Trite as it sounds: one of the most important aspects of successful IT project management is getting the basics right.
All too often, a high level view – centering primarily on the desired outcome – is taken of the project, without taking the time to put the basic building blocks in place. These days there is a vast array of project management software available and companies often make the erroneous assumption that, having invested in the ‘right’ software, the project’s success is a given. But utilizing effective project software is only one part of getting the project delivered on time and within budget.
Having a project plan (which includes a schedule) is critical to successful project delivery. However, even this most basic of steps is often not properly executed. In fact, the plan and schedule are often thought to be one and the same. But this could not be further from the truth: the plan is the ‘how’ of the project, which controls the rules of the game; while the schedule is the ‘when’, clearly setting out milestones and the relevant dates by which they must be executed.
Simply put: the project schedule is a subset of the project plan – it is one of the elements of the project plan and details when elements of the project are to be delivered and it can be used to derive the costs of the project. The project plan (which generally addresses the nine knowledge areas of project management) sets out what is going to be delivered, the time frame and cost.
One of the most common problems with project management is that, due to the (often unrealistic) pressure of delivery deadlines, the project sometimes gets underway without the plan having been put in place. With the clock ticking, and expectations high, project managers are often not given the time and space to create the project plan properly.
And so, before it even gets underway, the project is undermined. When it comes to project management and, most importantly, successful project delivery, stakeholders – from the top down – would be well advised to remember the words of the French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”.