IT Project Readiness Check – What Every PM should do Before the Work Start

Liza Bondarenko

When starting a new project, we want to make sure that our customer gets the expected result in time and on budget. We feel reliable for the success of our customer’s endeavor.

Statistics from various sources show that just 30% to 64% of IT projects achieve their goals within the established budget and time and we want all our projects to be on the achieving side. Knowing what makes projects successful, we at Sigma Software carefully monitor the implementation and usage of best practices in project management. It helps us foresee and canvass many potential problems and risks at the project initiation stage.

Even the most professional pilots must go through the Before-Takeoff Checklist:

  • Auxiliary fuel pump — Off;
  • Flight controls — Free and correct;
  • Tools and radios — Checked and set, etc.

Starting an IT project

One of such best practices is Project Readiness Check, aiming to improve the chances of the projects we develop. Our Project Managers undergo a readiness check when starting a new project. They fill in a readiness checklist and discuss the degree of readiness of the team and the entire project’s infrastructure with representatives of our Project Management Office. Thus, we make sure that the Project Manager has all the needed information to plan and manage the project.

Below are some examples of the questions from this checklist:

  • We know the customer’s limitations in budget and time and customer’s priorities, such as technical expertise, level of vendor’s commitment, expected quality level, etc.;

  • There is a clear connection between everything we offered and what the customer requested – priorities and limitations;

  • The project team members possess technical skills required to deliver what the customer requested, including known limitations and priorities;

  • The project team has a sufficient number of domain knowledge holders to deliver according to our obligations;

  • The project has passed the initial risk analysis. We are able to provide and implement a sustainable mitigation plan for risks that might appear at any stage of the project development and support.

Project Managers fill in this checklist before the project start since it can serve as an additional guarantee that they will consider all nuances, which could subsequently turn into serious risks for the project. When our customer’s business success is at stake, we make everything possible to win the top by joined forces.

Getting back to the checklist, the Project Manager does not briefly answer “yes/no” to each question but has to give a detailed comment with arguments why he or she answered exactly that way. After that, the checklist must be validated by the Project Management Office members. In Sigma Software, the PMO team includes Delivery Director, Deputy Delivery Director, Quality Director, Chief Technical Officer, and PM Coaches.

Typically, the validation is conducted in the form of a meeting, where a Project Manager reveals details of the project, summarizes the current level of preparation, and shares one’s thoughts on the readiness to start the project. Another goal of the meeting is to get an outside view of the project and opinions of the Project Management Office members to understand what to improve to raise the project's chances to success.

Here are some examples of findings from recently conducted project readiness meetings:

Finding Unassigned Functions

The customer asked us for a team extension of 3 developers to work on the front-end of their platform. After talking with the customer, we realized that they completely rely on our expertise in creating a usable and intuitive UI. However, there was no dedicated UI/UX specialist on either our’s or the customer’s side.

At the meeting, we discovered the risk that front-end developers will not be able to meet customer’s expectations and create a design compliant with trends and best practices in the field of design and usability from scratch.

Finding Unassigned Functions

As a result, we convinced the customer to reconsider the team composition and to replace one developer with a designer for the first few months of the project development.

Clarifying the Customer’s Expectations for Better Work Planning

We got a project where non-functional requirements for the solution were not determined and load testing was not planned. Based on the project vision and mission, the Project Management Office members suggested that immediately after the MVP release the app’s traffic might be high.

After the project readiness meeting, the Project Manager got a task to clarify customer’s expectations regarding the app traffic and load, and also check the relationship between the requirements and the future solution. Although the load testing was postponed by the customer, the discussion of the issue resulted in a better understanding of the customer’s market entry strategy, the target audience, and proposed optimization of the MVP scope.

Adjusting Specialists’ Engagement Schedule to Meet the Deadline

In another project, when planning a delivery timeline, employees’ vacations and some task interdependencies were not considered. Since it was critically important to deliver the project on schedule, the early identification of planning inaccuracies allowed us to make provisions for additional engagement of the required specialists.

The readiness check procedure was implemented in Sigma Software less than a year ago and its effect is already obvious – the level of Project Managers’ awareness at the project initiation phase significantly increased. In addition, the meetings with the Project Management Office became shorter, as well as the list of recommendations after the meetings.

Project Management Office members continue analyzing factors that contributed to the successes or pitfalls of the projects we deliver. Such analysis gives a clear understanding of what we can foresee at the project initiation phase to minimize potential risks. By eliminating possible problems and clearing any inconsistencies, we reduce development costs for our customers, shorten time-to-market for their solutions, and prevent miscommunication.

There is no universal tool to get an amazing result. Every project, like every customer, is unique. One of the main collaboration success factors is that customers have ideas, and we have the experience to provide the solution. It is very important to organically combine these two elements in the right proportions – and only then we can get the result that will satisfy both sides.

When choosing a provider, ensure that the company you are going to engage uses some kind of a readiness tool. The presence of such tools serves as an indicator of the maturity of the provider’s processes. Over the years of providing IT consulting services, we got convinced that the project readiness check procedure is effective, so we apply it to all the projects we start, regardless of the domain.

If you want to learn more about our project readiness check approach and how it helps us significantly increase performance and customers’ satisfaction, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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