Hidden Problems with Project Management: Is Your Project in Jeopardy?

Melissa Swartz | No Jitter | September 24, 2014

No-Jitter-Logo-borderMany times, the project plan created by the vendor’s project managers is not complete in scope. It does not address all of the tasks required of all the involved parties.

When I work on a project that involves replacement of an existing telephony system, the equipment vendor typically assigns a project manager to the installation. In most proposals, there is a section that covers the installation process and how the vendor’s project manager will ensure that the system is installed successfully. Rainbows and butterflies will abound.

What They Don’t Tell You
In many cases, the vendor’s project manager is only responsible for the vendor’s portion of the project (typically, the installation of the telephony equipment and its programming). Most system replacement projects have additional components, such as:

  • Local and Long Distance Services – Many times a new system means a change in connectivity, perhaps including installation of SIP trunks. These changes can impact the timing of the installation because vendors must be coordinated to ensure tasks are completed in the correct order.
  • Wide Area Network (WAN) – Organizations with multiple locations often use their WAN to carry the telephony traffic between sites. If the old system didn’t work this way, this change in operation requires testing, analysis of bandwidth utilization, and management that was not previously necessary.
  • Local Area Network (LAN) – A VoIP system requires network switches that provide Power Over Ethernet, VLANs, QoS, etc.; sometimes this infrastructure must be changed out to support these requirements, or elements such as UPS must be added (or increased) in the data closets.
  • Integration with Customer Data or Applications – Often the effectiveness of the communications technology is enhanced by the ability to integrate with customer data stores to provide screen pops or drive CRM applications.
  • Other Customer Responsibilities
    • Schedule meetings with users to obtain information necessary to program the system to operate properly
    • Provide call flow information
    • Provide scripts for announcements and find someone to record them
    • Provide an environment for the new equipment – A premises-based system must have a proper physical environment with appropriate power, temperature, and rack space.
    • Even hosted systems require the customer’s LAN to support VoIP, and often utilize the customer’s WAN for some traffic.
    • Communicate with the users
    • Schedule training
    • Create new policies and procedures if needed
    • Assist with integration tasks if necessary
    • Determine procedures for ongoing support, system backup, retention policies, etc.

These are big components of a project and if neglected, they can certainly have a negative impact on the success of the new system. Yet in many cases, I see vendor project managers, whose scope of effort includes scheduling meetings, taking meeting notes, and tracking equipment delivery. The actual installation is performed by system engineers who often do not report to the project manager. The project manager is not equipped (or compensated) to manage the entire scope of the project; they are only managing their company’s piece of it.

The Project Plan
Many times, the project plan created by the vendor’s project managers is not complete in scope. The plan will address only the tasks required to accomplish the physical installation of the system; it does not address all of the tasks required of all the involved parties. Typically the customer is responsible for managing the components listed above, even if they are provided by other vendors. Yet the coordination of these other pieces of the project is often not included in the project plan, and thus they are not tracked for progress and completion.

An incomplete project plan such as this can show all tasks accomplished and on time, and the installation can still be a failure.

What Can You Do to Ensure that Your Project is Successful?
1. Plan to have your own project manager. This person must have the time and the skills to manage the implementation. Do not assign someone who is already super busy; you don’t want the success of one of your organization’s primary public interfaces to take a back seat to other duties.

2. Make sure your project manager has the expertise needed to represent your company’s interests. The ideal person would have previous experience in implementing this type of technology. If you don’t have someone internally with these skills, hire outside talent. Yes, it is that important. (The Society of Communication Technology Consultants (SCTC) includes many members with this skillset. Check them out at www.sctcconsultants.org).

3. Ensure that the project plan addresses the items listed in the bullet points above, as applicable to your project, and that these tasks are assigned and tracked.

This column was originally featured on No Jitter as part of the contributors column “SCTC Perspectives,” a weekly post written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC). The SCTC is an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

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