentially, the Project Steering committee maintains commitment and involvement of business management, makes decision of the scope and direction of the project, and resolves issues in a timely manner. Lack of Executive support is a recipe for failure.

Some of the points highlighted in this article I feel are obvious. However, I’m surprised how many of these mistakes are rampant in our industry leading to failed projects and all the unnecessary painful consequences.

More Stories By Sanjeev Khurana

Sanjeev Khurana is Head of Development at a large European Investment Bank and has over 20 years of IT experience. He has also been a part time Lecturer at Universities such as Brunel, Middlesex, Greenwich teaching undergraduates and postgraduates Software Engineering.

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