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shutterstock_151453055Even using well know project management software, managing complex implementation projects to completion can be character-building. However, by adopting some time-tested principles, projects can be completed on time and within budget.

Here are six tips to achieving better than good project management:

1. Agree expectations early

Like many things in life, successful project management requires a clear understanding by all participants of their roles and responsibilities and the expectations of them by other team members. Our approach is to conduct a workshop before work starts on the project (or when team members change) to negotiate and agree elements of the project such as the identity and responsibilities of key players in each team, deliverables, the project schedule including sprints and milestones, the mechanics of project reporting, change management and project variations and infrastructure and other resource requirements. These elements should be documented and revisited if the project team changes.

2. Keep it moving

Always create a project environment where adhering to the project schedule is understood to be crucial. Once the project schedule has been agreed to, it must be managed hard and be adhered to strictly by all parties. Communicate progress and problems openly, often and on a regular basis through regular but brief project meetings. If the project is falling behind schedule, if variations are introduced, if bugs appear, if enhancements are sought, action on these must be mutually agreed and, if necessary, the schedule must be varied so that the project is always working to a current and agreed timetable which remains sacrosanct.

3. Document, document, document

Particularly in large and complex projects, it is important to keep all documentation up to date. If the project is varied in any way, scope, specification, timetable or cost, the variation should be documented concurrently with its acceptance so that it does not get lost. It is too late to document either the work done or any variations to original project documents at the end of the project.

4. Take regular sneak peeks.

Research indicates that many complex projects end up not delivering what the end-user expected. Allowing the potential users regular sneak peeks or early and “hands-on” experience ensures that what is ultimately delivered is exactly what the user expected. For the developer, this ensures that expensive and time-consuming rework is not required and for the end-user the project is far more likely to be delivered on time and on budget.

5. Eliminate scope creep; manage bugs and enhancements

Any change from the original project documentation must be managed carefully. It’s important that Project Managers be alert for any Scope or Specification creep. This can only be identified if the original documentation is sufficiently detailed, mutually agreed and accessible. As the project is tested by both developers and users, a single document, perhaps consisting of two spreadsheets, should clearly document bugs and also requested enhancements. This document must be controlled by either the user or the developer Project Manager and becomes the basis for bringing the project to completion.

6. Have a crisp sign off and handover

There may be nothing more frustrating than a project “nearly finished” for weeks or months. A mutually agreed acceptance criteria is essential. A formal handover document, including provision for comments by each project team is essential. This should become the basis for an honest and critical assessment of how the project was implemented.

Bizcaps A+ Implementation Framework includes these and other elements for excellent implementations.