First, it's probably an idea to let you know up front that I'm going to address two main areas of change; time and scope.
The challenge to any Project Managers day is time. Some tasks take longer than expected, and some don't take as long. The issue of time goes for both clients and agencies alike.
One of the biggest challenges here is around dependencies. Person B can't start something until Person A finishes. Now multiply that by the number of tasks in a project, the number of projects in a company and then the number of people in each team, then just for fun add in the good old x-factor which is the usual unknown that happens as soon as you walk in the door most mornings.
Here are some tips:
- Make it as easy as possible for the team to consume the right information at the right time so you can keep everyone on task. Complex solutions require focus, and you shouldn't distract unless necessary. Agile does an excellent job with daily stand-ups and scrums which dedicate specific times for Q&A however with waterfall projects it's equally as important. If you have to re-write long, involved emails or wait till someone comes back from lunch for that 'quick question' then so be it. The first person's time to get sacrificed needs to be the Project Manager to ensure the engine keeps running.
- Select appropriate tools to help manage the task list. JIRA is a great task management tool that is widely used today, but lesser known are some great add-ons that can be used. For example, TEMPO (www.tempo.io). It's important to see the knock-on effect of late/early deliveries, for instance, company-wide and not just on a single project or task.
- Keep track of all movements of time so when the tough questions are asked the team is ready to respond. Again, tools like JIRA can help, but nothing beats a good old-fashioned project WIP to ensure everyone is across all aspects of the project. All change must then be recorded and reported.
Scope (or Expectations)
The agile methodology again is a good way for the team to see progress as it happens with periodic releases throughout the delivery process. One of the biggest challenges here is the old "you don't know what you don't know", which in this case means until the project is viewed, the team won't know whether the everything is as they expected. This can then lead to a change in scope which in both Agile and Waterfall can lead to either chewing up budget or change requests.
I am a firm believer in making sure not to 'nit-pick' with change and to give every chance to allow for change without having to raise the concern that it's going to take longer or cost more. If we can get it done, we most certainly will, and our projects typically are littered with additions that have been added to the scope with no question. However, when it does come to an impact, nothing beats effective communication before it happens and with as much notice as possible so resource allocation and wider expectations can be managed. It's always a good idea to crack on with other aspects of the project in the meantime to try and keep the momentum going.