Establish reporting guidelines and change processes
Executives tell me that a project manager’s most critical job function may be project communications that need to be managed in a timely manner; and, one cannot over emphasize its importance to a project team or the company.
Much like a juggler with multiple balls in the air, a project manager must keep team members, and project stakeholders, in the loop on where a project stands with tasks that have been completed, where the project is on its timeline, and how funds are being spent.
If there are project problems to be addressed, then the entire team and stakeholders should be aware of all issues. And, as milestones are met, the entire team should celebrate in their team’s success.
There is a balance to be found between “quantity” of reports and “quality” of reports when trying to establish a reasonable project reporting standard. Most project managers find that weekly reports are more than sufficient for their team. However, when a project approaches certain targeted milestones, more frequent reporting may be necessary. This may be especially true in complex projects with a larger team, or with projects having multiple milestones being tracked and attained simultaneously, or with companies engaged at multiple physical sites.
There is a growing trend for project managers to use electronic project reporting and tracking tools such as Microsoft Project™, or a similar program. Additionally, I find that many companies have made excellent use of dedicated SharePoint™ sites that contain all project related information. I highly endorse the usage of these techniques to provide real-time information and project status updates on-demand.
The Nature of Options
The general nature of all ERP software projects is to explore options that will provide the best case business scenario for a company to move forward.
Executive sponsors, project teams, and project managers commonly learn that there may be multiple ways to achieve the same programmatic outcome. Figuring out which way works best for one’s company may be the fun part of a project’s design and development phases.
Additionally, teams and managers may discover that some business processes work differently in practice than they do in theory. And, just because one way is specified in a project’s blueprint, it does not mean that other options cannot or should not be explored, too. Accept in advance that blueprints will likely change and evolve over time as project teams become better at probing, exploring, and understanding the options presented.
Sometimes requested changes to a project are minor and will have little, if any, impact on the total project budget. However, sometimes, requested project changes can be significant and costly; and, in those cases, there could be a significant impact to a project’s budget, staffing, and timeline.
A project manager should formally track and document all requested project changes, including the ones not accepted or approved. The project manager is also responsible for managing the decision process to gain the executive sponsor’s buy-in that a proposed change is valid, accepted, and formally approved.
Tracking and recording change requests, and their approval/cost/validation processes, are necessary strategic steps for the overall project goal of not having surprises at the end. In my experience, having a well-documented audit trail for every project change request can be worth the effort. And, if one’s company has ISO aspirations, or legal regulatory compliance issues, then a documented decision audit trail can be very beneficial for other business reasons.