When planning a software upgrade or implementation, the industry rule of thumb is that you should allocate approximately 20% of the budget to project management. But because it can sometimes be difficult to quantify or define the value of project management, it is often one of the first area identified as a target when trying to reduce the cost of an IT project. I hope to remedy this situation by articulating some key benefits of project management and how it can ultimately facilitate delivery of a more cost-, time-, and scope-efficient implementation project.
Knowledge and experience
One of the most common questions I’m asked as a project manager is, “How do other firms do it?” This question may be asked about a specific project task, business process, or even a global approach to the software project itself. An experienced project manager will generally have broad knowledge of previous implementations and can therefore bring ideas and approaches to new projects that help streamline the process. In addition, a qualified and industry-certified project manager with PRINCE2 or PMP for example, understands best practices and can assist in applying the correct methodology for a particular approach or project deliverable that ultimately leads to greater savings and efficiencies.
In any top ten list of why projects fail, a common item is the lack of focused and relevant communication. Whether it be regular project status meetings, periodic project highlight reports, communication of changes to the wider firm, creation and distribution of a formal communication plan, and steering / executive group meetings – effective communication ensures forward momentum and the timely completion of task and project deliverables. The project manager is essential to defining, facilitating, and delivering adequate project communication. Delivery here is the key. Ensuring that the communication plan is carried out and the approach to communication is updated if necessary is one of the most important project management functions.
Obtaining the right combination of project team members can have a significant bearing on the success of a particular project task or project as a whole. Not only are the skills of individual team members important, it is equally important to have an understanding of the personalities involved. That includes the strengths and weaknesses of the members from both the law firm as well as the software services partner. Getting the right people involved at the right time is essential for running an efficient project and along with communication, this is often cited as a top ten ingredient for project success.
In the case where there are two project managers, one for the firm and one for the partner, which is often the case, then the firm project manager is relied upon to deliver the right team members and the same is true of the partner project manager. Although appearing subtle in terms of added value for project management, the right combination of people influences project success or failure.
A final key point that demonstrates the value of project management is orchestration. Having a dedicated project manager is vital to keep projects moving forward. A project manager ensures adherence to the project plan, helps control the budget, organised resources, oversees risks and benefits, and manages exceptions at a task and project level. In conjunction with these efforts, project managers provide a focal point of knowledge and reporting for the project itself. It lessens the burden on other project roles and tasks, such as project governance, application consultancy, technical consultancy and testing. These aspects of project management lead to savings in efficiency which can offset any budget apportioned to project management.
There are clearly many ways project management adds value to IT projects. Ultimately, a well-run project by way of good quality project management can provide the savings required to deliver a project within the quality measurements of scope, time, and budget.
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