Some IT projects will be small and the end result can be reached very quickly. Other more lengthy projects which aim to deliver a lot may take many months or years to implement. Long projects are often very intensive and can quickly erode the enthusiasm and momentum of the project team if not managed correctly. Typically long projects are broken down into several mini prototype runs to test aspects such as installation, data migration, business process, hardware, integration and user acceptance testing. With this approach the tangible business benefits defined at the start of the project are often not realised until the production environment is rolled out at the end of your project. A closer look at the business drivers for the project may unearth considerable benefits which can be achieved in the earlier stages of the project. This may not work for all projects but if a chance exists to add real business benefits early on without causing project overruns why shouldn’t it be done?
A prime example may be a business unit which is in line for new software, does not have a legacy system or data, does not require integration and has simple business processes to map to the new system. Why should this business unit wait several years for the project to end before a week or two is spent getting that business unit what they need out of the project? Furthermore, reviewing the business drivers for that business unit may unearth a considerable return on investment through delivering earlier – a tangible business benefit earlier on in the project! What will that do to the morale of the staff, project team and stakeholders? Buy-in to the project and momentum are two powerful aspects of successful project delivery.
Of course the opposite may be true for the aforementioned example. The business drivers, benefits and risks are assessed and the payback simply doesn’t warrant the effort. The point is to spend some time really looking at business drivers to see whether tangible business benefits can be reached early on and throughout the project. The momentum of a juiced up project team completing and delivering benefits that are welcomed and celebrated through the life of a project can be extremely beneficial on many levels within the team and organisation.
Keep in mind the following when looking for early wins:
• Focus on maximum return on investment and don’t detract from the end goals of the project
• Pick implementation resources well. Better communication skills and adaptability over technical ability will provide more cohesion with the business units
• Communicate well with the project team and stakeholders. What does the earlier business benefit mean to the project, the users and where to next? Keep up the momentum
• Enjoy the win. Delivering better business should be celebrated
Keep the hammer down! Take the lessons and move on while everyone is hot. Project teams and users run hot after success. Also think about putting the item of “not exploring early ROI wins” as a risk item in your next project. Early ROI doesn’t just benefit stakeholders, it juices up the whole team.