Project planning – generally
Jan 01

Project planning – generally

Write project plan <-> Project planning

The traditional way to create a project plan is to copy some old project plan and make some changes to it, and the schedule is then put into a spreadsheet.  A known project method may have been chosen, but only a few parts are followed. This causes the following problems:

  • Project plan document is created, but real project planning is not done.
  • A large document will be submitted for approval to the management, who do not get familiar with it.
  • Engaging in the agreed project methods is difficult because they are not clearly communicated.
  • The project plan and the contract contain indications of responsibilities that are not clearly understood.
  • Dynamic reporting is not built into the project, which is why management opportunities are lacking.
  • Throughout the project, there will be surprises and change requests that will increase the cost of the project.

There are three different ways to design a schedule

The project scheduling method strongly influences the reporting of the project. If you choose the fastest way to draw the schedule, you will lose the opportunity to follow the realization of it. Three examples for you:

1. Spreadsheet or Power Point or traditional tools

You have two options:

  • Make either a top-level schedule that’s easy to understand, but the content is unclear.
  • Make a detailed schedule, which is difficult to get an overall picture of, but activities can be found accurately.

Both versions have the same problem: they are static and no progress can be monitored in real time.

2. Dynamic, modern tool, traditional method

Projecttop vip area - Project planning generally - traditional project plan

The traditional way to design a project schedule is to design it in the easiest way possible. Put one action under one heading and dependencies build paths. For project management and reporting, the model is not the best. For information on one of your activity’s progress it is useful, but for understanding the overall picture, it is difficult.

See picture:

  • Readiness of definition is 39 %
  • Readiness of building is 33 %
  • Readiness of testing is 33 %
  • Readiness of training 43 %

So, the readiness of project is about 37%. Everything is running but nothing is ready.

3. Dynamic, modern time tool, Projecttop Process

Projecttop vip area - Project planning generally - Quality gate project plan

Our way to plan a project schedule is easy to report. Below is the same timetable drawn differently.
The idea is to make more deadlines / reporting points to schedule. Packages have been built into the timezone, so the readiness can be monitored. In this way, we can fully complete past activities.

The status looks like this:

  • Implementation Package 1. = 100% Ready
  • Implementation package 2. Work started

Development work is not completed and user acceptance test is not ready.

  • The resources focus on finalizing the previous step. Taking up of deployment tasks is delayed.
  • The project does not have time to lead to business change.
  • The business outcomes collapse a few months after the deployment, as the solution was not ready to be deployed.
  • Key resources workload will be a challenge. Business support takes up all resources
  • The staff are tired and angry.
  • Customers are angry because the service level deteriorates
  • The desired benefits will not be reached

Business change management and end user trainings are not completed

  • Users do not know how to use the system. Work is slowing down.
  • Users make mistakes that will degrade the customer service level.
  • Key resources workload will be challenging.Business support takes all resources
  • The staff are tired and angry.
  • Customers are angry because the service level deteriorates
  • The desired benefits will not be reached
Projecttop vip area - Deployment management - No go decision points

Go / NoGo decision points

Each development project has its own nature, as well as the deployments made in them. The deployment plan should include at least these Go / NoGo decision points.

Readiness to start Go-Live activities

  1. All development work is completed
  2. User acceptance test is ready
  3. Cutover practice is done and accepted
  4. No critical or high-level issues open. Only a few lower categories issues are open
  5. Business change management completed
  6. Cutover resource plan is ready and communicated
  7. Support plan is ready and communicated
  8. Communication plan is ready
  9. End-user training has been completed.

Readiness to start production use

  1. Pre-tasks are completed
  2. No critical open issues
  3. End user manuals are in place
  4. Normal business activities are completed in schedule.

Readiness to start production use

  1. All planned Cutover tasks are completed
  2. Production validation completed
  3. No critical or high-level open issues
  4. Project is available to support production use

Which problems may arise if the criteria for implementation are not met

Successful deployment is based on the focus of deployment. If the tasks in the previous steps have not yet been completed, this does not work. Then the focus is only on critical and visible issues. There is no time to think about how to prevent the emergence of future problems. A few examples:

Development work is not completed and user acceptance test is not ready.

  • The resources focus on finalizing the previous step. Taking up of deployment tasks is delayed.
  • The project does not have time to lead to business change.
  • The business outcomes collapse a few months after the deployment, as the solution was not ready to be deployed.
  • Key resources workload will be a challenge. Business support takes up all resources
  • The staff are tired and angry.
  • Customers are angry because the service level deteriorates
  • The desired benefits will not be reached

Business change management and end user trainings are not completed

  • Users do not know how to use the system. Work is slowing down.
  • Users make mistakes that will degrade the customer service level.
  • Key resources workload will be challenging.Business support takes all resources
  • The staff are tired and angry.
  • Customers are angry because the service level deteriorates
  • The desired benefits will not be reached

Three tight situations (But this does not happen naturally, if you use ProjectTOP Process)

1. The project does not have real visibility for the project’s degree of readiness. This is why the decision to switch to deployment is taken, even if there is really no readiness. Problems with the deployment will come as a surprise.

2. The go to deployment decision is made even if the criteria are not met. The schedule is king. The management believes that the company’s solvency is sufficient to overcome the problems that may arise. Generally, however, the number of problems is surprising. The number of visible costs is high but the amount of hidden costs and customer losses is even greater.

3. The timing of deployment must be delayed. Usually the most difficult decision, but the most affordable. Prolonging the project is costly, but is generally cheaper than deployment of an unfinished solution.

