Establishing Project Priority
As a project manager you’ll likely find yourself managing
multiple projects. You may also find yourself going head to head with other
departments implementing similar projects, or worse, conflicting projects. Given
every organization has different approaches to project management, your odds of
success will increase if you know your organization’s approach.
Project priority may shift from quarter to quarter or year to
year. Project portfolio management is a process an organization takes to pick
and choose which projects are needed, worthy, and should continue. Just as you
might manage your financial portfolio, an organization has a responsibility to
manage its portfolio of projects. The value, project champion current success
rate of the project manager, and the purpose of a project are all factors a
company may use to determine which project takes the highest priority.
Another approach to project management is the creation of a
Project Management Office (PMO). The role of the PMO is twofold: it offers
traditional project management services for an entire organization, or portion
of an organization, and it serves as governing committee for all projects
throughout an organization. If your organization were to participate in a PMO
relationship, conflict resolution, budgeting, and the process of implementing
projects and controlling projects would follow a system of checks and balances
unique to your organization.
Your project sponsor should be as excited and motivated by the
technology to be implemented as you are. The sponsor hopefully will be able to
go to your defense, or more accurately, your project’s defense, should she need
to do so. This is one of the fundamental reasons why the right sponsor is needed
for the project. A sponsor that lacks the authority, commitment, and ability to
protect and promote the project does little to move the project forward.
The goal of a project sponsor is to increase profits through the
implementation of the technical project. The project manager acts on behalf of
the project sponsor. While ideally project sponsors serve as mentors and guides
through the project phases, a sponsor in many organizations is little more than
a figure head and the project manager has no one to shield the project.
Hopefully, that’s not the case in your organization.
One of your project management jobs is to relay updates from the
project team to the project sponsor and from the project sponsor to the team, as
defined in your Communication Management Plan. A Communication Management Plan
defines all the required communications, scheduled meetings, and expected types
of communication depending on the project scenarios. By keeping your sponsor
informed of the project status, you personalize the project for him—as it should
be. Figure 2-3 shows the path of
communication among sponsors, project managers, and the project team.
Figure 2-3: The project
manager directs the flow of communication between the team and the
The project sponsor, typically, has delegated the management of
the project to you. You delegate some, or all, of the tasks of the project
research and implementation to the team members. Your job, like that of the
project sponsor, is not to micromanage, but to organize and keep the team on
Depending on your role in a company, the project may be assigned
to you, or created by you. Should the project be assigned to you to manage, the
role of the project sponsor is like that of the parent in a parent-child
relationship. This is to say, the project sponsor is the parent of the project,
which is the child, and has deemed you responsible to complete and manage the
tasks required to finish the project.
If you’ve created the project, the role of the project sponsor is
similar to that of the investor in an investor-entrepreneur relationship. You,
of course, are the entrepreneur. You’ve done the research, presented the facts,
and then sold the sponsor or the organization on the project idea. The project
sponsor has invested their credibility in your plan.
IT projects can grow quickly and spin out of control and
size. Imagine you are doing an operating system upgrade for the client
workstations. Your plan calls for using Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP) for all of the hosts. You have decided to use Dynamic Host
Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to assign all of the IP addresses for all of the
workstation operating systems. (Without dynamically assigned IP addresses, users
won’t be able to access network resources.) Unbeknownst to you, another related
team is working on segmenting the network and positioning switches and routers
at key points.
Can you see the trouble brewing? If you’re not a network person,
this may look innocent enough; however, these two teams must have plans that
take each other into account for either to be successful! Figure 2-4 is a map of the network. If the router and
IP addressing information is not agreed upon between the two teams, the entire
network can crumble.
Figure 2-4: Teams must
work together for projects to succeed.
The routers and switches team must agree on the
network addresses, IP addresses for gateways, types of broadcasts that are
permitted to pass through the routers, and more. The client OS team has to agree
on which ranges of IP addresses to use, the position of the DHCP servers and DNS
servers, and the assignment of any static addresses for printers and servers
within each segment.
Most companies should have strategic tie-ins with other
departments, lines of communications between project managers, and ways to
resolve differences and work together when conflicting projects arise. It is
surprising, however, how many companies do not.
At the basis of this problem are myriad issues that project
managers find themselves dealing with: greed, personal achievement, personality
conflicts, and grudges. These are all issues that can take the focus off the
success of the project and can ultimately throw the project off track and even
bring any progress to a halt. When these situations happen, and they will
happen, there are a few steps a project manager can take:
A meeting should take place with just the project managers
from the conflicting projects. These two individuals should outline their
projects and discuss how both teams can work together and continue with their
projects. The project managers should be diplomatic, willing to negotiate, and
eager to find an agreeable solution.
If the two project managers cannot find a solution between
them, the next step is to conduct a meeting with the project managers and the
sponsors of both projects. The project sponsors should lead the discussions and
help the project managers find an agreeable, win-win solution.
If an agreeable solution can’t be found among the project
sponsors and the project managers, then the discussion can continue to work its
way up the organizational chart until a decision or agreement between parties
has been made. Ultimately, the good of the company should win based on the
priority of the projects.
