Managing a Project

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Last August of 2013 my colleague moved to other team, hence one of her biggest project need to be transferred to me. It was a big project: establishment of interfaces between 3PL (third party logistics) warehouse management system with our ERP system and one legacy system in procurement. She was leading it on the IT implementation space.

There were a lot of pressure on the project. Business wanted to deliver it on October, despite only started the workshop by July. It was a stretch. Our consultants had been advising to move the go-live date to March 2014, but got rejected by stakeholders. After various discussions, business decided to split this project to two phases. One release in December, the other release in March. Still a stretch, but more doable.

When you work on a multinational company, there are a lot of process (read: bureaucracy) need to be followed. Things that technically can be done in couple of weeks can only be done in months in enterprise world. It is normal, just by looking at the number of teams that needs to be aligned, you will see why established processes are needed. We have our ERP consultants in Turkey, system integration consultants in India, legacy system consultants in UK, and Subject Matter Experts (SME) of integrations in Europe. One design has to involve all parties. The problem didn’t stop there. The project owners are in Singapore, but the users spread in Africa, Middle East, and Europe, giving additional headache for user acceptance test (UAT). Put it with a pressure from project initiator who still pushing for this year release complexity and other functions who overload with work.

This is the time spent for doing this project. About four weeks spent to get the functional design fully prepared, another two weeks to get it fully approved, and nine weeks of integration test & user acceptance test. I don’t know exactly how long does it take to develop, because it was done in parallel with functional spec preparation and test. But in overall, everybody pushed their limit to do their best.

Anyway, it was a good experience. There are couple of things that I learned.

Communication Overhead

Communication is a big source of problem. When information passed from one team to another, everybody will get different understanding. Combine that with the lack of business knowledge from the technical team, or the other way round. Informing something via email – although we think it is already detailed, were often becomes source of problem. We tried to tackle this by having a daily call during UAT and weekly call since the start of the project until UAT.

Escalation

One thing that I never like, but in many cases effective. Because many cases the directions from the top were aligned but the executors were not. On some other cases, directions were not aligned, hence it require escalation. In my experience, escalation helped to ensure work were being done, if you see it went for slow progress, stuck in a process, or people just not trying to be helpful, escalation is one of good option. So never afraid to escalate.

Time Adjustment

As mentioned above, the teams are located in many countries. Since most of them are in Middle East and Europe, we in Singapore tried to adjust our working time. I came to office at 1pm-2pm, and left at 10pm-12pm. Still about 9 hours time spent in office, but much more effective. Because if I stick with Singapore working time, I would spent most of the day unable to call or chat with other people because they would come at the end of the day, ending up myself sending emails, which would have a lot of communication overhead possibilities.

Regular Updates

Everyday me and the overall project manager send an email to summarise the progress to stakeholders. We didn’t know if it was being read or not, but at least we had a firm reference of the project everyday that it was progressing. This build confidence & trust, and ensuring everybody on the same page. I saw the effectiveness of this, because on the next day after report being sent, there must be some feedbacks came. Although sometimes it was not a good feedback, for example the comments were not representing what other team view’s of the progress, it was good to see that people tried to make everybody aligned.

Clear & Realistic

This is important. Not only we already had a problem with communication overhead, we need to be clear and realistic with the expectation. Sometimes people try to push. Even when they know it is on the limit, they keep pushing, after fail to understand what are the constraints. These are the thing that need to be controlled. If things are not clear, it needs to be cleared so that progress can be made. If something already progressing, it is good to keep understanding the expectation and keep our trust on it.

Don’t Make a Border and Build Relationship

Many people are trained so well on saying “no”. When it is good for stopping a big chunk of work to come to you, it is not good to keep important thing to progress. What I did was keeping the balance. Some things were not meant to be my work, but if everybody not taking any ownership, I took initiative to align everybody or did it, to not make things falling. And on the other hand, building relationship and trusts are what matters, because if you are too rigid, people will not try to approach you and open up new opportunities.

Keeping Family Aligned

This is something that many people forget when they have a lot of work. Your family need to know and understand. When I decided to adjust my timing, I ensured my wife understand. We have a baby and need to be taken care. So in the morning I spend some time taking care of him while my wife can have a rest. In many cases, I had to work at weekend, and luckily I have a wonderful wife who understood with the circumstances.

Other than above points, I learned many other things such as processes at warehouse management, understanding of procurement business, and of course technical things. It was a good experience. The project already went live as per December 2013. It was a successful one, and I am looking forward to the second phase that will bring me same trouble like the first one. Behind the trouble there are a lot of new things to learn!

* Image created by Jessica Lock