Stuck with a Bad PM Tool? Here’s What to Do

Let’s say you’re planning to repaint your living room this weekend. You shop for supplies online: drop cloths, painter’s tape, and brushes. Alexa, innocently, puts scrub brushes in your cart instead of paint brushes. The delivery arrives the next day. Do you have the tools you need to get the job done? The scrub brush has a handle and bristles! The bristles can be dipped into the paint! Will it require more work to create the desired outcome with a scrub brush rather than a paint brush? My guess is, no matter what, it’s not going to be pretty.

It’s not that the scrub brush is a bad product. On the contrary, it’s probably the highest rated scrub brush on the web. The issue is that you need a paint brush specifically designed to apply paint evenly and precisely. You need the right tool for the job.

Flash forward to the work week: How often are we using the wrong tool for a job?

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Toss the Binky! Project timelines may pacify some, but they set a bad precedent.

Detailed schedules and beautiful Gantt charts might stop the screaming for visibility into your project, but they won’t help you sleep at night. In the back of your head, you’re waiting for the binky to fall out—for the project timeline to slip—and everyone starts crying again. Here’s how to break the habit of leaning on these common IT project management crutches.

Almost 30 years ago, when my wife and I were proud and exhausted new parents, we found that pacifiers would help our newborn twins sleep. This strategy worked for a little while, but when a binky fell out of one of their mouths, they cried. One of us would get up, put it back in place, and enjoy a few more moments of rest until it fell out again. We always say that one of the things we would do differently as parents is to have not used pacifiers. The boys became dependent on them, and they only postponed the inevitable.

Binkies remind me of how IT teams often use detailed timelines and project plans.

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Story Points Are About Complexity, Not Time

An important distinction between Agile and Waterfall methodologies is how far out you plan. In Waterfall, you need to plan out the entirety of the project. This approach works beautifully for known products of understood scope. But when a deliverable is complex or has many unanswerable questions, Waterfall tends to fall apart, because there’s no way to do a sufficient amount of planning.

On the other hand, Agile thrives when products are complex and filled with unanswerable questions. With an Agile approach, you plan for only the next iteration—usually just 2 weeks. Agile works not because it avoids planning (Sprint Planning is one of the critical ceremonies, after all), but because it constrains the amount of work that you try to plan.

The idea is to reduce the total scope of work to a well-defined set of user stories. Each user story gets an estimate; the estimation metric is called a Story Point.

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Hitting the Brakes on a Failing Project: How to Implement a Project Pause

Many organizations try to fight against project failure by adding budget, resources, or time to the baseline. However, throwing money at the situation often leads to wasted efforts and more frustration, if the root problem isn’t addressed. Failure itself isn’t necessarily something to resist (see our thoughts on failing fast). However, pulling the plug on a major project can be easier said than done. Internal politics or other factors may limit the team’s ability to admit failure and cancel an initiative.

When your project is destined to fail, but abandoning ship is not an option, a brief pause and shift can allow you to turn things around before you completely blow the budget.

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Conquering the UAT Process: Before, During & After

User Acceptance Testing can be a daunting and frustrating experience. Too often, the exercise becomes an ordeal of tight deadlines, stress, and system issues. While UAT will always be a high-effort activity, good preparation, responsiveness, and follow-up will multiply your chances of success.

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Who Cares About Your IT Initiative?

Who Cares About Your IT Initiative?

Sure, we all want our IT initiatives to succeed. We regularly evaluate our projects, in-flight or upon completion, looking for tangible lessons to learn. We apply these strategic and tactical takeaways in hopes of increasing the chances of success for each subsequent initiative. We seek approaches that work for different industries, organizations, teams, and technologies.

But looking back at the many IT projects I’ve been a part of in my career, I can’t help but notice a common theme associated with success: people who genuinely care tend to find a way to get it done.

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PM Pointers: 3 Ways to Maximize Success with Inter-Team Dependencies

Managing an IT project often requires working with resources across other teams—not just those fully allocated to your initiative. Supporting resources and teams can be important to the success of your project. (Ideally, all the resources you need are fully dedicated to your project. In reality, this isn’t always possible.)

How do you ensure your team can deliver results if you’re dependent on these partially allocated supporting teams?

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The Fallacy of Multi-Project Resource Allocation

Organizations tend to divide the same resources over multiple, simultaneous projects and still expect the same level of productivity as if each person were dedicated to just one project.

PMOs, project managers, and resource managers need to reexamine this practice of assigning the same person to two or more projects at once. A project with many or all resources allocated to multiple projects usually run late, creating a ripple effect on all other projects.

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tin can phone

The Value of a Communication Plan for IT Initiatives

Communication plans for an IT project might come off as overkill, or even remind you of a nagging parent’s chore chart. In fact, the two organizational methods do have something in common: they tackle and alleviate misalignment. However, unlike helicopter parents, a strong IT project communication plan empowers workers and frees up their time. In an age where 1 in 5 projects are unsuccessful due to ineffective communication, taking the time to plan out and manage communication is crucial.

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A successful communication plan ensures that:

  • expectations are aligned across the organization;
  • project managers have the information they need to guide the project; and
  • purposeless meetings are eliminated so that everyone’s time is optimized.

To get started with your Project Management Communication Plan—and increase the chance of project success—make sure you’re prepared to perform the following 6 tasks.

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