Case Study – Strategic Planning and Project Management
Design Project Process
An IT consulting firm needed help designing a streamlined project management process. With their existing process, they found they had too many open or past due projects at their client sites. It was difficult for their clients to understand the project process and how to prioritize upcoming projects. The periodic reports presented to clients were cluttered, full of technical jargon, and hard to read. The project process varied from client to client.
Focus on business objectives and benefits
The first step was redirecting the project process and reports to focus on the client's objectives and the benefits of the projects. Technical jargon and acronyms were eliminated wherever possible and explained where they couldn't be eliminated. Project charter documents and proposals were re-written to focus on the client's business objectives and how the projects aligned with those objectives.
Diagram project process
A simplified project process was diagrammed and included as the first page on every Project Status Report package. It started with the client's strategic plan and objectives and included a project priority list, project charters, project plans, overall status reports, and completed projects. By diagramming the process, the client was able to clearly understand what role they played and what they could expect.
Redesign client reports for executive management
Client reports were re-designed into a easier to read format focusing on project priorities, benefits, overall current status and problem areas. The reports provided high-level information on top, progressively digging down into more detail in later pages. Periodic Help Desk reports were re-designed with graphs to highlight risks and problem areas. Again, increasing detail was provided in subsequent pages.
Simplify and break down projects into smaller parts (milestones)
It was hard to determine the overall status of several large, complicated projects. Upon more detailed review, it appeared these projects had reached milestones and were waiting for the client's approval. These projects were broken down into several smaller projects and specific milestones were identified (identify alternatives, perform cost benefit analysis, approve a single course of action, execute approved plan). This allowed specific tasks to be better identified and assigned and highlighted the progress of the larger project. It also provided more areas to re-evaluate the project's benefits and make sure it still aligned with management's objectives.
Highlight issues that hold project back and identify next steps
Although regular status reports were provided to the client, it wasn't clear why projects were either behind schedule or not moving as expected. In the re-designed status reports, these problems or issues were specifically highlighted and the corrective action was recommended. In some cases, projects were merely waiting for a client decision. Highlighting this issue reminded the client that their input was needed.
We designed a clearly articulated project process that made sense to the consulting firm's staff and their clients. We changed the focus of the project process to business objectives and benefits to clients. Redesigned progress reports were created which highlighted obstacles and clearly emphasized the next steps to take. The IT consulting firm plans to use this newly designed project process with all of its clients.