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Technology + Implementation = Project Management

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October 01, 2007
Implementing | Technology
Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP - amitava.chatterjee@us.ibm.com

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Hospitality Upgrade is known for featuring thought-provoking articles about technology and solutions. As one reads this magazine, one may wonder how best to implement a technology solution. The key question is how does one ensure correct technology implementation?

What does correct mean?  Are we talking about does the technology work? Not quite. Let’s assume that the technology, when implemented, provides for and does everything that you were sold on in the first place. Correct really refers to was the solution implemented expeditiously, as planned, using anticipated resources, and was it delivered within time and budget. Key words pop out, such as implemented, expeditiously, as planned, as anticipated and time and budget. Wow. This really sounds a lot like project management, doesn’t it? So, what is project management and how can it help ensure implementation of technology solutions?

Before we dive in, here is a word of caution. This article will not give you a recipe to manage your triple- or quadruple-play next-generation in-room network or your self-service kiosk installation. What it will do is give you an overview of the project management discipline and make you feel more confident about the big picture activities and issues that may be in play as you embark on such projects.

Project management involves the organization, supervision and direction of resources, activities and tasks, in order to achieve stated goals as defined at the onset of a project within the agreed-to and clearly documented scope, and within time and budget requirements. Key resources at a project manager’s (PM) disposal include the people on the team, available/allocated time and duration to complete the work, and budget (money available to complete the work). PM’s are also responsible for weaving the team into a cohesive unit, all working for the common good, i.e., attainment of the project’s stated goals. Good PMs are also extremely astute communicators and ensure that all key stakeholders (those invested in the success of the project, across all management levels) are kept aware of what is going on at all times.

Key Tools Used by Project Managers
PMs have several tools at their disposal to help them successfully manage and execute projects. The following list is a pretty basic list that all PMs should be aware of, and use, at various stages of their projects:

  • Statement of work (or terms of reference)
  • Project management software
  • Status and financial reporting templates
  • Issues and risks logs

Of these tools, the statement of work or terms of reference, or any document that outlines the project scope and sets boundaries for what the project entails, and what the key activities, roles and responsibilities are, is extremely important because it lays down the or rules of engagement (ROE). This should be read carefully and understood thoroughly. If you are working with a vendor, you must ensure that there is no ambiguity as to who is doing what, when and how. Further, it is important to ensure that the dependencies, key assumptions and acceptance criteria for deliverables are clearly understood.

Project management, like any other activity, has become easier because of project management software tools available for PMs to use. They allow scheduling and sequencing of project activities, work streams and tasks, and can be configured to show dependencies between tasks. Project management software can be used to baseline a project once all the basic tasks and activities have been documented. Once this has been done, any deviations to the plan—owing to resource constraints, scope deviations, or insufficient task duration estimation—can be tracked and monitored.

Status and financial reporting templates are extremely important in that they help make the PM aware and communicate project health and statuses to key stakeholders. A traffic light metaphor (green, yellow, red) for key activities and work streams helps to showcase the overall health of the project and can also be used to identify potential risk areas so that corrective action may be taken sooner rather than later. This helps ensure that projects are completed within budget and on time.

Issues and risk logs are not rocket science, yet it is remarkable how lost one can get without them. It is extremely valuable to list key issues that affect, or are likely to affect, the overall project outcome. Besides, a list is effective; it ensures that things don’t fall through the cracks (as they otherwise tend to do). Likewise, a risk log listing key project risks along with appropriate mitigation approaches in the event the risks do pan out, is another invaluable asset for PMs.

Things to Watch
We’ve talked about some of the key activities and project management tools you can leverage.

All projects have some form of scope creep. Initial boundaries or scope laid out in the statement of work or terms of reference almost always change, either because something was missed, something else came up, or someone had an "a ha" moment and felt it necessary to broaden the scope of the project.  While scope creep cannot be avoided, it can be managed. Once new scope is identified, it is important to list the additional tasks and activities required to provide requested extras. In addition, it is highly probable that more resources (time, duration, and staff) may be required.

Guesstimates are another set of pitfalls that need to be avoided. However, this does not always happen and a project may move forward with estimates (that may be partially correct). Note that it is important to list all the assumptions and dependencies on which the guesstimates are based.

Ensure you execute the key activities, leverage the project management tools at your disposal, and watch out for the pitfalls.  And, if you see them, manage them and turn them to your advantage if you can. This will allow you to more successfully execute and manage projects — on time and on budget. Amen to that.

Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP, an IBM-certified managing consultant with IBM Global Business Services, is based in Fairfax, Va. A frequent author, speaker and member of HFTP’s HITEC Advisory Council, he can be reached at amitava.chatterjee@us.ibm.com.

Key Activities Performed by Project Managers
PMs are always busy working on some aspect of their project (or projects, for the lucky few who juggle multiple projects simultaneously). So what are some of the key activities that PMs spend their time on?

  • Planning and estimating
  • Allocating resources and forecasting
  • Directing/coordinating key activities
  • Status reporting
  • Scope monitoring
  • Quality monitoring
  • Managing issues and risks
  • Communicating

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