The two projects must be evaluated and weighed, the goal
being to determine which project will increase profitability of the company the
most. Once that has been determined, a solution must be created so the two
projects can continue, one is dissolved, or one is put on hold.
This entire struggle is unnecessary if departments would simply
communicate with each other. This internal struggle tears down morale, wastes
time and finances, and hurts the company. IT project managers must learn to work
together, to be reasonable, and to communicate.
A system to share information on projects should be created
in every entity with multiple project managers. An intranet solution would be
easy to implement and manage. As new projects are being researched, a quick look
into existing projects on the company intranet would allow teams to work
together, accomplish more, and, again, be more productive.
Research for any project must include information on the
financial obligation required to implement the technology. Chapter 4 will focus on all aspects
of budgets; this section introduces the financial planning stages of a
When you are considering implementing new technology, you must
take a long, hard look at calculating expenses. Any company can throw money at
technology and hope for the best. However, that’s as promising an investment as
playing craps. The technology you recommend the company purchase needs to be the
right power, the right size, and the right price.
In the technology world, it’s easy to fall in love with the latest
application, multiprocessor server, or network operating system. But is the
technology good for the company? Ask yourself these questions when making
decisions on technology:
How will this technology allow the company to be more
Will the technology promise an acceptable ROI?
How is the technology the right selection for the
How soon will this technology need to be replaced?
What is the break-even point (also called management
horizon) for this investment?
When does it become profitable?
If you cannot answer these questions fully and accurately when
selecting new technology, then you have not completed your research.
Value Versus Investment
Value and investment, when purchasing anything, often are
incorrectly seen as the same concept. Value is a perception. Investments are a
Here’s a simple example: imagine you are purchasing a bag of
flour. The one- pound bag of flour is priced at $1.00. The three-pound bag of
flour is priced at $1.92. Reason says that it’s better to spend 92 cents more
for the three-pound bag of flour. The problem is, unless you actually use more
than one-and-a-half pounds of flour, the purchase isn’t a value, it’s a
How does this relate to IT projects? When you are making your
technology selections for your company, it is imperative that you know what
technology will produce the desired results. The largest piece of technology is
not always the best. Some consultants will advise you to buy the biggest chunk
of technology you can afford because it will be outdated in six months anyway.
Always buy the right technology that will help your company
achieve the desired results of the project. And as for the consultants with the
“spend big” mentality, question their credibility along with their advice. Take
note that it’s not their budget, their career, or their project.
A contributing factor in all projects is the expected level of
quality. Quality is the ability and the completeness of the project deliverables
to meet the requirements the stakeholders have defined for your project. Within
the confines of quality, you’ll find grade. Grade is the ranking of service or
materials. For example, you can purchase different grades of cables, monitors,
computer equipment, and so on. You can also subscribe to different levels of
software support: bronze, silver, and gold.
Within a project you must evaluate the expected level of quality
and then the correct grade of the materials and services needed to satisfy the
requirements. Low quality is always a problem, low grade may not be. In
addition, you must consider what happens if you overshoot the expected level of
quality? While it’s better to err on the side of caution, it can also be
wasteful to deliver a level quality that far exceeds what the customer was
expecting. When you deliver far and above the expected level of quality, cost is
likely to increase, and this is called gold plating. Not
something to aim for.
Another budgeting concern you must consider during the research
phase of your project is time—one of the largest and often overlooked expenses
of project management. For example, if you have five members on your team and a
project that will take 3 months to implement the technology, that’s 15 months of
combined time. Figure 2-5 shows
how an increase in time must be tempered by specific goals and a deadline,
otherwise costs run awry.
Figure 2-5: More time
equals more expense.
So? If the project team is on the project full time, that’s 15
months of time away from regular duties, 15 months of salary, and 15 months of
time that can never be recovered. When implementing the technology, consider the
time commitment required from each team member and yourself. While not all
organizations assign team members to a project on a full-time basis, you still
must account for the sumof the project team’s time and its value to the
Should you decide to implement the plan through a third party,
such as a value- added reseller (VAR) or the original vendor of the product,
consider their costs combined with the time they’ll need to complete the
There are usually two different ways VARs will bill for technology
implementations, and either can be costly if you don’t stipulate all of the
Time and material Most technology
integrators like to bill time and materials because there may be some additional
problem discovered in the midst of the project that can result in the vendor
working extra hours toward a solution. The trouble with time and material
billing is that some deceptive vendors take advantage of the situation and
stretch the hours to increase the invoice. If you choose this billing method,
you’ll want a not-to-exceed (NTE) clause in your contract. You will also spend
more time managing the contract to ensure you are getting the appropriate value
for the time you are paying for.
Set fees Some vendors know exactly what it
will take to complete their technology installation and will offer a set fee.
The trouble with set fees is that your company may feel cheated when the
installation takes very little time and is completed long before you thought it
would be. Understand that most installers probably have developed a script or
routine that automates much of the installation process. They can do the job in
less time and with less frustration than you could on your own.
With either method, consider the vendors’ costs and calculate
the ROI. Finally, make the companies completing the implementation guarantee
their work in the contract you negotiate.