Identify the Project Needs
the Project Needs
Thanks to Intel’s Gordon Moore, it is a common belief that
the processor chip speed of technology doubles every 18 months. This law has
spread to practically all areas of technology, which, in turn, means the role of
an IT project manager can be expected to change just as rapidly. IT project
managers everywhere struggle with keeping teams, budgets, and goals focused. IT
project management becomes even more tedious when you consider the economy, the
instantaneous expectations of stockholders and management, the constant turmoil
in the IT industry, and the flux of each team member’s commitment to their own
According to the Standish Group, a respected IT industry analysis
and research firm, IT project management is getting better, but still out of
control. Consider these statistics from their 2004 version of the CHAOS
Cancelled before completion
Missed deadline, over budget, or both
Average cost overrun
While this news is encouraging, it’s still far from success. Some
would argue that these tighter values put more requirements on the project
manager because they have less “wiggle room” on their projects than just a few
years ago. You could also make the argument, however, that the education,
expertise, and granular approach to project management provides more successful
projects than ever before.
Still, there’s that 23 percent of project cancellations and the 51
percent of projects that are late, over budget, or both. How can this be? Why do
so many projects fail from the start? Projects fail for many different reasons:
other projects take precedence, team members lose sight of the purpose of the
project, and project managers try to do the work rather than lead the team,
among others. At the root is a fundamental problem: vision. Vision, in project
management terms, is the ability to clearly see the intangible and recognize the
actions required to get there. One of your jobs is to develop, nurse, and
transfer the vision to everyone on your team. The project manager, however,
cannot have a clear vision of the project if the project needs are never clearly
Once you’ve discovered your vision, create a goal. A goal
should be a clearly stated fact, for example, “The new database will be
installed and functional by December 6 of next year.” A goal sums up the project
plan in a positive, direct style. Every member of your team should know and
pursue the goal. It’s not all up to you. The goal establishes the direct need
and purpose for undertaking the project.
When creating a goal for your project, be reasonable. Just like it
would be foolish for a fat man to say, “I’m going to lose sixty pounds this
month,” it would be as unreasonable for you to create an impossible goal.
A logical goal is not just an idea, a guesstimate, or some dreamy
date to be determined. A goal is actually the end result of a lot of hard work.
Each IT project will, of course, have different attributes that determine each
goal. Let’s say, for example, that your company is going to be migrating your
servers and desktops to the latest and greatest operating system.
With this scenario, certain questions would have to be
answered to determine the ultimate goal: Is the hardware adequate for the new
OS? Will the applications work with the new OS? Will the team have adequate time
to be trained and experiment with the new OS? These questions will help you
create the end date for the goal.
Once you’ve determined the business needs for the project,
it’s time to create a project charter. A project charter is similar to the goal,
but more official, more detailed, and in line with your company’s vision and
goals. Obviously, a project can stem from a broad, general description of an IT
implementation. A goal narrows the description and sets a deadline. A project
charter formalizes the goal and serves as a map to the destination. Above all,
however, a project charter formally authorizes the project.
Not only does a charter clearly define the project, its
attributes, and its end results, it also identifies the project authorities. The
project authorities are usually the project sponsor, the project manager, and
the team leaders (if necessary), and the charter specifies the role and contact
information for each. See Figure
1-6 for the evolution of a project charter.
Figure 1-6: The project
manager must lead the process to create a project charter.
Why do you need a project charter? Why not just hop
right in and get to work? In a small company, plowing right into the project may
turn out just fine. However, in most companies, including smaller ones, a
project charter is the foundation for success. Consider what the charter
Authorizes the project
Defines the business need in full
Identifies the sponsor of the project
Identifies the project manager
Makes the project manager accountable for the project
Assigns authority to the project manager on behalf of the
When you create the project charter, you can include just
about any information on the project that you’d like. Generally though, consider
Official project name
Project sponsor and contact information
Project manager and contact information
Purpose of the project
Business case for the project (reasons why the project needs
High-level results and deliverables of the project
General statement about how the team will approach the
Basic timeline of when the work will be implemented (A more
detailed timeline will exist in the project plan.)
Project resources, budget, staff, and vendors
Every project needs a charter. It authorizes the project, creates
a sense of responsibility for the project manager, a sense of ownership for the
sponsor, and a sense of teamwork for the project team. The project charter will
save you headaches, establish who’s in charge, and move you to your goal more
quickly and with more confidence.
Following is an example charter, based on a fictional company
called Best Enterprises. The company’s network currently consists of 380
computers running Windows NT, 11 Windows NT 4.0 servers, and 5 Novell NetWare
servers. It has made a decision to move all the workstations to Windows XP and
all the servers, including the NetWare servers, to Windows 2003 Server.
Sample Project Charter
Project: Operating system upgrade: XP
and 2003 serversProject Sponsor: Sharon Brenley, Chief
Information Officer (x. 233)Project Manager: Michael
Sheron, Network Administrator (x. 234)Project Team: Edward
Bass, Ann Beringer, Brad Bobich, Carol Fox, Charlotte Harving, Don Khunle, Casey
Murray, Mick Suskovich, Mark Turner, Stephen Utmeyer
Project Purpose All desktops will be upgraded
to Windows XP by December 3, 2005. All servers will be upgraded and moved to
five Windows 2003 Servers by December 20 of the following year.
