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Some experience working on a large project

Posted: Fri 01 Apr 2011 2:17 pm
by eric.shaw
As a project manager, I’m now responsible for an IT outsourcing project, all of the development team, including myself, there are 75 members. Following is my impression about this project.

Because I act as PM of IT outsourcing project development, and the technology we use is unfamiliar to me, so I always thought that in the project, the most important thing is planning and staffing.

First of all, a detailed and realistic plan is required. In the project plan, work breakdown structure (WBS) is the most important. In order to make a detailed and realistic WBS, you need full historical data and a clear estimation model. These are most critical, if not, you’d better not be responsible for large projects.

Secondly, for staffing, they must be trusted. Choose the person, who knows how to communicate with people in “English” and have a good master of technology, as team leader. I am here to say “English ", that is, I found many of the technical staff like to use the technical words to express thoughts, so I stressed repeatedly to my group leaders, that using the language that I and customers all understand to communicate is one of their important work.

There are some other factors, that the PM should be very clear generally, such as watching top 5 risks, measuring process and products through quantitative indicators, making reasonable milestones, arrangements for backup in a key node, and so on.

At the same time, I never thought project manager is a leader. I always think I'm just a support manager, and only support is not enough, but also including rapid decision-making and problem solving. In fact, support has a broad concept, which of course, includes the negotiation, risk management, leadership and other significance. In the hope that everyone in the team has any problems (of course, the problem can also be private), he can ask PM for help firstly.

Another important thing I think, since the day of project start-up, I was looking for and training a member in this project who can replace me, that is, even if I leave, the project can still normal afloat.

In fact, in the same time of responsible for this project with nearly 80 people, I was also responsible for another two small projects with 10 members. Because each project has my backup, so I can prioritize various projects to deal with things. And, I can also find the vacation time.

It should be stressed that these Backups are not born there, and really need to find and develop. Through coaching, through decentralization, through adequate support, let them grow.

Re: Some experience working on a large project

Posted: Sat 02 Apr 2011 1:59 am
by satisfactionuk
Hi, On the face of it your write-up is very interesting, however, I do have some slight contentions with some aspects of it and the reason for them is because you are using the PMBOK guide, which I have some reservations about.

If you were starting a long and expensive journey the first thing you would like to know is what is your destination. Without this information everything else is academic and irrelevant. So, the most important thing in a project is having a clear and concise understanding of the purpose of the project and what strategic business case/objective it is focused on.

Having identified the above you really do need to get onboard a high-ranking project sponsor preferably someone at director level because without a sponsor at this level you will not have the company commitment necessary to see the project through to completion.

Next, and this is where Prince2 differs from the PMI, APM and AIPM is that you need to set up a project board executive consisting of executives representing the customers interest, the suppliers interest and the companies interest. The executive representing the interest of the company approves all relevant decisions; this is not a democracy operating on a voting system between the three executives. One of the weaknesses of the PMI, APM and AIPM is that they condone line managers (whose vested interest may be in conflict with the project) being in charge of projects, which causes a multitude of problems especially in functional, weak matrix and strong matrix organisations. On principle, the project manager is the only manager who is in charge of the project and s/he must only report to a company executive or above.

Your second point again from the PMI, APM and AIPM perspective is not strictly true. A project manager should be an expert in managing and controlling projects; s/he does not need to be technically qualified though some understanding of the process would be advantageous. Prince2 principle ‘Manage by exception’ covers this area very well. A project manager, managing say an IT project does not need to know programming language, s/he does need to be able to ask questions related to the time of completion of the task at hand and if there are problems to ask what the solution will be and how long it will take. A project manager does not and indeed should not have the responsibility for quality control either for the project as a whole (configuration management quality reporting) or its products (quality management strategy). These functions should be carried out by an indipendent and unbiased person.

The PMI makes such a phenomenal song and dance about the WBS or work breakdown structure. In the 2005 edition of Prince2 this was a separate process within the planning element but now it is accommodated under the functions of the Planning section found within the Initiating A Project process. The four elements of planning were PL1 Establish what products are needed, PL2 Determine the sequence in which each product should be produced, PL3 Define the form and content of each product and PL4 Establish what activities are needed for product creation and delivery. However, logically speaking this function (WBS) is actually facilitated in the planning process through a series of reports generated by the project management software package (MS Project).

The principle here is whether you prefer to create the WBS on paper prior to planning the project with the software package or whether you enter the information directly into the package as you do the planning. I personally prefer the second option.

All risk should have been identified by the use of the risk management strategy and accounted for during the project risk analysis and simulation part of the planning process using such packages as MS Project in conjuction with Palisades @Risk or Crystal Ball. A project manager really should keep an eye on all of the risks regardless of their nature and not just the top five as 10, 20 or 30 very minor and seemingly insignificant risks even on items that are not on the critical path or critical chain can significantly mount up and derail a project sending it over time and cost.

In your next paragraph you claim that you never thought of a project manager as being a leader, well, if a project manager is not a leader then who is leading the project? Of course a basic requirement of a project manager is having very strong leadership skills. S/he may given the circumstances decide that a facilitation style of management is appropriate for that stage of the project or for that particular team. However, a project manager must have a full repertoire of honed management and leadership skills if s/he is going to be respected and avoid problems from subordinates and line managers alike.

Your next paragraph in relation to training or should I say mentoring a replacement for yourself is on the face of it a very noble act on your part. However, some would say a bit naïve because of reducing your bargaining position. Imagine you come across a politicaly powerful line manager who for his own vested interest does not like what your doing. If s/he knows that you have trained up a replacement then s/he may not be too bothered about having your removed not only from the project but also from the company as a whole. I wont comment on this further but recommend that you read a few good books on organizational politics to determine an answer for yourself.

My comments here are not directed at you personally, but at the project management system that you have learnt. Having studied and compared them all, I have found that they all are deficient in several areas relating to the logical and practical application of project management.
Kind regards

Stephan Toth