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How to smash it as a project sponsor

Colin Ellis | Nov. 28, 2014
Project management greatness awaits those who can master governance, use an agile development environment, motivate teams, take planning seriously, and pick the right manager.

When it comes to selecting your project manager don't fall into the trap of solely looking at the types of projects they've managed before.

You need to assess their personality, collaboration approaches, problem solving skills and whether they know what it takes to get stuff done -- that's what project management is all about, not what qualification they have.

Remember, it's your neck that's on the block if the project goes belly up, so you need the best person for the job and sometimes that comes at a cost.

When you've got the right person in place, you need to continue to build the relationship as well as the trust and get regular updates on how things are going.

Ensure they're on top of the things that could go wrong (risks), the things that are going wrong (issues) and the forward plan of action (schedule). A weekly half hour meeting should do the trick. Anything less than that and you run the risk of being too far removed to be able to see what is actually happening.

Big projects are a thing of the past -- break them up
Remember those two year IT projects we used to have? I know it seems li....wait, what do you mean you still have a few? Those days are long gone. They were always over time, always over budget and always over staffed, usually with *cough* consultants *cough*.

One of the greatest things that the agile manifesto gave us (note: it's not new, it's been around for 13 years) is the principle 'deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.'

This principle is not just applicable to software. It's applicable to everything. So break it up. Now, if you're a Neil Sedaka fan -- and who isn't frankly -- you'll know that breaking up is hard to do.

But think of the benefits of this approach. You have greater control over what's being delivered, a great degree of certainty around people, equipment, budgets and deliverables, and you can deliver value quickly to the customer.

Agile also aids understanding of a project and allow people to celebrate incremental success.

Of course, breaking projects up into stages is the job of the project manager and they need to have a number of approaches and techniques at their disposal to be able to do so.

Your project management office (if you have one) should provide this support, or else you need to ensure that when you recruit the project manager, you've asked this question. So in a long winded way, I guess I just wanted to prove Neil Sedaka wrong. Finally.


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