07/17/2008 by Marco Gerussi
My blog Scoping – A Guarantee for Success through Harmonized Expectations describes how to identify factors that are most relevant to the success of the project:
- Expectations of all key roles are defined and synchronized from the start
- The technical system architecture is designed
- The functional requirements are defined
- An implementation roadmap comprising project contents, required organizations and project procedure is set up
Harmonized Expectations and Step-by-Step Implementation Targeted at Partial Success
Experience has shown that defining and synchronizing expectations is of great importance. With regard to expectations, the project scope plays a major role. Unfortunately, project team members as well as clients often fail to define the project precisely enough, including a variety of options and features into the project. Limited time and budget available for a maximum content are part of everyday business. Teams are getting unfocussed and bogged down in details loosing sight oft the project target. The project clients get impatient, failures mute motivation, and the original business cases are questioned.
It is well known that projects promise to be successful only if sub-goals are defined ensuring step-by-step success and continuously producing a visible benefit. This is particularly true for long-lasting projects. The main issue here is to focus on the most important and prioritized requirements and functions and adhere to their consistent implementation.
Implementation Roadmap and Iterations
One oft he main issues of the scoping phase is to generate a practice-oriented implementation roadmap. This includes clearly defined targeted project objects, a time schedule, and the organization implied. Experience has shown that dividing the project into several iterations with clearly defined targeted objects leads to business quick wins and to a successful completion of the project. To follow this strategy, the most relevant requirements and core functions are identified and implemented in iterations.
The main goal is to provide constant benefit for the project client and the users as soon as possible. Quick wins are achieved by first implementing those functions which are most suitable to ensure the highest possible benefit. In further iterations, more functions are added to those successfully implied to finally integrate the solution step by step into further processes, methods, systems and organizations. At the same time, a consistent project management und project marketing support the roadmap implementation. Management, client, and users know at any time which functions are available to them, and when.
Iterations Optimized by Quick Wins
Dividing projects into several iterations provides decisive advantages. They vary depending on context and task, but in most cases, the following advantages are ensured:
- System with core functionality which rather soon works efficiently
- Systematic knowledge transfer to users and business by targeted training at the right time.
- Quick benefit as a basis and guideline for further procedure
- Early integration of business organization and building up support services
- Optimistic attitude towards the project by successfully completing iterations and meeting the expectations
- Flexibility in structuring the functional requirements and a manageable basis for Scope Change Management
- Organziational changes are implemented step by step and associated with achieving success
- Short feedback loops, „lessons learned“, can be implemented in the next iteration
The Challenge of Implementing Iterations
Very frequently, a rigid project procedure is set forth by large enterprises. In addition to document templates, this includes specified and standardized rules of phase acceptance. The project passes through several phases, comprising preliminary studies, rough and detailed concept, realization, implementation, and operation. A new phase can only be started, after the preceding phase has been completed. This approach is often contrary to the basic idea and the immense benefit achieved by an iterative procedure.
It is true that dividing the project into several iterations results in quick wins. But if all iterations, i.e. new functions, are repeatedly forced to pass through all project phases from the preliminary studies to operation, this necessarily implies disprofit by loss of time and additional effort. The great benefit is given away!
It is quite important to find common solutions in collaboration with the responsible persons, for example, from the project management office (PMO) or from quality control. Experience has shown that it is recommendable to have the most prominent mile stones approved „officially“, whereas the individual iterations can be approved by project members and application of quality assurance measures. A step-by-step extension of this approach to include scoping and phase acceptance which is attuned to an iterative concept would be useful.
The benefit of an iterative approach is enormously high. In the context of standardized and rigid project implementation, this can be quite a challenge. However, addressing it at an early stage, iterations can easily be integrated into the existing environment. In a further step, this concept can be extended to include scoping and phase acceptance particularly attuned to iterations.
After harmonizing the expectations of all key roles and prioritizing the requirements, all functions should be divided into individual iterations according to their importance. This allows you to focus on the core features and the highest possible benefit. Systems are available to users at an early stage, providing efficiently working core functionality. There is a fast and well-structured knowledge transfer leaving more time for the organization to implement changes. Quickly and successfully completed iterations result in a sense of achievement and promote an affirmative attitude towards the project.
In addition, the iterative approach allows you to carry out faster feedback loops and more flexibility in planning further iterations. This ensures quick wins and step-by-step success of the project.