For a follow-up to Managing Gift registry integration, we decide to highlight a small to medium Gift registry integration. However, before we start just a few words about large software projects (million-dollar plus). For our larger integrations each phase is highly detailed, due to the amount of effort and cost associated with large integrations. The adage “time is money” is particularly true the further along a large project gets, and changes are asked for. The later in the project a change is required, the more it costs everyone.* A great project manager can sometimes mitigate/minimize the cost; however, time will still be lost.
Define Project Milestones
Milestones could be deliverable’s or phases of the project. Deliverable’s could be a sign off on design or a test site of the new system.
Phases work well for medium to large projects. Phases could include discovery phase/planning phase, implementation phase, etc. I know many would say “what? That sounds like waterfall development cycle!?” My experience is, that large projects and dealing with decision makers (business leaders), is they need to know the “how and what”. Which means you need “Discovery”. Remember the goal of project management is to meet the goal of the major stakeholders and customers. You can decide as an integrator how you manage your in-house development anyway you like. However, I doubt a multi-million dollar plus contract will get signed without discovery, and some detailed “deliverable’s” aka requirements, including time frames.
Discovery means “Discover” what is required for the project to be deemed a success. These will be considered your “key metric indicators” used by your customers. Some common high-level success metrics include;
Is the project visible? Can your customer see the project coming to life? Mock-ups are great for project visibility. Having a test site, showing sample screens is another great way to make the project visible.
Sometimes the only way a project integration is deemed successful is if it’s done by a certain date. If the key to success is to have the project by a date. Then you better manage expectations of what can be accomplished in the time frame allowed. Be careful to avoid promising too much, usually success is defined by delivering what you agreed to at a minimum.
Does success have to do with hitting a budget? Everyone knows you can throw more money at a project to get it done quicker, however, I didn’t see too many of these projects get funded unless there’s a pretty good plan in place as to how the money will be spent. It’s usually the one’s where the project is thought out and everyone has a decent understanding of the timeline, and requirements.
For project success, the bottom line is, find out who the key stake holders are and find out their expectations. Also make sure you write down those expectations. Try to be detailed as possible about the expectations. Such as “The Gift registry will match the font’s and colors used in our main website.” Or “order processing will be real-time using our Payment Gateway or Cart.”
Two good things come out of these types of details. First the customer gets to see them, giving them ample time to correct or confirm the details. Secondly, your team gets to see them, which gives them a heads up” on what will be required, and the type of effort involved.
A few words about teams; There are so many benefits to sharing the project details with your team early and often. First, they can work as an auditor of the project, particularly pieces they as individuals, have experience working on. They can use their experience on similar projects, to help determine if we will hit the deadlines and milestones set for it. Secondly, your team can spot things that you and the stakeholders missed. Potential drawbacks to technology used, or suggestions and alternatives, such as using open source for some infrastructure. Lastly, trust is built. Your team learns to trust you more, as you show your trust in them. Your trust in them allows project decisions to go quicker, and team members “buy in” grows. Which in turns raise the quality and professionalism of the software project. Nothing is better, than working with a team that understands the goals, and has made the goals their own.
We talk a lot about understanding the stakeholders/customers, in the end, everyone wants the same thing. A great finished product/project that meets or exceeds expectations. A great project starts with great communication.
At Marcole we specialize in software integration projects. Our projects range from zero integration, meaning just a link to our hosted solution, to projects the integrate with all your internal systems. Give us a call or email when you are ready for more information.
*Heerkens, G. (2014). The cost of change. PM Network, 28(1), 22–23 – https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/business-project-cost-change-management-3823