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Better Behaviour For More Effective IT Development Projects

~ By Duncan Haughey

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How well-equipped do you feel you are to carry out an IT development project? Do you always get the best from your team, engage your stakeholders and retain their interest to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion? Can you identify the behaviours you display that lead to success, and those that are holding you back?

From experience, many project managers have difficulty controlling IT development projects. These projects need a high degree of planning, control and communication within the team and the wider project community.

In this article, I look at some of the behaviours managers need to display to run successful IT development projects. There is nothing complicated here, but these tips go a long way in addressing some of the fundamental reasons IT development projects fail to deliver their full potential.

After many years of running IT development projects, these are my tips for getting the best results:

1. Leadership

Show strong leadership, making the project your primary focus. Your drive and enthusiasm will filter down to your team. Think top-down and be pragmatic.

2. Goal

Develop solutions that meet the needs of the customer and provide a positive benefit for the organisation. Be goal oriented.

3. Focus

Ensure you remain focused on delivering the best possible solution for the customer. Do not get sidetracked by issues around the edge of your project.

4. Solution

Remember you are delivering a solution, not technology. Do not be carried away with the technology and forget about the solution.

5. Stakeholders

Identify the stakeholders of your project early on. Ensure you manage the stakeholder group proactively, setting their expectations and providing regular communication. Identify any stakeholder that can be useful to you as a resource.

6. Skills

Make sure that you hire the required skills and experience for your project. A few high-quality team members are better than many of lower quality. Do not hire bodies; hire brains!

7. Team

Always encourage your team to take a full part in each project. They should be invited to ask questions, challenge decisions, throw up new ideas and fully engage. Manage the team as a team and not as individuals.

8. Collaboration

Work together as a team to produce the best possible result. Regular brainstorming and progress meetings are essential. Encourage participation.

9. Motivation

Motivate your team by giving feedback in a fair and constructive way. Say thank you for a job well-done to encourage repeat behaviour. Assigning responsibility and remaining hands-off can also be motivational.

10. Tools

Always use the right tools for the job, provide enough training and support where needed. Apply this equally to both the technical and managerial roles.

11. Methodology

Use a suitable methodology to drive through results. Be careful not to get too bogged down in a process. For each process step ask, "is it necessary; does it add value?" Remember process is not achievement.

12. Development

It is usually advisable to carry out the complex work first, giving you the best opportunity of identifying any problems and maximising time to resolve them. Look to reuse as much as you can from other projects or sources.

13. Control

The most important part of project control is feedback. Encourage and facilitate regular feedback from the customer, team and other stakeholders.

14. Issues

Make sure that you resolve any issues as quickly as possible. Keep a log of issues and the actions taken. Never leave issues unresolved, they usually get worse with time.

15. Risks

Identify risks to your project early on and monitor them on a frequent basis. For each risk identified, evaluate, document, mitigate and monitor. A risk is a problem that has not yet occurred, but which is usually preventable once recognised and action taken.

16. Mistakes

Try to avoid mistakes, but accept they will happen. When mistakes are made correct them as quickly as possible.

17. Suppliers

Demand the same quality from your suppliers as you do your team. They should show the same commitment as you and your team to getting a good result. If they are not as committed, you have the wrong supplier. Be demanding but fair.

18. Meetings

Keep meetings to a maximum of one hour, and ensure you know what outcome you would like to achieve. Focus on that outcome and getting it, not allowing the meeting to turn into a talking shop with nothing useful as a result. Be decisive and do not procrastinate.

19. Testing

Test early on and continue to test regularly throughout the project. There is no such thing as too much testing when it comes to IT development projects. Test, test and retest.

20. Reviews

Examine the business case for your project regularly to ensure it is still valid and able to produce the desired benefits. Keep the project aligned with business strategy and if necessary recalibrate.

By adopting these behaviours, you will help ensure your success and guide your team to an ultimately satisfying project for you and your customer.

Finally

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey identifies seven key principles that will lead to effective behaviour, whether at work or home. These habits will help a person be more successful in his or her personal and professional relationships. In the context of IT development projects these habits mean:

  1. Be Proactive: Identify, and reduce risks. Actively involve stakeholders in projects. Take responsibility.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind: Be goal driven, know what it is you want to achieve. Covey suggests drawing up a mission statement.
  3. Put First Things First: Do the important work first, the must have items, finishing with the least important.
  4. Think Win/Win: Solve the greatest number of requirements with the least amount of effort possible. Be creative.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Do not start thinking about solutions too early in projects. Understand the business requirements first and then look at solutions.
  6. Synergize: Work as an effective team to achieve the maximum possible. The team as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  7. Sharpen the Saw: This is about renewal and staying fresh. Keep trying to learn and improve during every project.

Think about the behaviours you display. You may want to change them for the sake of more successful IT development projects.


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