One size doesn’t fit all: Developing a set of project management methodologies
July 28, 2016
Phil Johnson
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People sitting around a table at a Project Delivery Workshop
A Project Delivery Workshop in action. Photo: Phil Johnson

IS&T manages a range of projects that can vary greatly in terms of the technology involved and the scope of the work. So a single project management methodology isn’t likely to work equally well in all cases. To address this, IS&T’s Project and Portfolio Management Office (PPMO ) is working to identify several project delivery methodologies to help the department successfully deliver all of the work it manages.

Project Delivery Workshops: A collaborative effort

The first step in developing the right project management methodologies has been the launch of Project Delivery Workshops. These workshops, which began in May, bring together the PPMO Team, along with representatives from the software development and Community Partnerships Teams (CPT), to learn what project management approaches are being used and to discuss challenges and successes. Each workshop focuses on a single project.

PPMO Director Zehra Abid-Wood emphasizes that these workshops, and thinking about the ways we manage projects, are designed to be a group effort. “I want this to be collaborative,” she says, “both with the project managers and with the people working on the projects.”

Different methodologies for different kinds of projects

The ultimate goal is to provide guidelines and methodologies for different types of projects, such as custom development work, software implementation, and operational initiatives. “There's no 'one size fits all' from a project methodology perspective, at least not for IS&T,” says Abid-Wood.

“We’ll soon be releasing a summary of our main types of projects and then a checklist and series of templates for each type of project,” she explains. “These will be the things you should consider at each phase of the project. Have you thought about training? Data migration? Support?”

There will also be a toolkit for small projects that lack a formal project manager. According to Abid-Wood, “This will lay out some of the tools and tips we can offer if you are running a project outside of the PPMO.”

The methodologies will also address questions people may have about dealing with IS&T’s advisory and review boards. Abid-Wood notes that “It’s important for project teams to understand how the boards interact with each other and when it makes sense to go to a particular board, so we'll have documentation, and support resources, for all processes.”

Evolutionary rather than fixed

These process flows and associated documentation will be made available to all of IS&T through a wiki, which has yet to be launched. Abid-Wood points out that whatever is published will in no way be set in stone. “I see this development of the methodology as evolutionary; everything we release is going to be a living, breathing document,” she explains. “We're not going to release the methodology and call it done.”

Agile included

The Project Delivery Workshops replace the former Agile Office Hours, which have led some to ask whether this reflects a move by IS&T away from Agile. Not at all, explains Abid-Wood. “The move to Agile was part of a greater transformation. It's still relevant,” she says. “The reasons for introducing Agile to the organization, for shaking us out of the old way of doing delivery, were absolutely valid.”

Abid-Wood expects that the methodology for development work will still be Agile-based, for example by doing iterative development, though not exclusively Scrum. “For now we're going to look at what aspects of Agile we can adopt for our development projects and take it from there,” she observes.

All are welcome

Project Delivery Workshops are held every other Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Downtown Crossing. The next workshop will take place on August 9.

Teams that would like their projects to be featured at future workshops should reach out to Abid-Wood directly.

Anybody in IS&T who would like to attend a workshop is more than welcome; you don’t have to be a member of the PPMO, the CPT, or a specific project team to participate or simply listen and learn. “We're starting to build community,” Abid-Wood says. “It's an opportunity to have conversations outside of just doing the work.”

Besides, she adds, “People like to be part of the journey.”