One question that we hear fairly often is “what makes for a successful project”? It’s a fair question, albeit a complicated one with a different answer for every project. However, there are some common elements that we’ve found over the years that make the difference between an outcome that everyone is happy with, and a project that drags on interminably and finally collapses. At Sincera, we manage network inventory projects regularly on behalf of our clients and have found the following three areas to be essential to success.
If there is one key to managing a successful project, it’s understanding what defines that success up front. That understanding is founded on a base of solid communication between the vendor and the client. The client must convey a clear sense of their desired outcome, which is usually something that is determined internally among the groups and departments that use the system. The vendor owes the client a plan for achieving that outcome, communicating the progress being made, and resolving the inevitable issues that arise along the way.
The vendor also owes the client honesty regarding the project. If the desired outcome is not technically possible, the vendor should state that to the client immediately, along with evidence supporting that conclusion. Also, if the desired outcome is outside of the budget for the project, the vendor should present a solution that gets as close as possible to the ideal within the constraints available.
If the project involves custom software solutions, a proper set of specifications is an absolute requirement before coding starts. Specifications can range from an email detailing what the code will and won’t do to a large set of documents covering technical and functional requirements. Without them both parties are likely to be disappointed in the outcome.
Any project needs an executive sponsor in order to be successful. That person doesn’t necessarily need to be involved on a daily basis, but there needs to be someone who can resolve open questions (e.g. “what kind of equipment model are we using?”) and who can bring departments together to hash out the issues quickly and efficiently.
Another important element in this area is to establish and understand the chain of command on both sides. It’s important to know who on the customer side has the authority to approve Statements of Work, Change Requests, etc. Projects can be derailed by improper changes, or by having a set of expectations (see above) change when you discover that the person you thought had approval authority has been overruled by the *real* executive sponsor.
Partner with the Right Vendor
you ask any services vendor, they’ll generally tell you that they can do whatever project you have in mind: after all, we all want work. However, there is a big difference between “we know this system inside and out” and “we can find people” or “we do it all”.
When choosing a vendor for network inventory solutions, here are some important considerations
- How much experience do they have in projects of this type? Are they familiar with the system in question? How deep is their knowledge base?
- How big is the vendor? Keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better. Is your project a serious concern for the vendor, or is it a side job while they pursue bigger fish?
- Does the vendor have the right resources for the project? Resources can be staff, tools, specialized knowledge, or even finances. It can also mean that the vendor can grow their team on the project as required.
- Can the vendor offer a coherent and understandable plan for bringing your project to a successful conclusion?
- What is the overall cost? The lowest hourly rate isn’t always the best value, especially if they take sinificantly more time to complete the work, or if they require too much assistance from the client’s staff.
- Can they get it right the first time? There’s only so much budget, and hardly anything is more expensive than doing a project over again.
While these points are not necessarily new or unique, they are still important to repeat because the essential requirements for success haven’t changed. Have someone in charge, hire a vendor that has the right knowledge and resources, define what success looks like and jointly create a plan to get there, and communicate all the way through to the end.