Thursday, January 3, 2013

Successful Project Definition

I remember many years back i was on a fix schedule, T&M project with a large scope, it was a Mid Tier Company Claims System implementation and we had reached the project closedown phase and the end product had been finally delivered to the client followed by a month's warranty and post production support. The application was in Production for over a month and we, as vendors were all ready to wrap up. Then we got an email from the Client CEO saying they did not consider the project as closed as there were 3 functionalities not yet delivered, the service time was less than expected and the quality of the software delivered was sub par.
What went wrong here? Let's see...

Definition of Success
Everyone wants their project to be a success. But How do you define success? Is it when the developers have cleared their desks? Is it when the Deliverable is handed over to the Client? Is it when the Project End date is reached? Is it when the last Invoice is cleared? Is it when the product delivered meets defined quality standards and criteria? Or is it that the project was on time and within budget?
A Project has multiple stakeholders. Fact of the matter is, everyone has a different definition of Success. Every stakeholder looks at the project from his/her point of view and thus defines success from their looking glass.
Project success definition has to be a collaborative effort. Both the client and the vendor have to have a common goal defined. At the very onset of the project, it is the responsibility of the Client Organization to have a clear and tangible vision of what defines project success for them. The definition should be in measurable and understandable terms i.e. in terms of KPIs, SLAs etc
e.g For a Policy and Claims Processing web application,
- 500 Concurrent users access the System at Peak load with zero down time
- Page load time should not be more than 2 secs at peak.
- System should be able to process Intake, Adjudication, Salvage and Subrogation and search functionality for a claim without any errors.
- Intake functionality processing should take no more than 30 seconds...and so on....

Once the success criteria are defined by the client, these should be discussed with the Implementation vendor. The vendor's job is to completely understand and analyze the success definition. He should prod and question the client for any issues or clarifications because ultimately he is the one, who has to deliver on those. If there are any client dependencies that would need to be satisfied for the project to be delivered those have to be implicitly added to the SoW so everyone is on the same terms e.g. Infrastructure requirements, software, Licenses, Third party vendor relationships etc. Once all criteria are mutually agreed upon, it should be an integral part of the SoW (Statement of work).
Success criteria is also important for defining project milestones. This helps the sponsor and executive team track the progress of the project. This helps the project Manager take corrective action in case there are some ups and downs in the project during execution phase.
Ensure that the signoff requirements, Team responsible for signoff are also defined.
Success at each stage of the project has to be shared with the Team so that they are aligned with the Progress and know that their contribution to the project is what makes the project a success.

Lastly there is a criteria that i think to be very essential for a project success and that is relationship. The type and level of relationship fostered between a client and a vendor defines success or atleast the perception of it. I have worked as a consultant with clients where i knew that the client could have been more rigid and firm when it came to finally signing off on a project, but because the client knew our work quality, dedication, efforts and the amount of energy we had spent in understanding the business, requirements and scope, he is also ready to let a few things slide off.

So to summarize,
Define entry and exit criteria that would make a project a success
Have tracking mechanisms in place to make sure the criteria are reached
Keep all the stakeholders and Team members in the Loop during each phase of project.

So the Key to a project success is meeting and exceeding client expectations.
Let me know if you all agree or if you hold a different view to this.

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