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IT Project Management: Best Practices in Small-Scale Engagements

In an age of belt-tightening and doing more with less, not every IT project warrants an executive sponsor, someone who assumes the role of full-fledged project manager. During smaller engagements, the engineer, developer or technician often takes on the PM role, as well as the role of consultant and delivery agent — inheriting all the customer-facing project-tracking duties involved in a project.

Be S.M.A.R.T. about IT Development

If you should find yourself in such an expanded role, remember to be S.M.A.R.T. about IT development and follow these best practices.

During your kick off call, when you are reviewing the statement of work during the project's inception you must ensure that your project goals and milestones are:

Specific: Specificity reduces misunderstandings.

Measurable: A task that is not measurable will never be completed. How would you know when it's finished?

Agreed upon by all parties: If a milestone or task is not agreed upon by all parties, it is not worth doing.

Realistic: It is the task of the delivery engineer to determine what is realistic and craft a plan that takes into account the client approval processes, change management restrictions and human resources.

Time Constrained: A task or milestone that has no time constraints will always be finished "tomorrow" and never today.

On small-scale engagements in which a customer has contracted for a finite number of hours of service (for example, less than 40), the kickoff call may be the only structured status meeting that occurs prior to onsite project delivery (or production migration). This makes the meeting more urgent: it's your chance to open communication channels that are crucial to success.

And while you might think project goals are apparent to everyone, experience tells us that sometimes this simply isn't the case. In fact, it is not uncommon for key personnel to have never seen the SOW (statement of work).

Think about it: representatives from divisions such as network, application, firewall, network operations center (NOC), security operations center (SOC), identity management and the Change Control Board were most likely not involved in crafting the statement of work (SOW) — nor were they consulted prior to the contract being signed. Although the project's success is dependent on their work and expertise, they aren't familiar with the project's goals. It's a mistake to assume they are in the loop, and as manager of the project, you must educate all the key players about all elements of the project.

Moving beyond covering the statement of work, the project goals, and how you plan to complete the project, , you should also bring your sharpest, most probing questions to the meeting. Your goal should be to uncover obstacles encountered in the past and flesh out the details on how to overcome them.

Best practice of all: Remembering that the only dumb question is the one you didn't ask.

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