Project Management

Project Management
Don’t Panic! Recovering a Failing Project in Five Steps
Don’t Panic! Recovering a Failing Project in Five Steps 1024 683 Josie Walledge

You’re working on an important IT project. You’re focused and doing your utmost to pull everything and everyone together to deliver. But you can see that, despite your best efforts, the project is failing. You know your customer  is not happy; the team is well-intentioned but not clicking. Deadlines are being missed, costs are spiralling and management are on your back.

Admitting failure is not in most people’s nature. So, here’s a question. Do you…

  1. Ignore the project objectives (they must have been wrong anyway).
  2. Throw more resources at the project – increase staff, overtime and budget.
  3. Blame your colleagues, they’re obviously not working as hard as you.
  4. Carry on regardless and hope for a miracle.

The IT Road to Project Recovery

At Software Solved the answer is always, “none of the above”! Instead, we take a step back to understand the project, assess the current status and make a plan. It’s not always the easiest choice but it’s the right one if you want to get back on track and succeed.

You’ll need to be a team player with the ability to think creatively, make evidence-based judgments and lead from the front, demonstrating strong and courageous decision-making.

Take control of your software project

 Here are our top tips for recovering a failing project:

  1. Understand the project

Review the project background and objectives. Understand the project plan, key milestones and deliverables. Interview team members and other internal stakeholders to understand their perspectives. Then, when you have clarity, talk to your customer about the situation and let them know what you’re planning to do next.

  1. Assess the current status

Once a project is identified as failing, you need to address these questions:

  • What is the true project status?
  • Do the activities in the project plan align to key business objectives?
  • What work has been completed and what is left to do?
  • What is the critical path and what threats and opportunities does the project face?

Armed with the information from steps 1 and 2, apply root cause analysis techniques to help understand why the project is failing. There could be a number of reasons: inadequate planning and control, poorly defined requirements, lack of appropriate resource, loss of management support, poor quality processes leading to excessive rework, to name but a few. Throughout this process, let your team know what you are doing and why. Seek opportunities to boost morale and create a positive culture for change.

  1. Identify trade-offs and negotiate

Prioritise requirements and tasks based on business value and importance (the ‘MoSCoW Technique’ is a helpful tool). Identify possible trade-offs, opportunities for increasing business value through change and alternative delivery models. Is the project even worth saving?!

Having agreed a negotiation position, it’s time to talk to the customer again (face to face is best). Be honest about the current situation and present your options for recovery. Use this opportunity to validate assumptions, rebuild trust and confidence by demonstrating a clear and comprehensive plan, then negotiate a way forward.

  1. Re-baseline the project

Congratulations, you’ve done the hard part! Now you need to update your project plan, including actions to address and mitigate key issues and risks.  Establish control measures to keep the new project on track. We recommend holding a ‘kick-off’ meeting to communicate the new baseline. Keep your team focussed by defining clear roles and responsibilities: set short, achievable tasks and give regular constructive feedback.

  1. Execute the plan

As the project is recovering, keep an eye on your key metrics with scheduled checkpoints. Remember, the customer and other business departments will probably be watching the project more closely. Be sure to protect your team from unwarranted pressure and maintain open communication with relevant stakeholders. We find that a regular supply of cakes helps to keep everyone happy too!

It’s not easy to turn around a failing process but it’s not impossible. The longer you delay, the greater the risks, so it’s vital to act quickly and decisively. And, worth remembering, Software Solved are always here to talk to people about delivering successful IT projects.

Josie Walledge, Senior Project Manager

Software Solved specialises in custom and bespoke development, data visualisation and Insurance Risk Management systems, delivering over 1000 successful IT projects since 1998.

Contact us at hello@softwaresolved.com to discuss any systems, data or project requirements. We’re happy to talk.

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International Women’s Day – Women in IT
International Women’s Day – Women in IT 732 211 Simon Hollingworth

In celebration of International Women’s Day, at Software Solved we decided to ask some of our women what it was like to pursue a career in an industry very stereotyped as a male vocation. Our policy is one of always employ the best people for the job which is why we have exceptional staff both female and male. We felt, on this day, of all days, you’d want to hear from some of our excellent women how a career in IT is for everyone.

Bethan David – Project Manager

Bethan David Project Manager Software Solved1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wasn’t sure but I knew I wanted to do something I really enjoyed and that I wanted to manage people! Is that odd? I hope not.

2. What made you choose IT as a career?

I enjoyed IT and Computing in school, so carried it onto my degree. It was always interesting and I knew there were job prospects, especially for women.