Business Case Windows NT has served our company
for the past five years. We’ve learned to love it, embrace it, and grow with it.
However, it’s time to let it go. We’ll be embracing a new technology from
Microsoft, similar to Windows NT, but far superior: Windows XP. Windows XP will
allow us all to be more productive, more mobile, more secure, and more at
In addition, there are new technologies that work excellently with
XP, such as infrared networking for our manufacturing shop floors and new
accounting software that will be implemented later this year.
Of course, our company will continue to embrace our web presence
and the business we’ve earned there. XP will allow us to follow that mindset and
create greater opportunities for us all.
As our company has experienced over the past year, our servers are
growing old, slow, and outdated. We’ll be replacing the servers with six new
multiprocessor servers loaded with RAM, redundant drives, and faster, reliable
tape arrays—which means faster, reliable, more productive work for us all. The
operating system we’ll be implementing for all of our servers will be Windows
Windows 2003 will allow our users to find resources faster, keep
our network up longer, and provide ever-increasing security.
Windows XP on every desktop and portable computer
Windows 2003 Server installed on six new servers
All implementation complete by December 20 of the following
September Test deployment methods, capture
user and application status, finalize deployment image, and create scripts.
October Initial deployment of 100-user
pilot group. Test, document, and resolve issues. Redeploy 100-user pilot group
with updated images and scripts. Begin Windows 2003 Server testing and
November Begin month-long four-hour
training sessions. While participants are in class, XP will be deployed to their
desktops. Troubleshoot and floor support in coordination with Jamie Bryer, Help
Desk Manager. Continue to test Windows 2003 Servers. Three Windows 2003 Servers
will go live on November 15.
December Finish deployment of XP. Install
new 2003 servers and create infrastructure. Convert each existing server to
Windows 2003. Project completed December 20 of the following
Budget: $275,000 (includes XP, 2003 server, client access
licenses, consultants, training)
Test lab reserved for four-month duration
On-site consultant from Donaldson Education
Your project charter can include as much or as little information
as you deem necessary. Project charters are often shared with the entire company
(with the exception of the budget) so you may have a few revisions before the
charter is complete. Sharing a project charter with the entire organization,
especially one that will affect all users as in the sample charter, can get
everyone involved, excited, and aware of coming changes. A project charter also
creates a sense of responsibility for all involved.
Your project team members will get distracted, pulled in different
directions, and lose interest. Vacations pop up, kids get sick, people quit.
Realize at the onset that not everyone will be as dedicated to your project as
you are. Do your best to inspire, motivate, and lead. Set aside politics, egos,
and aspirations and work toward the goal.
Finally, keep in mind that a charter can be called different
things in different organizations and that the level of detail can vary
depending on the company or the project being created. Most charters, however,
accomplish two primary things: authorizing the project work and defining the
There’s a cartoon that’s probably posted in every auto
mechanic’s garage. In the cartoon, there’s a bunch of people rolling around
laughing uncontrollably. Above all this mayhem is the caption, “You want it
when?” Of course, as an IT project manager, you can’t take that same approach,
but a reasonable deadline has to be enforced.
A firm end date accomplishes a few things:
Creates a sense of responsibility toward the project
Gives the team something to work toward
Signifies a commitment from sponsors, team members, and the
Confirms that this project will end
How do you find the completion date for a project and how do you
know if it’s reasonable? The magic end date is based on facts, research, and
planning. In upcoming chapters, you’ll get a more detailed look at project end
dates and how you establish them. For now, know that projects are a sequence of
steps, and each step will take time. The completion of each step will predict
when a project should end.
Some project managers create a flexible deadline. Don’t do it. If
you allow yourself a deadline that is not firm, you’ll take advantage of it. And
so will your team, your sponsor, and your management. Set a deadline based on an
informed opinion, and then stick with it. The charts in Figure 1-7 demonstrate how a missed completion date is
bad for the project, the company, and morale.
Figure 1-7: If a project
stays on schedule, so will the budget and the morale.
A rule of economics that affects scheduling is “Parkinson’s Law.”
Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fill the time allotted to it. In
other words, if you give yourself extra time to complete a project, the project
will magically fill the extra time. A firm deadline gives the project manager
and the project team a definite date to work toward.
Some projects have a self-contained deadline. Remember the Y2K
scare? With the year 2000 rolling in like a summer storm, every programmer and
company found a way to make the deadline because it wasn’t moveable.
Other factors can have impact on your projected deadline:
Business cycles Does your project deadline
coincide with busy times of the year? Think of a retail giant. How willing do
you think it would be to overhaul the database that handles shipping and store
management around December?
Financial situations A company may be more
(or less) willing to invest in new hardware or software at a particular time of
the year due to taxes, fiscal year ending, or the advent of a new budget. You’ve
got to consider these factors when you request finances for your project.
Times of the year When will your team
members take vacation? How will their vacation plans coincide with your
deadline? What other internal time commitments do they have? Will they be
traveling to other sites? These factors can delay a project for weeks and
months—ultimately resulting in a missed deadline. Work with your team members to
ensure their availability coincides with their responsibilities within the
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