Published by Infinity Gaming magazine – September 2021
You developed a well-defined project concept in the business case, you put together a project brief and used it to get project approval. You planned and executed the initiation stage, but the real work still hasn’t begun. Now what?
After receiving project approval, you gave yourself a much deserved pat on the back and congratulated all those involved for a job well done. You then toiled over the initiation stage to create the management approaches, the project controls and the project plan. You assembled the project initiation documentation and now have a firm foundation to make your ‘next great idea’ a massive success. At this point you and your outstanding team will be feeling really proud of what you’ve accomplished. However, you haven’t yet grabbed a hammer, turned on your cement mixer or put a finger on your impressive new casino management system. Your next step is knowing how to successfully control a project management stage.
The purpose of the controlling a stage process is to assign work to be done, monitor the work in progress, deal with issues and risks, report progress and ensure all the necessary precautions and corrective actions are taken to ensure that the management stage remains within pre-defined tolerances. To successfully manage a stage, the focus must be on the products that need to be created, risks and issues need to be kept under control, and each stage must be delivered to stated quality standards and within tolerances for cost, effort and time. The main activities are as follows:
- Work packages – are authorized, reviewed, and received when completed
- Monitoring and reporting – review the stage status, report highlights
- Issues and risks – capture and examine, escalate issues and risks, and take corrective action
Work Packages – If people were to start working on project activities when they felt like it, it would be chaotic. Can you imagine your systems installation team travelling one thousand miles to find out that the systems hardware won’t arrive for another week? Although work teams require a certain level of autonomy, it’s important that work commences and continues only with the consent of the project manager. The vehicle for this is the production, execution and delivery of a work package. A work package may include extracts from the project plan, and if a product requires more than one work package to create it, then it should be broken down into further products. Reviewing a work package is done in line with the frequency of reporting defined in the work package itself. When the work package is allocated to a team, there should be a matching confirmation that the work has been successfully completed. When approved any subsequent changes must pass through the change control process. The main components of the work package are as follows:
- Team manager or person authorized to work on the work package
- A work package description of the work to be done
- Techniques, processes and procedures needed in the creation of the product
- Development interfaces including people who provide and who will receive information
- Operational and maintenance interfaces are any specialist products with which the product will interact during its lifecycle
- Change requirements
- Joint agreements include agreements for effort, cost, start and end dates
- Constraints include those on the work, people involved and rules to be followed.
- Requirements and frequency of reporting
- Problem handling and escalation
Monitoring and Reporting – If the project is not checked on a timely basis, work can get out of control and costs can go through the roof. That new bank of slot machines that you originally planned for and agreed upon could end up as a new, pointless, money losing poker pit or even a trophy room for your narcissistic boss. There needs to be a balance between planning ahead and reacting to events. In order to make informed decisions, it is necessary, and I repeat necessary, to compare what has actually happened with what was expected. To achieve this requires a steady flow of information that provides an overall view of progress. The inputs and outputs include the following:
- Review the progress of the stage including checking the forecasts against actuals, check for quality issues and the risk register for any new or revised risks
- Analyze the stage progress to decide if any other actions are required such as: the need to escalate risk and issues, take corrective action or seek project board advice.
- Update the stage plan if aggregated assessment changes any forecasts
- If ownership of any products is to be transferred to the customer, ensure products have been approved, that products meet their quality criteria, and that operations and maintenance organisations are ready to take responsibility for the products
Issues and Risk – Issues and risks will inevitably occur during the lifecycle of your project. They will appear in an ad hoc manner and will need to be captured, examined, escalated and corrective action taken before they run out of control and leave your small tin of gold coloured paint costing more than an oversized deck of 24 karat gold playing cards. Before deciding on a course of action each issue or risk must be registered and assessed for it’s impact. If a project stage exceeds it’s agreed tolerances, then risks and issues may need to be escalated to the project board in the form of an exception report and action taken based on the project boards advice. Escalations and risks should be seen as a good practice and not as failure because the earlier that issues are escalated, the more time will be available to implement any necessary corrective actions. Plans rarely go as we expect but the better prepared we are for all eventualities, the more chance our project has of finishing on time, on budget and much to the delight of your boss. Corrective action is triggered during the review of the management stage status and may include the following actions:
- Collecting information about the deviation
- Identify potential ways of dealing with the deviation
- Trigger corrective action via authorizing a work package
- Update configuration records, issue reports and issue and risk registers where necessary
- Update the stage plan for the current management stage.
Conclusion – The initiation stage helps create a solid foundation for the success of your project, but without the monitoring, control and approval of the work being done on each management stage by the project manager, your ‘next big idea’ project can easily run high on costs, low on quality, and scope creep can result in premature project closure, an angry boss and possibly the loss of employment. I’ve seen to many project’s fail due to lack of vision, lack of leadership, lack of planning, communications, accountability, and lack of effective stage management so my advice is to take my advice and manage your project right from the start. I prefer successful project management in all stages including project delivery and benefits management. And you, are you ready for effective project stage management, or will your competitors beat you to the finish line, steal your customers and push you out of the spotlight?