Do people still write from trenches? Are there even trenches large enough to write from?
Anyway, something I wrote for my project management class today…more of a brain-drain than anything else…
A Systems View of Project Management…
Taking a systems view of a project requires looking at not only the project’s specific requirements and proposed technical solutions, but also taking a broader view of the organizational and business impact of the project in the company or community in which the project is being delivered.
Before a project even begins, and through out execution, all of the stakeholders should look more holistically at the project and how it will impact and be impacted by the rest of the business and organization.
I am currently participating in a project where the sponsor only considered the business impact (and benefit) of his proposal, without considering the organizational or technical implications. The sponsor proposed building a new web site to attract more customers to our web service, and connecting it to two additional web sites to form a simpler way to complete contract management activities.
Unfortunately, our sponsor did not consult with the owners of any of these systems, and did not understand the impact to his project when our company reduced the support and development staff for all three groups. We have worked hard to incorporate the organizational impact on his timeline, so he can more realistically plan his project.
Additionally, our sponsor made some inaccurate assumptions about the capabilities of each system, and over-committed his project to more than we were capable of delivering. After several discussions, I was able to clarify the most difficult technical hurdles for his project, so he could understand and modify his proposal.
While I am not the sole project manager for his project, I manage one of the web sites at its center. When I investigated his proposal for an external system to pull information from our web site, I realized the amount of effort to integrate both systems so closely, would far outweigh the business benefit. I could have told him he was asking for too much, and it would take months to complete what he proposed. However, I convinced him that by removing just one of his four proposed features, he would get as much business benefit, with 25% of the effort. He agreed and we modified the project today, much to everyone’s satisfaction.
It’s much easier to view a project with just a technology, organization or business view. Many web developers I know (myself included, earlier in my career) fall into the trap of doing whatever the customer requests, without regard for the future of the application, or the long term vision of the company.
However, when I broaden my approach a little, i find that many very thorny technical problems can be solved quite easily (often better) without writing a line of code.
I believe the biggest disadvantage of using a systems approach comes when many people have different views of the systems as a whole. Projects can become more complicated and even paralyzed if stakeholders get too involved in making sure everyone in the organization is happy. At some point, people do need to get down to business and just move forward, accepting that there will always be some forgotten organizational or business implications.