IT Projects Advice – how to kick customers and users

IT Projects Advice
IT Projects Advice

IT Projects Advice

The following is some IT Projects Advice on how to run successful projects.

The biggest suppliers to the project are usually the internal or external customers of the project. It is a lot easier to manage suppliers to the project who are not customers.

It is a lot harder to manage customers or users when they are in the role of supplier. They provide information at all stages, sign-off, facilities, test data etc. When they deliver something late, e.g. information, it is difficult to report them to their superiors without causing friction.

Any delay to the project they cause, they will not report as such. They will put it down to you. You, therefore, had better fix it.

IT Projects Advice – Creating Mechanisms on Project

It is important to put a mechanism in place at the start of the project which ensures that any late supplying of information etc. is put in a document and escalation is automatic.

There should be agreement with the senior project sponsor or senior customer, i.e. whoever is ordering the software product. The project sponsor is usually happy to do this. They do not want delays to the project, with the resulting cost increases.

Delays Caused by Supplier

When a supplier causes any delay to the project, including the customer, you should issue a  Delay Note.

This delay note should document the cost in terms of scheduled days, elapsed time and money. You should give this to a senior IT person, perhaps the head of IT or of software development to pass on to the project sponsor.

This escalation process should be automatic. That’s so that the person who escalates it can say to their customer contact that it is part of the process.

If the project is for an external customer, the costs of the delay should pass on to them. It should state this in the initial contract.

Put in Place Escalation Process

At one company where I was a Project Controller, we put this Escalation Process in place with a customer from a major oil company in Holland.

After a few minor infringements which I ignored, my equivalent at the Dutch company (let‘s call him Frederik – especially as that was his name), was late with some test data, which caused us project delays.

I immediately reported it to my Managing Director, who then made the call to the Project Sponsor, Hans, at the Dutch company. This was on Friday afternoon.

I got a call from Frederik first thing on Monday morning. ‘I‘m very unhappy and upset’ he said in a low menacing growl.

‘What happened’ said I. ‘Was the weather in Holland not very nice over the weekend’?

‘The weather was fine’ he continued in the menacing growl. He was quite a large fellow, and I was glad that the conversation was over the phone, where I am a lot braver.

IT Projects Advice – Severe Dressing Down

He explained that he had been called into the office late on Friday and had a severe dressing down from Hans, his boss, several layers higher. His anger had not dissipated any over the weekend.

He said that I should have spoken to him first.

I gave him examples of when I had spoken to him first without getting the necessary results. I also said that the process had been agreed at the beginning of the project with both himself and the project sponsor. It is an automatic process. I would have been in trouble myself if I had not triggered it. He grudgingly agreed that I had to do it.

No Trouble Afterwards

We had an excellent relationship in the future. That’s especially as I was helping him get kudos back home for a successful and on-time, within-budget project. I also had no trouble from him again regarding delays.

Hans was a small, very nice, very pleasant Dutch guy from Dutch Indonesia. However, he could turn into a very fierce, very menacing little man if you upset him. He would remind me of one of those Japanese prison guards when the prisoners were upsetting him in any way.

Incidentally, it was part of the process that the customer would pay for any delays on the project caused by them. They paid up in full, after a little harassment from myself, and a meeting between myself, Hans, Frederik, and my Managing Director at the Amsterdam Hilton at Amsterdam Airport.

My boss was actually three-quarters of an hour late. He thought the meeting was at the English time of two o‘clock in the afternoon. I had the agreement all fixed up by the time he got there. However, he did have a nice cup of tea before flying out.

IT Projects Advice – Most Important Process

This is one of the two most important processes to put in place when you are setting up a project (along with the Supply Chain mentioned previously in the series). If you don‘t put it in place, and you don‘t follow it, I guarantee that your project will come out well over budget, and probably late too.

I‘ve seen it happen so many times (on projects other people were running, I hasten to add). You do this, and you have the bravery to follow it up, or you fail. It‘s as simple as that.

We will follow up with more IT Projects Advice.

For more great advice on running projects click on Project Management.

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