If you’ve been working on a project with my Services team this year, you may have already experienced a new milestone that we introduced into our project delivery methodology – the “Health Check” review.
I’d like to share some of our thoughts behind introducing this into our methodology from my personal blog. As with many changes in behaviour, this one came from identifying what ‘wasn’t working’ in our approach in some situations.
Risk Management is important with any project but unless formal checkpoints are planned at the outset, reviews can sometimes fall off the radar while everyone is focused on development of the solution.
Traditionally, a large project would have a Steering Committee of executives and business sponsors who meet on a monthly (or at least regular) basis to get a formal project report on the status, including risks, issues, significant changes, and overages. A Steering Committee helps to mitigate risk by enforcing a degree of reporting and executive attention at regular intervals.
However, I find less customers are forming Steering Committees in recent years. Also, for small to medium-sized projects, it has always been less common. So without this enforced review during the project, the requirement to cover issues and risks falls into the team’s weekly status meetings. The problem with this is that you may not have the required attention from the business or executives in these meetings. Also, there is a significant amount of day to day work and task management to cover off in a status meeting. Warnings of impending risks to the project may not have the same impact (or call to action) in a status meeting as they do in a Steering Committee Meeting.
In the current economic climate, there is more emphasis than ever on delivering projects on time and on budget. In order to address this challenge, we took these steps to introduce health check reviews into our project methodology.
Basically, we’ve instituted a new milestone for all of our solution delivery projects – the mid-project Health Check. At least one project Health Check will be scheduled on the project plan and documented in the Project Charter. Key decision makers from all organizations/departments that have a stake in the project should be involved in the review.
Project report card templates will be custom tailored to the unique customer situation, assessing criteria such as Project Communications, Change Management, Timeliness of deliverables by all parties, and so on. Ratings will identify whether the item moves to a watch list or whether immediate steps must happen before the project can proceed.
Even simple tasks like software installation or sign off of key requirements can impact time and costs, if they drag on too long. It’s important that any issues be identified early, so that corrective action can be taken right away.
One of the important outcomes that I have seen with this initiative is that it helps all parties to understand their role in the partnership that must always be formed when one embarks on an IT project. And, it is key to keeping the lines of communication open at all times so as issues appear, they can be addressed.
“There are no secrets on a successful software project. Both good and bad news must be able to move up and down the project hierarchy without restriction.”
– Steve C McConnell, Software Project Survival Guide