For projects around 1-2 person months you need some, but not all, of the PRINCE2 artifacts. Whenever I have specified planning requirements for medium sized projects such as this I focus on the below.
At this level, planning becomes key. There are two major deliverables from the project planning process – the PID and the work plan.
The Project Initiation Document
The Project Initiation Document or PID is the primary deliverable from the specification process and describes all aspects of the project at a high level. Even for a medium sized project time spent on the PID pays dividends later. Even a cut down PID should contain information such as:
- Project overview – Why is the project taking place? What are the business drivers?
- Objectives – What will be accomplished by the project?
- Scope – What deliverables will be created? What major features will be implemented?
- Organization – Who is the sponsor? Who is on the project team? What other stakeholders are there?
So far this is a 3-4 page document. In addition you should have an excel spreadsheet containing
- Assumptions and Risks – What events are you taking for granted and what do you think might go wrong? What is the probability of occurence and the impact (H/M/L is fine). What mitigation steps can you take and who is responsible for tracking the risk.
Create a workplan, including milestones, tasks and named resources. If appropriate use MS Project, otherwise Excel.
Once the project has been planned, execution of the work can begin.
Monitor the schedule weekly or twice-weekly.
Identify activities that have been completed during the previous time period and update the workplan to show that they are finished. See if the project will be completed within the original parameters. If not, look for ways to accelerate these activities to get you back on track and inform stakeholders ASAP. A small slippage on a medium sized project is highly visible and can cause issues out of all proportion to the project size.
Look for warning signs
These could include
- Activities that should be completed are still being worked on.
- Reliance on unscheduled overtime to hit deadlines
- Team morale starts to decline
- QA and testing activities starts to be cut back from the original schedule.
If these occur, put together a plan to ensure that the project stays on track. If you cannot successfully manage through the problems, raise an issue through project management support.
Watch for scope change requests and scope creep
After the basics of managing the schedule, managing scope is the most important activity required to control a project. Many project failures are not caused by problems with estimating or team skillsets, but by the project team working on deliverables that were not part of the original requirements. Even if you have good scope management procedures in place, watch for scope creep.
Most of us know to invoke scope change management procedures if we are asked to add a major new function or a major new deliverable to their project. However, sometimes we do not recognize the small scope changes that get added over time. Scope creep is a term used to define a series of small scope changes that are made to the project without scope change management procedures being used. With scope creep, a series of small changes, none of which appear to affect the project individually, can accumulate to have a significant overall impact on the project.
Assess risks throughout the project
Once the project begins, periodically perform an updated risk assessment to determine if other risks have surfaced that need to be managed.
Resolve issues when they arise
All projects will have issues that need to be dealt with and resolved. If possible deal with these immediately before you get swamped. At a minimum track them via an actions or issues list at every team or stakeholder meeting.
There are always complexities dealing with technology and integration, even in small and medium sized projects. Project management involves dealing with unanticipated events no matter how large or small the project is. These practices will not prevent that, but they might at least make the environment they take place in more stable and manageable.