New Company Initiative? Try These Project Management Best Practices.

In the course of wrangling multiple departments and initiatives, two project management pros have cultivated these reliable strategies.
Written by Remy Merritt
June 9, 2021Updated: June 14, 2021

In a global study of 1,471 IT change initiatives, Harvard Business Review discovered an alarming trend, and one that illuminates the risks involved in project rollouts. While the average project cost overrun was 27%, one in six projects averaged a 200% overrun. Case studies of these colossal project failures abound, like Kmart’s $1.4 billion IT modernization project in 2000, the breakdown of which contributed to its filing for bankruptcy just two years later.

While these studies provide helpful retrospect, each new project exists in its own setting, with specific elements, and always with the risk of unpredictable factors. In local Senior Project Manager Tanesha Johnson’s experience, one of the biggest challenges project managers face is conveying the value of a professional PM to stakeholders. 

With so much at stake, including the very survival of a business, it is critical that leadership behind new projects is experienced and nimble. Whether that involves expertise that spans the full length of a project, or just one of that project’s stages, foundational project management strategies can help keep objectives in focus and deployment on track. 

From small-scale implementations to broad infrastructure developments, professionals of all stripes can lean on these tactics to help a project cross the finish line.

 

Tanesha Johnson
Senior Project Manager

How does one strategically managing a project’s evolution? Over the course of development and deployment, new factors and unforeseen obstacles can steer a team off-course. With a multitude of initiatives to keep in focus, SDI Presence’s Johnson leans on each project’s initial planning phase to align new developments with fundamental objectives. 

 

First, tell us a bit about the types of projects you manage in your role.

As a Senior Project Management Office (PMO) Manager for a major client of SDI Presence, I am responsible for implementing and leading the PMO for SDI’s client delivery services. My day-to-day duties include managing a rolling portfolio of 20 to 30 developing IT projects and programs, 53 ongoing projects, a budget of over $2.5 million and overseeing a team of seven project managers.

SDI has myriad capabilities to meet the demands of its clients’ IT environments. Our projects are multifaceted, and programs range from infrastructure development and data center migrations, to server upgrades and asset management.

Regardless of how urgent or time-sensitive our project requests are, the best practice is to follow the initiation and planning phases.’’

 

What’s one critical best practice you follow when it comes to project management, and why?

Regardless of how urgent or time-sensitive our project requests are, the best practice is to follow the initiation and planning phases. In these phases, we identify project scope and stakeholders to influence perception, adoption and transition within the organization, as well as project goals and objectives.

SDI delivers innovative and cost-efficient expertise to our clients’ projects and extended organization through targeted planning, integration and optimization. To maximize the success of our project outcomes, the SDI PMO team ensures time and resources are efficiently allocated across all projects and aligned with the client’s overall mission.

What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced managing projects, and how have you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges we face is helping stakeholders understand the value of having a highly professional PMO, who acts as an owner’s representative for complex, multi-year technology initiatives.

We want them to view project management as a valuable service that will speed up delivery by bringing resources together in a cohesive way, improving success rates. To overcome this challenge, the project manager’s role is clearly defined in the initial phase, and we reiterate the value proposition throughout the duration of the project. In addition, SDI’s IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)- and Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified team of experts are integrated with our approach, and empowered with the right tools to serve as advocates for SDI’s project management process.

Lastly, customer satisfaction is the hallmark of every project delivery at SDI. We achieve that by delivering industry-recognized project management standards and disciplines, along with our commitment to be available for our clients when needed.

 

Yelena Lyamets
Project Manager

Camelot Illinois manages the marketing and digital sales efforts behind the Illinois lottery through its new website and mobile app, retail sales and expansion. For the teams Lyamets manages, hitting the workstream jackpot requires a savvy balance of communication, transparency, documentation and risk management.

 

Tell us a bit about the types of projects you manage in your role.

As part of the technology workstream, I manage retail rollout and expansion projects. 

My projects’ objectives include the installation of new equipment and software to support a wide variety of games for the Illinois Lottery. I manage projects across multiple departments such as marketing, finance, digital, retail sales, business and technical, as well as coordinate dependencies and deliverables across multiple vendors.

What’s one critical best practice you follow when it comes to project management, and why?

I’d like to emphasize the importance of effective communication and transparency on all projects. Well-planned and consistent communication enables all parties to make the most informed decisions, which will translate into efficient project delivery; a lack of transparency may lead to counterproductive decisions, hindering project success. When executing across various functions, time zones and cultures, keeping everyone on the same page and providing visibility into the big picture is critical for effective collaboration. I ensure best practices are followed with proper documentation, recorded decisions and monitored dependencies.

Create a risk management plan in advance and maintain it throughout the project.’’

 

What’​​​​​​​s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced managing projects, and how have you overcome it?

Identifying potential ‘what if’ scenarios and developing contingency plans might be a challenge. Cross-functional projects don’t always go as planned because there are many variables that can create unlimited possibilities. My job as a project manager is to come up with alternate plans that the team may adopt to bring the project back on track. Create a risk management plan in advance and maintain it throughout the project. A risk charter consists of specific actions and procedures on how teams manage issues, change of scope, risk, quality, communication, cost, timeline and more.

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