Project review tips for effective project management

IT project failures can be attributed to the lack of regular project reviews. Here are some tips to integrate project reviews in your project lifecycle.

It's essential to achieve the desired milestones, for any project management initiative to be successful. Most IT projects fail due to the lack of routine project reviews. During a project lifecycle, there can be unforeseen changes that might affect the project. This brings new surprises for a CIO, which can be a big challenge to manage. Hence, it is necessary that the CIO is prepared to incorporate various changes that might crop up during a project. All these are a part of the project cycle. Whether it is an internal IT project or an outsourced IT project, it is driven by the project lifecycle.

There are different issues concerning most CIOs on the project review front. CIOs ask us questions like, how do I know whether my projects are on time? Are we able to stick to the given budget? Will I be able to achieve the defined milestones within the time and budget? For answers to these questions, the CIO should implement best practices during the project's planning stage as well as during the project review stages.

Let us now have a look at some tips that can help in an ongoing project's effective review.

Have an iterative approach: In a software product development project, I suggest that CIOs should look at adoption of an agile software development methodology. This can be a best practice for other IT projects as well. Agile software development is basically an umbrella term, which encompasses several methods. For example, how do you do regularly track your project? Should it be day-by-day tracking and monthly tracking? How do you budgets that take into account time as well as money? How do you review the progress every month (which includes what have you achieved and what you need to achieve)?

If it's a nine month project, it's but common sense that you cannot review it after nine months. In an agile methodology small goals are set. You achieve these goals and then take it to the next stage. So I would advice CIOs to use similar techniques for product development. These generic processes can be also used for managing an IT project. This is the recommendation that I will give for regular updates of all your projects. While you have long term goals, you should also have short term iterative goals.

Manage your budget: At GlobalLogic, we use a methodology called 'Fix Budget Fix Time'. In this approach, if you cap your budget and timelines, then the remaining aspects can be managed using the project's scope. So identify things that you can achieve within the specified budget. Most IT heads make the mistake of deciding the activities first and then drawing a budget, whereas it should be the other way. This approach will help you to properly manage the budget.

Break up the goals: I will again refer to the agile methodology, since it is an extremely good way of managing project milestones. Here, apart from giving you the big picture, it also suggests small milestones that can be achieved during the project. So when you reach these small milestones, take a breather. Analyze what you have achieved and then take a call about the final milestone's validity. In such a way you can keep on modifying your final milestone based on achievements. Try and use this practice to have a high level plan. At the same time, keep smaller goals since there will be unexpected surprises in your project management journey. So you should be flexible on this front.

The more goals you keep, the more it becomes difficult to measure. I always say that in the case of a complicated solution, you are not using it — instead, it is the tool that uses you.
Stakeholders' participation: The project is implemented for your organization's benefit. So it is very important that stakeholders participate during the project review at least on a milestone basis. They are the ones who define the project's goals to the CIO.

Business needs regularly change. Hence business people should participate since what your requirements change over time. So it is important to participate in the process and give regular inputs. This ensures that there are no surprises for the business decision-makers after the project.

Defining key indicators and tools for successful project proceedings: There are several sophisticated tools in the market which help you determine the project status. Using these tools can become a science by itself. However, I will go back to simple processes and not believe in complicating the processes. The more goals you keep, the more it becomes difficult to measure. I always say that in the case of a complicated solution, you are not using it — instead, it is the tool that uses you. These tools are defined in such a way that you have to adapt to the solution, whereas the need is for the tool to adapt to your requirements.

You should be extremely flexible in a project management environment. Projects are initiated one day and cancelled the next day. So being flexible and agile is the need of the hour.

About the author: Manish Rathi is the assistant vice president for consumer services and new venture services at GlobalLogic, which is an outsourced product development organization. Rathi has 18 years of industry experience. Headquartered in the U.S., GlobalLogic has six locations across the globe, which includes India, China, Ukraine, UK, Israel and Argentina.

(As told to Yuga Chaudhari.)

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