Written by: John A. Hinojos
Over the past few years, the workplace has changed dramatically. Working locations which were traditionally offices, desks lined in rows, or mazes of cubicles, have morphed into work areas which are more communal, with meeting spaces more conducive to group discussions and collaboration. We have electronic tools which allow for input from people all over the world and in multiple time zones. Work can be done 24/7, with components being done by different people throughout the globe.
With the changes in the way we do our work, I have also noticed that we have lost some of the basic tenants of Project Management. With efforts to be more collaborative or collegial, the person assigned as Project Manager attempts to be a member of the team. In fact, that person needs to be the leader of the team. There are some basics of Project Management currently getting lost, and, if not performed, can result in project scope creep or a failed project.
Let’s review some of the Project Management basics needed to be included to be successful. While some of these may seem obvious, they are oftentimes not being included in our projects resulting in disastrous results.
1. Have a Solid Project Plan
As a Project Manager, one of your primary jobs is to manage all the tasks. Not do them, but manage. This will require having a solid project plan that is easily read and communicated. You will also need to have a good Project Charter, which will detail what is to be included in your project, and, more importantly, what will not be included.
I have usually found it is easier to use a Project Management software program to create the plan; however, you can use other software to complete this task. Ideally, you want to have a program that will automatically adjust dates when a previous task date changes. Since everyone may not have the software on their PC, make sure that the product can either export the plan to a pdf or workbook type of format.
When creating your plan, organize all tasks by major task, and list the minor tasks under the major heading. Do not make this too granular or overly detailed. You are trying to track project movement, not every little task.
For example, when conducting a systems evaluation, one of the first major tasks may be Discovery. Under Discovery, the minor tasks could be Discovery – Conduct Interview, Discovery – Create Requirement, Discovery – Prioritize Requirements, or Discovery – Review and Finalize Requirements.
Each task should be assigned to a singular responsible person. This may not be the person who will be doing the work, but it is the person who has the job to make sure that all the activities for the task are completed on time.
Include the duration of the project. I usually use the project start and end date on my plan, as well as the time lapse duration of the tasks. You will also want to include task dependency. If Task A needs to be fully completed before Task B can be started, that is a dependency you need to record on your plan. Most Project Management systems can track such dependencies. When assigning the time required for a task, try to include some contingency time, as seldom does anyone get to work on a task fully for “x” number of hours. Be realistic over actual lag time to complete a task.
Also include a project work calendar, which allows you to block holidays or vacations as non-work days. Ideally, your software should allow you to track availability schedules by each person. Therefore, if one person is responsible for a task and is out for a week, the project plan will adjust the due dates to accommodate for the missed week of work time.
Lastly, get comments from the team about the plan. Adjust any dates or durations the team may feel is not achievable. More importantly, create an atmosphere where the team can question and challenge any item, sequence, or duration of a task. By fostering this input, you will be creating a stronger plan that may experience less time slippage.
2. Communicate All Changes – Good and Bad
You need to stay on top of the project.
The easiest way to do this is having a weekly status report and meeting. Schedule the meetings for the same day and time at the beginning of the project. You can always cancel if needed.
The status report should contain a general update on the status of the project. Often, I see the Red, Yellow, and Green status used to make it clear to everyone how the project is doing.
Include on the Status Report the tasks that were reported as completed since the previous meeting. There should also be a list of tasks that should have been completed, but you have not received a status update – these should be updated during the meeting.
Always include a listing of the tasks needing to be completed over the next two weeks, so no one will be surprised and miss a due date.
Things often happen during a project causing delays to a task. Some of this may be due to oversight on the level of effort needed to complete the task, other times it could be the result of an unplanned event, which needs to take precedence and resources away from your project.
Regardless of the reason, these will usually impact the project end date. When you are aware of an issue which can impact the timeline, you need to update the project plan. If you created the plan effectively, the software will automatically calculate the impact of the change and the new end date of the project. Communicate these changes to the team and any senior management or Steering Committee responsible for the project.
You, as Project Manager, need to communicate all items impacting the project in a timely manner. You are the messenger here. Remember that the messenger is rarely shot, unless the messenger is late. Don’t be late – Communicate all change.
In Part 2, we will discuss four of the key areas you as a Project Manager will need to focus on, to keep the day-to-day administration of the project moving. HRchitect is a full-service consulting company that can assist you in all areas of your Human Capital Management technology. We can provide strategic planning, system evaluation and selection assistance, project management services including client-side for any HCM project, and implementation assistance. View our website, www.hrchitect.com, to find additional areas we can help you get maximum potential for your HCM technology budget.
About John A. Hinojos, Vice President of Consulting Services
John is responsible for leading and building HRchitect’s consulting services operation. He joined HRchitect in 2000 and has over 25 years of Human Resource and HRMS experience, with more than a decade at a senior level. His primary areas of expertise include Human Capital Management systems, such as core HR, Employee Performance Management and Talent Management Systems. He also facilitates Strategic Planning sessions and assists with the HR and Payroll systems impact of Mergers and Acquisitions. John also is a Certified Professional of Human Resource Information (HRIP).
John co-developed and teaches Introduction to HR Systems, Successful HR Systems Selection, and Fundamentals of Project Management certification courses for the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). He has been a frequent speaker at industry events on human capital management software evaluation, selection and implementation.
Prior to joining HRchitect, John served as President of Triangle Business Solutions, an HRIS consulting firm in San Diego. He has also held HR and HR systems management positions at several Fortune 500 organizations, including W.R. Grace and The Seven-Up Company. John is a founding member of the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) and served on the IHRIM International Board of Directors for 10 years.