May 2011 E-newsletter
Proper Planning Is Key
To prepare for the $1.5 billion Bradley West New Large Aircraft Gates project, the IT project management division of the city of Los Angeles World Airports had to move the Records Retention Center IT Fiber Optic Hub in 90 days. The project entailed cutting and splicing 22 fiber cables and a cutover of 22 nights in succession because of intolerance for downtime. We pre-verified each circuit, access requirements, and systems affected and ran tabletop exercises. Those results paid off, and the project was completed six days early with only two outages during the cutover.
While the adage "location, location, location" is the No. 1 rule in real estate, "plan, plan, plan" is the No. 1 rule in managing a rapid IT delivery project. Though "rapid delivery" and "planning" seem like a contradiction, the planning component is critical to ensure the successful and uneventful completion of a project, especially if a tight turnaround is expected. What follows are some tactics being used at the Los Angeles World Airports, where the IT team faces a multitude of deadlines.
For successful planning, you must document existing systems, assemble the right team, develop a plan and work the plan.
Identify the major deliverables, interdependencies, and risks. Wherever existing systems are affected, obtain documentation of those systems to better understand the impact that changes will have and ensure that the systems remain operational. It is important to validate existing documentation or create documentation where none exists. This sometimes proves tricky if the system has been around longer than the IT staff who support it.
Though this process can be time-consuming and difficult, it's important to gather as much information as you can. Make sure to develop contingency and roll-back plans. Some may feel that they know the system well enough to risk making changes without documentation. This practice will prove foolish should problems arise. This is where "plan, plan, plan" proves fruitful. The unknown is a project manager's worst enemy. Planning helps to reveal unknowns and minimize the pain when those unknowns rear their ugly heads.
Pick the Best People
It's key to put the right people on your team. These people must have relevant experience, they must be empowered to make decisions, and they must be up for the challenges that come with rapid-delivery projects.
Make the team aware of the overall goals of the project early, not just their individual tasks. When the team understands what the goals are and why the goals are important, they will rally together during the tedious planning process to see the project succeed. With the right team, the project manager can focus on orchestrating all of the components necessary to bring the project successfully to completion and not get mired down in the minutiae of day-to-day tasks.
The team then should work together to develop the plans: the work plan, cutover plan, go-live plan, contingency plan, and roll-back plan. Putting the right people in the room for each of these plans will help expedite the process. The team also should walk through the plan step by step. This helps to identify flaws, gaps and areas that need contingency and roll back.
Work the plan. Don't stray from it. You've put a great deal of effort and time into developing it and testing it. Now you must trust it. Once the project begins, especially on technically complex projects, daily huddles are recommended to review the tasks for the day, people responsible, and potential problems and solutions, allowing you to address issues immediately.
With these methodologies and a plan in place, it's possible to tackle a challenging project, deliver it quickly and successfully.