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Working on large and complex projects can often make you as a team member feeling frustrated. Even more so, if obstacles are constantly being put in your way to stop you actually focussing on delivery. Here’s a Business Analyst’s perspective on some of the challenges for the team in such Projects.

Planning activities and task management
Taking project planning and task management for instance, how often do the tasks you see in your time sheet not match what you are working on or are so high level just to say which projects you are working on? Why is that? Perhaps that’s because they were put in place by the PMO or Senior management team early on without considering the detail or if the timelines were realistic? And they haven’t been updated since.

‘Perhaps the detail is not needed by some (like the Finance department) and that’s who put it in place originally. Fair enough, but if nobody knows what I’m doing they’ll think I’m not needed or I can take on supporting that new project that’s being talked about, that’s about right?’, a team member mutters.

‘Best I keep a list of my tasks so I know what I’m doing and well I’m sure my PM will no doubt ask for something to include in her status report. The design does seem to be more complex that at first thought though and new tasks are coming from finding the initial assumptions need more investigation… I’ll add them to MY list’, I conclude.

iStock_000009195785XSmall_businesswoman and transparency sheet

A few weeks pass and then the dreaded day before the steering group. It seems like panic around and sure enough all the PMs are looking for something to include in their status reports. Time to hand over my activity list perhaps? Or perhaps not, time to spend putting it into the Word document for the report and also it needs to be made ‘more readable’. ‘So these are complete then?’ Asks the PM. ‘Well yes, but we also need to look at these OTHER tasks now before the design can be delivered… Those assumptions in the charter, well…’, I respond.

Following the steering group it’s now all hands-on from the PMs with Senior management starting to take an interest in the slightest detail. Even dragging me into a meeting to discuss why their initial assumptions just won’t hold. That’s what status ‘RED’ does, and of course more frequent and detailed status reports it seems I’ve become a part PM myself. I wish I had time to JUST get on with delivering the project!

Does this sound familiar and could this situation have been avoided? 

Here are some questions on how projects could in reality be operating:

• Is the Time-Reporting and Budgeting information being captured separately to the detailed activities on a project and newly identified activities? Are separate copies of the plan being in effect run in parallel?

• Does the team itself have access to the project planning tools and can they input detail directly or do they only get a static copy of the information to be able to plan their own tasks? Should they be given access?

• Are the stakeholders able to get a view of the most up to date project plan in real-time or is the plan information packaged and presented to them at a later date and even then only as the project wishes it to be seen?

Let us know your experiences. 

Colin Payne is Managing Director of Webforum (UK) serving the UK and Ireland markets for Webforum Europe AB. Colin has worked extensively as a Business Analyst in complex IT projects in many countries including data migration and systems integration. He also has worked as Project Manager and been director of IT software and consultancy companies.

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