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

Doing a degree in Computer Science and being one of only four girls on the course, I was surrounded by men. Most of them found it hard to even talk to or work with girls! Group work was difficult. Making friends on my course was hard. I certainly learnt to work things out on my own.

4. What do you love about your job?

Working with different clients on different projects and with different people at Software Solved. And I have to admit, I do enjoy getting to ‘boss’ the project team around! No two projects are the same and I love that. Learning from one, taking that into the next, new challenges and lessons to be learned.

5. What advice would you give girls/young women thinking about a career in IT?

Do it, and don’t be put off by the stereotypes that surround IT – like the type of people who do IT or that it’s mainly men. Things are changing fast!

6. To encourage more diversity, what would be the one thing you would change in the I.T. industry?

The stereotypes surrounding the IT industry. There’s a big stereotype that people working in IT are just weird, sat in a dark room coding and that is all they are interested in. Whereas that so isn’t the case! There are a range of different people with different interests and hobbies. There are loads of interesting people AND there are girls in IT!

Lindsay Lucas – Director of Operations

Lindsay Lucas Software Solved1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A vet, Formula 1 engineer or racing driver. My love of cars and animals has stayed with me and I studied engineering at bachelor and masters level. But it was exceptionally hard to gain employment in the engineering sector as a female engineer. It was a very different landscape back then and I was definitely in the minority.

2. What made you choose IT as a career?

I sort of fell into it. After many knock backs from the engineering roles I desperately wanted, I still needed to pay the bills, so I went temping. My first temping role was with a local internet provider for a week and they offered me a permanent job. I will be forever grateful to those who recognised me and promoted me through that company. I worked in customer service, sales, as an office manager, PA to 3 directors and then Technical Project Manager. As a grounding on how businesses really work, it was invaluable and I was lucky enough to work with some amazing mentors.

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

Compared to the challenges within the engineering sector, any challenges in IT have been relatively insignificant. You do still occasionally meet the odd misogynist who would rather hear what your male colleague has to say, but that is very rare these days and they are a dying breed. On the whole, IT is a very progressive environment, certainly in software development and I have never heard any of our female developers or colleagues complaining about their male counterparts., it really is one big team working towards a common goal. We’re seeing more and more women at the top in the tech industry these days and I think that’s more about external stigmas being removed from women who want to pursue a career as well as have a family. There is so much support available and so much good quality childcare with business friendly hours, that it’s no longer such an issue.

4. What do you love about your job?

The variety. No one day is the same. I also have an amazing team that I enjoy working with and great clients too. Working within a software development environment you are at the forefront of changing technology, solving real life issues and I always enjoy seeing a project go live.

5. What advice would you give girls/young women thinking about a career in IT?

Do it! It’s a great career with so many opportunities open to you. You don’t have to be technical to get involved and find a really rewarding career within an industry that is not being left in the Dark Ages!

6. To encourage more diversity, what would be the one thing you would change in the I.T. industry?

The diversity is there now. But from my perspective, I don’t see the CVs coming through from so many women in deeply technical roles, which tells me that there aren’t enough women studying technical disciplines at university. This is why it is so important to support initiatives to make it more accessible to women. I’m proud that we have a really diverse team at Software Solved, with women in technical and non-technical roles and we definitely have an ethos of gender neutral recruitment. It has to be the right person for the role, nothing more complicated than that.

Josie Walledge – Lead Project Manager

Josie-Walledge1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

From when I was very young, I wanted to be a doctor but life took me down a different path!

2. What made you choose IT as a career?

IT chose me! I loved messing around with my ZX81 and ZX Spectrum when I was younger (ok, that ages me) but never saw IT as being something you could do for a living. I discovered the power of the Internet while I was at University in the early ‘90s and then, while working at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, I found that technology was starting to transform the way we stored and shared information. This led me to doing a Masters degree in Information Science. After a brief interlude teaching librarians how to use digital resources, a chance encounter in a pub landed me a job with a global tech company, where I stayed for 20 years!

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

For many years I was the only woman working in a team of men who were mostly a lot older than me. While I never faced the low-level sexual harassment that I know many women put up with in male-dominated workplaces, I did miss the company of other women and – more importantly – found that my career progression was severely limited after having children. My employer was of the view that, as I worked part time and largely from home, moving into a more senior role wasn’t an option for me. This led me to significantly undervalue my skills and experience, and I found it very difficult to find the confidence to go out into the job market again.

