There are many ways to learn about project management, many courses, short and long, that can teach you the ABC’s of the discipline. However there is nothing like life to give you a good dousing of reality. So I have begun reflecting on my experiences and decided to share my thoughts…to many of you I will not necessarily highlight anything new, but for me I have found that review is an essential element in any project and assists with continuous improvement, both for the individuals involved and for company practice.
Here are a few things I have learnt and identified as critical success factors in managing a Dynamics CRM project …1. Communicate
This is absolutely key, try not to let too much time go by without touching base with your clients. In this instance knowledge helps make people feel secure, too long with no word fosters fear, uncertainty and can adversely affect customer buy-in of the product
2. Do not make assumptions
I have heard on countless occasions from both clients and developers “It’s just common-sense”, this phrase is a killer and the only way around it is to ensure that everyone involved is well versed in the business requirements of the client. Now I know that developers do not want to read all of that stuff but prioritising a project kick-off meeting that provides a thorough overview of the client, their needs and the project will be a good start to getting the developers thinking from the customer perspective throughout development and not just remaining technically focused the entire time. In regards to managing the clients expectations of common sense let’s look at point three.
3. Well defined Scope and Solution Design
KNOW YOUR CLIENTS BUSINESS THOROUGHLY! There is nothing worse than poorly defined requirements, it frustrates everyone, the client who is surprised to see the final product because it looks nothing like what they requested; the developers because they don’t understand how one thing fits in to another or why the client is complaining when they have built to the specifications. Avoid contention and disillusionment by spending time to get the DETAILS RIGHT, identify all scenarios, like the cartoon below, something may have different values or meaning depending on the situation. Spending more time upfront will show its rewards at the end…minimal change requests, project slippage, bugs. Any of these that show up later in the project come at a much greater cost.
4. Manage Change (to scope)
Sometimes we have to embrace the inevitable…people change their mind. So how do we control the changes as they come in? What you do not do is “muddle your way through”, I have experienced projects where people do this and it takes twice as long to complete and the outcome/solution is often likely to be changed again. I cannot iterate it enough that the best way to manage change is to take the time to understand the requirements behind the change, don’t just accept a quick voicemail message or one sentence email. It can be so easy to do this when the time is short and the pressure is on but DON’T DO IT! It may frustrate your client that you want to ‘iron out the details” but they will thank you later when their system is seamless, but only you will get the blame if the change is not satisfactory5. Testing
In software development testing is the outworking of the idea that “prevention is better than cure” - a client does not want to see a critical bug that shuts down their live system, particularly if it was preventable. In that case, we the vendor have just lost a huge amount of credibility. So look at testing as your insurance, invest the time and resources and watch the rewards. A satisfied customer spreads the good word.
So these are just some simple ponderings of mine and over the coming weeks I am going to immerse myself in the “Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2010: The smart guide to the successful delivery of Microsoft Dynamics Business Solutions”. As the name indicates this is Microsoft’s project management methodology, which is something I am already familiar with but wish to dive deeper. I will continue my reflections and consider how Sure Step can be utilised in a greater capacity to guide projects through to a successful completion.
* Image from http://nmjohari.wordpress.com/tag/funny
** Image from http://www.onlinemathtutor.org/help/category/math-cartoons/page/2/