Managing and Setting Expectations in IT Project Through Software Estimation Tool & Project Management Software

Meeting project deadlines amidst last minute change requests, new additions to requests, and modifications can be challenging. This normally takes place when software estimation is not accurate. As I have been mentioning in my earlier posts, software estimation is surrounded by a lot of uncertainties. Unknown variables and hidden risks make it difficult to make estimation a certain and well defined process. We can at best arrive at the closest approximation with best possible accuracy. In a situation where dynamism in estimation exists, as developers we are constantly required to set and manage expectations of all the involved stakeholders (client, top management, and the team). Setting expectations is all about delivery and communicating the correct information.

Let me now delve further, into how we can mange expectations of concerned stakeholder in such an uncertain environment.

Planning Process

The project manager should spend a required amount of time to objectively analyze the primary quantifiable goals that are mutually agreed upon by all the stakeholders. This helps the PM in revisiting the defined goals, and seeking the top management’s advice on challenges that might be affecting the defined measurable goal attainment. It is also essential to align the development and marketing goals so that expectation and end objectives can be managed with respect to sales and marketing. This facilitates better team guidance for project delivery.[1] Communication of exact goals requires detail orientation.

Meeting Involving Stakeholders

It is essential to rope in all the stakeholders from the very first day to define goals and set expectations. It can be done by holding two strategic meetings. One meeting is with the development team and the other with the client. Meetings involve working out the details such as requirement analysis, project scoping, time required, and discussion with the marketing and sales team. The meeting enables bringing all of the stakeholders on the same page, with respect to project intricacies and formalities and having clear expectations with respect to the timeline.[2]

A thorough discussion with the concerned stakeholders sets the stage for requirements analysis and defining the story points and user stories. This would be the primary step for clearly defining the system for carrying out accurate software estimation.

Project Requirement Analysis and Goal Setting

The project scoping should chart clear project requirements to prevent hidden requests from creeping into the scope resulting in incorrect estimation. I have always seen how last minute modifications results in scope creep thereby derailing scheduled budget and time estimate. In case of Agile set up, every iteration has a separate estimate depending on the effectiveness of the previous release and functionality. Any modification from the mutually agreed plan must be thoroughly assessed. Strategy to attain the goals, potential risks, potential dependencies, delays, and risk mitigation should be clearly defined. Reviewing analysis of the set priorities on a timely basis ensures that focus is maintained and developers stick to original estimates.

Using a software estimation tool such as Quick FPA can act as a strategic tool to attain goals, avoid dependencies and delays as the tool facilitates in carrying out the estimation quite quickly than normal procedure.

Communication Process

It is important to take into account the communication methodology that’s used to communicate in order to maintain the equilibrium between real time communications, along with daily and weekly reports. The communication process involves developing a communication plan that includes the scope of the project, defined priorities, task owners, status updates. It includes notification methodology when issues arise, or when a particular task is completed. [3]

Project management software can ease communication flow and knowledge sharing. Other than team status, meeting client status reports help in aligning the client and development team with regards to process management, cost estimates, and issue resolution. This promotes a strong client relationship. Such meetings help reviewing and reinforcing set expectations and their management.

Relevant Goal Setting and Role Definition

The milestones should be realistic in nature and attainable too. A calendar should be involved to indicate what tasks have been completed and what needs to be done. Setting realistic target dates ensures correct expectations are set and managed. Role relevancy for every team member defining where they fit in the overall project success can synchronize individual goals to project goals. Every team member should have clarity about the KPI, goals of the project, realistic timeline, and success metrics. [4]

Escalation Practice

In the case of unplanned problems, the project manager is required to define the degree of the problem, the issue owner, and the corrective measures. The owner of the issue sorts out the problem by working on an acceptable solution. The project manager begins from the top of the escalation hierarchy working downwards, evaluating every option that can sort out the issue. The escalation strategy can be team based, resource manager based or client based.[5]

Weekly Status Meeting

Weekly project status meetings help any new team members in the project team become accustomed with the project scope. They can identify weaknesses early in the project and chart corrections, reinforce key objectives, project goals, and provide guidance. Meetings can be used to mentor new employees on process. The process is carried about by detailing the tasks in the project review, identifying issue areas, discussion, and issue resolution with team. Additionally, a meeting can be employed for project meetings in a manageable format.[6]

Adjusting Expectations

One of the most critical parameters for expectation management is adjusting the expectations regularly by doing a constant review analysis of the project. This involves evaluating the set priorities, adjusting the timelines, and variation in resource allocation (if the project doesn’t move forward as desired). Adjustment ensures the larger picture of the project delivery is unaffected adversely by undue delay at the initial level. It is essential to communicate any project adjustment to the stakeholders clearly and openly.[7]

References

Harned, Brett.

“A Guide to Project Management-Chapter 5.” 2014. TeamGantt Website. 24 February 2015 [2,4]

Litcom Team.

“How Project Managers can manage expectations.” 20 February 2014. Litcom Website. 24 February 2015 [3]

Schiff, Jennifer. L.

“11 Project Management Tips for Setting and Managing Expectations.” 17 February 2014. CIO Website. 24 February 2015 [1, 7]

Sisco, Michael.

“Effective status meetings lead to successful projects.” 20 June 2002. Tech Republic Website. 25 February 2015 [6]

Wysock, Robert K.

“Defining a Problem Escalation Strategy.” Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme. John Wiley & Sons 2013. 295.[5]