4. What do you love about your job?

After many years working in a large multinational where one can feel rather faceless, it is an absolute joy to be part of a small, dynamic and diverse team where each person is truly valued, supported and respected. As an IT Project Manager, no two days are ever the same and I love the constant challenge of solving problems in a collaborative environment. Even in a management role, there are always opportunities to learn about new technologies and to develop new ways of working as the industry evolves so rapidly. I also enjoy getting out to meet clients, helping them to deliver business change through technology.

5. What advice would you give girls/young women thinking about a career in IT?

Go for it! Don’t be put off by gender stereotyping but instead let yourself be driven by what you love and what you are good at. Also, don’t limit your imagination to the careers that are available in today’s job market. The pace of change, particularly in technology, is lightning fast so it’s better to focus on developing the skills and knowledge that really interest you and to keep your mind open to what the future might bring.

6. To encourage more diversity, what would be the one thing you would change in the I.T. industry?

For several years, I ran a Code Club for Year 5 and 6 children. To begin with, it was all boys but over time we worked to attract more girls and, by the time I left, we had as many girls as boys. (Guess what: the girls were every bit as good as the boys!) This demonstrates that the key to addressing the gender gap in Stem subjects, and IT in particular, is education. Schools and colleges need to do more to break down the conventional stereotypes, perhaps by bringing female role models in to inspire girls from an early age. The industry also needs to do more to raise awareness of opportunities for women in tech.

If you would like to know more about careers in the Software and IT industries, or even if you’d like to have amazing people like ours working on your next software project, contact us at hello@softwaresolved.com or call 01392 453344

 

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Project Managing a Successful Software Systems project
5 Steps to Successful Software Project Management
5 Steps to Successful Software Project Management 1000 667 Josie Walledge

Embedding good project management practice at the very heart of the software development process is one of the secrets behind our success at Software Solved.  We have our own tried and tested process for ensuring timely and budgeted delivery which sits at the core of everything we do. But underpinning that are some sound principles that any successful project manager should follow for optimum success.

1       Manage expectations

Clients don’t like surprises! The ability to set and manage expectations, particularly in relation to time, budget and scope is key. Set out a strategy for formal and informal communication – be it weekly calls, face to face meetings, written reports or daily stand-ups and you’ll be able to pre-empt and manage the element of surprise.

2       Plan and monitor the project

You’d be surprised how often proper project planning is neglected, resulting in failure. Planning doesn’t just mean preparing a schedule: it means ensuring you have an understanding of who needs to do what, when and why; the governance model and methodology you will be following; how you will communicate internally and externally; what your key milestones and deliverables are; how you will demonstrate project success; risks; quality; financials; managing change; etc.

Planning should be a collaborative process with input from multiple sources. Start by agreeing a Project Initiation Document and baseline Schedule with the client. Monitor and update plans regularly, adapting to changes in scope, resource availability, business and organisational needs and project risks and issues.

3       Deliver the right solution first time

Too often in software development the delivered solution does not meet client expectations. In this industry, the later a defect is detected, the more expensive it is to resolve.

Our Business Analysts have developed a rock-solid process for capturing, documenting and validating user and business requirements and for ensuring they are managed and tracked throughout the project lifecycle. The key is in helping clients to understand their business drivers and user needs, and working with stakeholders to define a clear, unambiguous statement of work supported by a robust business case.

Test project deliverables regularly against those requirements so that delivered product and client expectation are aligned. Use document walkthroughs, UI design mock-ups, show & tell sessions with developers, sharing of system test results, and user acceptance testing against defined acceptance criteria. At every step, give clients the opportunity to verify that their expectations are being met so that no surprises await in the later stages.

4       Manage scope

One of the project manager’s responsibilities is to ensure that only the required work will be performed and that each of the deliverables can be completed in the allotted time and within budget. Another reason projects fail is a lack of control of the scope resulting in spiralling costs and missed deadlines. Clients may request additional features, analysts may over-spec the requirements, developers may seek to ‘gold-plate’ a feature and testers identify ‘defects’ that are really new features. The PM must be constantly vigilant for such changes and ensure that any deviation from the requirements baseline is managed with the client. Embedding a culture of awareness to change can lead to opportunities for new business.

5       Learn from your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes! What differentiates a successful project team is the ability to understand and learn from them. Many of the most successful IT companies in the world actively celebrate failure and see it as part of the continuous improvement cycle, driving positive change in the organisation.

Like us, maintain a ‘Lessons Learned’ log from inception through to client acceptance. Encourage team members to recognise where things have gone wrong, think about the impact of their mistakes and identify ways to prevent them happening in the future.

Do you have a software project that you could use some help with or do you simply want a chat about an upcoming idea? You can call us on 01392 453344 or email us at hello@softwaresolved.com

 

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