Projecttop vip area - Deployment management - cutover management

Cutover management

Let me present the cutover management by example.
An example case:

  • Large business critical development project.
  • Company is working 18 hours per day, 7 days per week.
  • Maintaining the level of service is important
  • Challenging multi-vendor environment
  • The activities are supervised by the authorities.
  • The cutover from current solutions to new solutions will take place during the weekend

Activities done before cutover weekend

The following activities have been done before the cutover weekend

  1. Development work is completed
  2. User acceptance test is ready and accepted
  3. Cutover practice is done and accepted
  1. All critical or high-level issues are solved. Only a few lower categories issues are open.
  2. Business change management is completed
  3. Cutover resource plan is ready and communicated
  1. Support plan is ready and communicated
  2. Communication plan is ready
  3. End-user training has been completed.

Cutover schedule from Wednesday to Monday

Schedule at the top level

Wednesday:

  • All pre-tasks done before 16:00
  • Go/NoGo “Readiness to start Go-Live activities”
  • A small celebration to thank members for the good work.

Thursday = Day off

  • Resources are resting to be able to do the weekend work.
    This is more important than you can imagine. A hard weekend is coming up and
    you need a well-rested project group.

Friday

  • Execution of planned activities
  • Make sure everything is ready for cutover.
  • Make sure the risks do not materialize

Saturday

  • Business finalizes work on current systems
  • Come Saturday there must not be any work left undone, so that on Sunday they can focus on the use of the new system.

Saturday – Sunday night

  • Action time 7:00 pm to 2:00 am.
  • Go/NoGo decision: “Readiness to start actual Cutover “
  • Downtime starts
  • Migration from current to new solution.
  • Production validations
  • Go/NoGo decision: “Readiness to start production use”
  • Communication that we are ready to start production use.

Sunday –>

  • Production use starts
  • The project supports business
  • Follow up status meeting
  • Final Go/NoGo decision!

  • All pretasks are done
  • Go-decision
  • A small celebration to thank for the good work
Wednesday

  • Day off.
  • Resources are resting to make the weekend work
Thursday

  • Planned activites
  • Make sure everything is ready for cutover
Friday

  • Business finalize works at current systems
Saturday

  • Action time 19:00 pm to 02:00 am.
  • Planned cut over activities
Saturday - Sunday night

  • Production use starts at 08:00
  • The project supports business
Sunday -->

My activities / personal worklists

For the sake of success, it is important for everyone to know their own tasks. What should be done and by what time. For this purpose, ProjectTOP My activities – view has been developed.

Below the picture in My activities view. Let’s focus on the view

  • If Status is Open – you can execute activity
  • If status is Waiting – You should wait, before activity will be opened.
  • Deadline and time = Time when the activity must be completed

Observatory / Dynamic listing for all activities

Do not even think about managing critical deployment with excel and emails. The Observatory is a dynamic, all-in-one view of activities. After you’ve released a Deployment Plan from Gantt, you can follow the implementation of the Observatory in real-time

Below the picture in observatory view. Let’s focus on the view

  • Assigned to = Person to promote the activity
  • Activity type: Open issue= A finding or a question. A decision and actions are needed to resolve.
  • Activity type: Defect = Error in solution, master data, interface etc.
  • If Status is Open – Activity is released for execution
  • If status is Waiting = The execution of the activity has not yet been authorized to start.
  • Start date = Planned start date
  • End date (deadline) and time = Time when the activity must be completed

You can create views to the observatory and share them with the users.

Actual Cutover – how to organize at a critical time

In the case of critical business deployment, it makes sense to gather people in the same space. Of course, this is not always possible, but management is easier if the project group is on site.

But the number of people in the same space should be limited. There should only be people who have activities. Insufficient people slow down the promotion of the right activities. Now, it focuses only on the essentials.

It’s important that you remember the food supply. If work is done outside of office space, there should be enough energy available for resources.

Get started actively. Collect everything in the scene and go through the events of the coming hours. You will probably have to resort to these phrases:

  • We have been prepared for this for the whole project.
  • If you have nothing to do, then do not steal the others time
  • Don’t panic. We will certainly be able to solve all the prevalent problems
  • If anyone can do this, then it is us!
  • Let’s get started. and remember to be careful out there

Findings and repairing

The easiest step is the management of the planned activities. Solving of unplanned activities reveals your leadership skills.  Do not let issues accumulate as a problem. Here is the way to do it.

  • Plan issue reporting and the solving process
  • Communicate how to report issues and how you can get support.
  • Each finding should be registered to ProjectTOP, so that the need of support can be derived. Remember to use ProjectTOP’s e-mail integration and form functionality.
  • Make sure the support is provided from the right level. The best professionals are solving the most challenging problems, and easy business users are responsible for the user’s problems.
  • Make sure the reporting of findings is of high quality to make the solutions effective.
  • Book the status meetings in advance. The meetings will assess the situation, resolve open issues and agree on how to proceed.

People and you

Heroic stories are nice to read, but painstaking to create. Remember that key resources need to get rest in order to be able to work efficiently. Just as you yourself. It’s no shame to rest. It’s embarrassing if everyone finds you in a panic because you’re tired.

The resource plan must be based on the assumption that work can be done within normal working hours. This way you have the resources available if unexpected problems arise.  If the resources can not afford to respond to the findings, then you are in trouble. The business is beginning to suffer because the project’s solving ability is poor.

Jyrki Autio

CEO of Projecttop He’s often hired to save projects that are far behind schedule, are going over budget, or aren’t meeting quality standards. He also commonly trains people in specialist and consulting companies that sell project management or software development services.