Lesson Learned from one of my successful ProjectMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
“Journey through a Master Piece”
I have been a lucky enough as a project manager to be involved in over 100 projects during my career and I would like to share few important lesson learnt from one of my most successfully completed project.
This project was a large scale, public sector project having worth of over 300 million and I had to manage a team of approximately 50 resources throughout the life-cycle. The project duration was 4 years and had two sub-phases; first phase was 1 year comprising of software development and deployment and second phase was 3 years of support services. Apart from Software Development, it required Migration of important and sensitive data which was over 70 TB in size. The project was funded by World Bank as loan. Sensitive data about to be shifted without disturbing the live system.
Team of Consultants
One of the primary success factor in this project success was that 4 different teams of consultants were involved apart from the regular project team.
The first team was a local consultant which was directly hired by the customer. That consultant was involved in all phase of the project staring with initiation phase till the end of closing phase. This consultant closely work with team of the especially for operational aspects.
The second team of consultants was hired by the Government and was also involved throughout the project life-cycle. They were mainly involved in reviewing and monitoring the project analytics at high level. This team was regularly reporting to the highest Government official regarding the project progress.
The third team of consultants was hired by the Funding Agency and was composed of some of the top foreign experts. They conducted frequent project reviews and audits working closely with senior project team. The funds were only release once this gives their approval that the work has been completed as per agreed specifications.
The forth team of Consultants was basically mixture of different 3rd party Consultants from around the world who were all the domain experts in their respective areas. This team was assigned with responsibility of conducting one time complete project audits. These audits were related to Risk Assessment, Code Quality, Application Design, Infrastructure and Databases. These audits were conducted at the end of the software development phase. This team’s sign off was a mandatory contractual requirement to move the project from development phase to deployment phase. Each of the consultant team played its role effectively and made sure that the project passes through all the check points in each process of the project life cycle.
Customer Understanding and Response
Another important factor in the success of this project was that customer was very comprehensively clear about the requirements and exactly knew what he wanted from this project. The customer also had a very good understanding of the different Methodologies and Technologies involved in this project including the challenges related to them. The customer was readily available throughout the project and gave its due share of time. There were some “Change Requests” raised during the project but they were mostly to solve an issue or cover a risk. Since the customer was well aware of the requirements, so there was no rapid or drastic changes to the project scope. The other good thing about the customer was that it very quick to respond to any queries or sign-offs. The customer was very open to rapidly communicate both positive and negative feedback regarding the work completed and delivered.
Executive Management Support
Another key factor in project success was the support from my Executive Management throughout the project. There were regular review meeting with Executive Management to review project progress and risks. In case of any issue, there was always a healthy support from them and they provided some valuable guidance as well. The Executive Management made it really easy for me pro-actively plan for the potential risks and also provided me with required resources, in a very timely manner, to take care of the risks once they are triggered. In addition to that, there was regular appreciation from the Executive Management to make sure that the team morale is at highest level.
One area that was always focus properly, throughout the project was the Risk Management. This practice lead to successful project lead to successful project delivery as many of the risks with high probability and magnitude were pro-actively identified and assessed leading because of which we were able to effective control all those risks.
Since there was some very sensitive data that needed to be shifted to new system and that too without interfering any work in any of the 150 live centers around the country. So everything need to be planned and executed in very careful and proper manner. To cover this risk, database experts were involved right from the start rather than just around the actual activity. Secondly a very comprehensive backup and revert plan was strategized to make sure the live systems can revert back to old version in case of any failure with new release. The migration process was conducted center-wise and the migration process for each center was further divided into small parts with each having some check-points to make sure there is no data loss. The database team also worked hard to develop procedures to maintain the integrity and consistency of the data.
Other risks were also managed properly using effective risk management strategy. Regular meetings were conducted with Executive Management to review and keep risk register updated. As mentioned earlier, the Executive Management extended their Full support cater any potential risk to the project.
Processes and Documentation
Although it is advised to implement all sort of processes and documentation to maximize chances of project success but unfortunately most of the time only some of them, especially documentation, are implemented in their true sense. The reason in most cases is that these activities are considered as extra or unproductive.
Agile methodology (Scrum) was used in this project in its true sense. The project started, with formation of Backlog and writing User Stories along with their Acceptance Criteria. The Sprint was kept at 4 weeks of duration. Each Sprint had its respective Sprint Planning Meeting with all team participating and selecting stories based on priority after discussions with the Product Owner. Daily Stand-up meetings were conducted to keep everyone on the same page. Each Sprint had a Sprint Review and Retrospective meetings. A proper tool was used to plan and monitor project as well as team collaboration and other activities like writing User Stories (along with all conversations and Acceptance Criteria), check in Source Code and log work and other progress notes etc. The Kanban board was used to monitor progress along with Burn-down Charts to monitor sprint progress. All the code was checked-in on daily basis and the QA team also wrote all test cases as well as performing their execution through the same tool. The tool was fully available to the customer, all the time, to make sure everything is fully transparent.
All kind of project documentation was done including Project Charter, QA Plan, Risk Management Plan, Configuration Management Plan, Project Execution Strategy, Project Architecture, Data Migration Strategy and Project Management Plan etc. All the documentation were kept in the same Project Management tool in a centralized repository. All the documentation was also reviewed and Signed-off by customer as well.
Proper processes were implemented in every phase of the project and that was the reason this project not only successfully passed through ISO 9001 Audit but also was comfortably cleared by all the Consultants for their respective audits.
Another important area that was very well managed was the Communication Management. A proper plan was formed in the start of the project and it was made sure that it being followed religiously throughout the project. All relevant Stakeholders were kept updated with proper reports. All the communication and progress was carefully documented to refer to any future requirement.
All documentation receive proper feedback and then sign-off by relevant stakeholder. Each required artifact was properly followed-up to make sure that no relevant feedback for action is left out or missed by any stakeholder.
One of the most important element in this project success was that the best possible team was deployed on this project. As a Project Manager, I had never had this issue of the project being under resourced in any department and in addition to that the resources deployed were the top most and experienced professionals in the industry. As a result of deploying appropriate and experience team, the quality of work was of the highest standards. The team followed processes religiously and methodologies were utilized very effectively. The team was able to actively forecast and manage risks throughout the project.
The team had a very good understand and gelled together very well as a team. The team was built around motivated individuals. They all put in their maximum efforts and made sure they executed the project making sure they achieve “Technical Excellence”. In their work. They all strictly followed office timings, coming to office on time and leave on time and completed their assigned work. Because of this, there were no extra office hours were required or they had to work on any holiday to meet the targets.
To summarize the Lessons Learned that attributed to this project success were;
- Involvement of multiple teams of Independent Consultants
- Review with 3rd party Consultants around the world for their project specific expert judgment to comply with international industrial bench-marking
- Check list and check points were established on very early stage to perform Development Audits and Scope Validations
- Mandatory internal and external contracts established for phase wise sign off and technical handover to ensure smooth delivery of work.
- Good level of requirement and domain understanding by the Customer
- Changes managed through “Change Request” to avoid the risk of scope creeping and rapid or drastic changes.
- Careful and quick feedback and response from internal / external stakeholders, vendors and customer
- Valuable timely support, guidance and appreciation to Project Manager and team from the Senior Management and Executives
- Effective Risk Management with pro-actively response plans for the potential risks
- Proper implementation of agreed processes, configurations, standards, acceptance criteria and documentation being followed systematically throughout the project life cycle
- Best possible and experienced resource assigned to the project and ensured the highest level of “Delivery Excellence”