Posts Tagged ‘project planning’

Project Plans Are Made To Be Re-Planned

Excluding re-planning from your retail project management practice, is like looking at a map before starting out on a hike and then never consulting it again. It's not likely to get everybody to the destination in one piece. It’s easy enough to fall into the trap of thinking that planning is something that happens just at the beginning of a project and then you just execute the plan. Reality is a little bit different. Some years ago, I hiked the Kokoda Track with my son in a school group. We had a plan, where we were going to stay each night and how to get from one end to the other. One of the unexpected things that happened on this hike was a landslide on the track. On the second to last day, we were supposed to get to Isurava, where the memorial is. There had been a landslide, and we were not able to make it to camp that night. So, we had to re-plan. We had to stop in a different village from where we had intended to stay. We made camp earlier that night, and then we had to get up earlier the following morning. Our local guides were able to find a path through the jungle. Basically, we were walking through what was a virgin jungle, and then walking through a massive tear in the landscape, which was where rock and mud had slid down the side of the mountain. We made it to our destination. Later than expected, but we all made it there in one piece. I'm sharing this story because it reminds me of a lot of the kind of re-planning that we need to do in projects. Changes come out of the left-field, like that landslip, changes that you couldn't have possibly planned for. In project work, people's lives happen; there are sicknesses, people's families have difficulties and breakdowns, and projects being pretty much about a team of people means that those kinds of life events can impact the project plan (and the schedule, because they are NOT the same thing). So, a plan is not a fixed thing that you just do once and then follow to the letter. A plan is a constantly evolving thing based on the changing circumstances around you (and sometimes the changing business needs). This has been January for me, both personally and professionally. The assumptions that I started the year with have turned out not to be so, and the optimism that I usually feel at this time of year is not there. I, like probably many others, have struggled to find optimism as this year has so far been mostly characterised by a heightened state of alertness that the extraordinary events of the bushfires have generated. Whilst I am a city dweller and less impacted by the fires, the smell of smoke and the hazy conditions, not to mention the constant sense of pending emergency, is draining. So far from starting the new year refreshed and ready to go with new retail projects, it feels a bit like we’re scrambling to re-frame, re-plan and make better sense of what’s ahead. At 6R, we're expert at implementing retail systems and we're here to guide and lend a hand when systems implementations are planned and re-planned. Feel free to reach out and connect with us, we might be the experience that you need.

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How to overcome software disappointment

Chatting to someone I had just met at a business breakfast, we were 'finding common ground' that you do when you first meet. She shared that her organisation is undergoing a significant software change project. They have appointed a vendor (software supplier) and are in the process of replacing 55 legacy systems (that’s a lot). They’ve selected a tier one software provider and they’ve got experts coming out of every orifice. But still, there was this disappointment about how the process was going. The gap between what they’ve been sold and what they must do to get it anywhere NEAR working that way was not clear to her from the outset and the effort ahead was starting to dawn on her. I’ve seen this before, I call it software disappointment, it happens all the time in software projects, and you can see how. The software vendor wants to put their best offer forward The vendor wants to show the very best of how their software works, they want to impress their potential client and show that their software is robust, scalable, flexible and most importantly SOLVES the client’s problems. So, they configure it to show the client how it could work, and the client is impressed. They ask many questions, compare the software to others, compare it to their current internally broken systems and get excited about this brave new world that will make every working day easier, more streamlined and end repetitive tasks. The client wants to get the project a good start inside their organisation To make an investment like this, the client needs to sell the idea internally. To get buy in and endorsement from multiple internal parties the software and the project ahead needs to have a solve problems for multiple business units. So, things are (often) stated in the most positive terms, and the negatives and risks are usually downplayed. This is where the natural optimism of humans  works against us a little. People are excited and motivated and executives commit to ‘x’ project (where ‘x’ is the replacement of whole system from end to end), and the software vendor is pleased.  They have their work sewn up for the next ‘x’ years and are going to improve the working lives of client and their staff. But (and this is the bit that the software suppliers don’t focus on) it’s going to take an awful lot of the client’s own internal effort and IP to get there. This is the ‘software disappointment gap’. Clients think that because they’ve done all that hard work of selecting a vendor and that the vendor has shown them a system that works a whole lot better than theirs does, that they can relax. In fact, the project work is only just about to begin. ...and that's the software disappointment gap It’s like getting a new phone. It doesn’t come installed with all your apps, it doesn’t have your ring tone, links or email, you must set that up. That takes some effort [personal aside, I’ve done it 3 times this year and it’s a pain in the arse].  In an organisation large enough to have 55 legacy systems, that’s a LOT of set up, a LOT of internal consultation and cross business unit collaboration and cooperation required to get the project moving and to implement something that works at least as well as the existing systems do. It’s this internal effort that organisations so often miss, or if they don’t miss it at an executive level it gets missed in translating it out to the wider group. Like my breakfast companion, whilst rationally she could see exactly why this was all needed and she was making the required mental adjustment to the work ahead, she was also choosing not to stay for it. Did I mention she was leaving the business? There was a restructure in her team and she was taking the opportunity to walk away. Smart businesses prepare themselves properly for the work ahead. Check to see if your business is doing these things to prepare for project success: Create capacity. Sometimes this comes through back-filling roles for key people, hiring extra hands (either permanently or temporarily) or by reworking the structure and make up of a team. But the reality is that a project requires additional work inside the client business. Additional work doesn’t happen without additional capacity! Alignment to the project objectives. It can be forgoing other planned improvements or reigning in expectations about business as usual. A key point is to stop all but the most essential work on old systems once you’ve committed to a new system. It’s a big part of both managing workload and creating commitment to the success of the new project. Improve your communication. It’s a lifelong practice both professionally and personally and it makes all the difference. So many of the mis-steps we make in business and in projects come down to communication. Improving communication of internal team members increases effectiveness. Look for advice from those who’ve done this before, both lessons learned internally and external support. If you are struggling with the software disappointment gap, get in touch.  We work with retailers to equip internal teams for the project efforts ahead. Our project management tools are light and flexible for retailers.  

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Planning Projects | How to give it a T.I.C.K.

When you start a project typically you make a project plan. Problem with planning projects, and this is the problem with all plans really, at the time of planning you only know what you know right then. The future is unknown. So, we could say that to a certain extent project plans are ‘made up’. (Read more)

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