How to Scale Methodology for Your IT Project
If you’ve worked for an organization of any size delivering software projects, you’ll eventually be asked to follow a methodology. In small organizations, it could be a common set of steps that are “light and nimble.” As the organization grows, more steps are added, additional teams are consulted and before long—you’re got a full-fledged methodology to manage.
Methodology is a tool, not a torture device designed to inhibit project teams. Methodology provides guidance across an IT organization in order to successfully deliver projects. As much as project managers like to control all decision-making in a project, there are times when IT project managers need to engage other IT teams like Architecture or IT Security. A few examples include:
- Launching a new website
- Working with systems that contain confidential or personally identifiable data
- Ascertaining whether or not the server can handle all the traffic
In the following examples, team leaders probably should check with IT Security, Architecture and the Infrastructure teams while moving through a project. If you’re new to the organization, a standard methodology helps guide you on how to engage these teams to get the information you need, and give them a heads up about what’s going on that affects other departments.
When Teams Resist a Methodology
Here’s an example that might sound familiar: A project management office (PMO) or senior leader publishes standard steps, establishes checkpoints (tollgates) and project audits to ensure teams are compliant with the process. At the same time, various project teams squirm to explain why their project is different and how the methodology doesn’t fit. Agile project teams start waving the “Hey we’re Agile” flag and want the team to decide on the right processes and tools for the project, instead of a third party organization making process decisions.
Successful organizations will scale the methodology based on the complexity of the project. Methodology teams produce methodology frameworks to ensure teams follow a consistent process that integrates all IT and business stakeholders. However, projects differ in scope and complexity so the methodology should adjust accordingly.
The best way to align the methodology with the delivery team is to tailor the methodology to fit the project. Much like tailoring a suit, the process leadership and project teams work together to apply the processes that best fit the project.
Below are six steps your teams can take to successfully scale your methodology:
Step 1: Define the Methodology
If the organization is well defined, there should be a published methodology with all the processes, activities and templates needed in order to deliver a project. Some organizations publish a loosely structured framework and others have perspective steps based on the type of software project—Waterfall, Agile, a combination; Software As a Service (SaaS) or Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) packages.
Step 2: Identify mandatory and optional components
Review each process step, deliverable and template. The methodology will outline optional steps and the ones that are mandatory. With an increased focus on security and cloud-hosting, security scans and infrastructure assessments should be mandatory.
Step 3: Develop a tailoring process
When project teams implement projects, they want to know which processes are required and how to adjust the methodology to fit the project. Developing and communicating a tailoring process will help your team understand how to scale the methodology. Below is a generic tailoring process that includes the project manager, the PMO and any shared service team like security, architecture and infrastructure. If your organization doesn’t have a formal PMO, I’m sure there is someone overlooking overall quality and ensuring common processes are being followed.
Step 4: Tailor the Project
By reviewing the processes and deliverables upfront required to deliver the project, everyone has a common understanding of expectations. If a process step doesn’t make sense, remove it but at least get agreement from the key stakeholders in the IT organization.
If you’re deploying a new Internet facing website, you’re better off making the security scan or IT security review mandatory versus optional. However, if you’re delivering a second release of an existing software application, the project charter is likely optional.
Step 5: Execute and Adjust
Based on the tailoring document, the project will create the appropriate deliverables. During project execution, if a step no longer applies or if a step needs to be added, simply adjust the tailoring decision document and review with the process owners. In formal gate reviews, the tailoring decision document confirms that the correct processes are being applied, so it’s important to keep that document updated.
Step 6: At the end of the project, review and refine the methodology
It’s important that the project team provides feedback on the process; regular feedback helps improve the methodology over time. No one wants to be accused of “sitting in an ivory tower” and dictating process without understanding the impact. For example, the project team might find redundant processes or identify improvements to project templates. Over time, similar types of project tailoring will emerge and the organization can publish these tailoring decision documents as scaled versions of the methodology. Your organization will find the methodology will scale for outsourced IT projects, infrastructure projects, COTS implementations, business process outsourcing, Agile and traditional waterfall projects.
Methodology is a tool
Remember, methodology is a tool to help align all the IT teams and their respective processes. One tool isn’t a fit for every project so adjustments need to be made to ensure project teams are delivering in the right direction. Security, architecture, IT compliance and infrastructure teams all want projects to succeed and they define processes to ensure success.
The PMO or a senior IT leader’s job is to help standardize and communicate these processes as projects execute. Project teams can still be reluctant to follow a singular prescribed process. The best way to scale your project for success is to scale your methodology to fit the project and then agree to all decisions up front. Remember: establishing a methodology, especially one that can flex to the changing needs of teams, is a tool to help teams deliver excellence.
Addressing, selecting and getting adoption on a methodology is one of the challenges to project management. To get more solutions to classic PM issues, download our eBook, “How to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges.”