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The success of any IT project largely depends on how carefully it is planned. Head of the Project Management Centre of the Forbis company-developer of banking IT systems, dr. Miroslav Švabis shares his experience: what to consider when planning IT projects and what mistakes to avoid in the course of their implementation.
A successful project starts to become such already before it begins
According to M. Švabis, the success of an IT project largely depends on careful planning already before the start of work. He states that the first thing to do is to stipulate and clearly align with the customer all the business needs alongside with functional and non-functional requirements
“When aligning both business needs and functional and non-functional requirements, it is especially important to set measurable goals. Without specific, clearly measurable goals, it is unclear when the project can be considered completed, there may arise problems due to business of the team working on the project, or due to the exceeding of the budget, or due to unfulfilled customer expectations,” said M. Švabis.
Not less attention must be paid to thorough planning of the scope of work. M. Švabis notes that in order to design a successful IT project, a number of crucial questions need to be answered for identifying future time and labour costs.
“Will the project demand writing a specification for the customer? Will the assistance of a business system architect or analyst be required? What programming language will be used? Who will create a testing plan and who will carry out the testing? What documentation should be provided to the customer? Have the project-closing conditions been discussed with the customer? Only by answering these and other similar questions specific to your project, you will be able to determine what specialists and what workload will be needed,” stated M. Švabis.
After having predetermined the guidelines for the future IT project, take up careful planning. Almost all planning methodologies recommend splitting the work into the smallest steps possible: thus, you will clearly see what resources will be needed to implement each work, how long it will take, and what will happen next.
“When planning new projects, I divided their implementation into phases. Analysis is a phase when a specification is prepared; Architecture is a phase when a detailed design report is got ready; Production phase involves carrying out of the programming work; during the Internal testing phase, there are prepared test cases, scripts, test plans for carrying out of the testing; Implementation phase involves project handing over to the customer. Every project is different, but this planning methodology can be applied as universal guidelines to almost all IT projects,” said M. Švabis.
A common mistake that can appear to be very costly is the lack of the detailed arrangements in terms of the customer actions. It is important to agree in advance not only on what is expected of you, but also what the customer is committed to doing. Maybe the customer will need to create a testing environment on the local infrastructure or maybe some integration with a third party is needed. Finally, it is necessary to schedule when the customer will conduct the project acceptance testing and have your team members reserved for that time. Do not rush to involve the team into other projects until the current project is officially completed.
Management of terms and expectations
One of the biggest mistakes that the IT project managers make is overly optimistic time planning. Naturally, you want to complete every project in the shortest time possible, however, often such an approach does more harm than good.
“Experienced project managers know that it is necessary to get ready for unforeseen circumstances. That is why, when scheduling the project implementation deadlines, I always extend them by fifteen or, if the possible, even by thirty percent, certainly after aligning this with the customers. Communicate frankly with the customer, and if your relationship is particularly good, openly share your thoughts on possible project implementation scenarios. Every customer appreciates openness and will be pleasantly surprised when you finish the project earlier than planned,” said M. Švabis
Last but not least, never promise what you will not be able to accomplish. When managing IT projects, it is especially important to remain objective and honest with yourself, with the customer, with the project team, and with the management of your company. A successful project manager, facing any pressure to perform tasks that in their opinion are unachievable, must communicate this openly and justify their position.
“Having faced seemingly unrealistic expectations, the most important thing is to identify for yourself and the others, why you think this is not possible, and to openly look for solutions. Often, stating specific reasons leads to finding solutions. If you nevertheless see that the goal you want to achieve is not realistic, you may find a compromise with the help of open communication – and this will be a fair agreement and a solution being sought for,” M. Švabis reasoned.
Ija Šležė director of Forbis – developer of FinTech considers that the heads of IT companies should pay significant attention to maintaining good relationship with the employees, and she also shares her experience how to achieve this.
According to the head of the Forbis Company, the key to IT company success is a relationship based on the long-term professional partnership between the company’s employees and its management. I. Šležė emphasized that each manager wishing their team to be successful and work steadily, should not be afraid of making mistakes, be able to personally take part in the course of implementing ideas.
“I am sure that successful labour relationship is possible only in the environment, where openness and mutual trust win out. Both the manager and each member of the team should be able to assume the responsibility for the actions and any lack of such. For the team members to trust each other, it is necessary that the head would openly communicate the goals and the expectations. Owing to the long-term experience I have learnt that the work culture encouraging the openness as well as the sharing of the information makes the team motivated, responsible, and a good solution-maker,” said Forbis director.
Undeniably, each team starts with its formation. Despite the fact that the rapidly growing Lithuania’s IT sector is currently facing a lack of talented experts, I. Šležė states that creation of the ambiance, where the people feel valued and free, even at the talent deficiency conditions, allows attracting the necessary specialists.
When selecting new team members, it is particularly important to identify their motivation, and make sure that a person is interested not just in earning more, but also in being eager to learn, seek for the professional novelties, have a desire for what is being done, and be independent.
“When selecting the employees, we give preference to independent and proactive candidates. Inside the company, we have managed to create the ambiance, where new ideas are welcome, are taken for serious, and are given freedom to be implemented. Having in mind that this is one of the essential principles of our work, when selecting the personnel, we give priority to people aiming at self-realization of personal potential in profession and career. I believe that each lead forming a team should identify those work culture aspects, which in their opinion, would bring the greatest benefit, and look for the employees who share those values,” said the head of the Forbis Company.
According to I. Šležė, even the team of the most motivated and qualified professionals will constantly face challenges, and a good lead is the one, who will be able turn those challenges into the opportunities.
“One of my goals as the company’s head is to take care that the team members would not lose motivation, for instance, due to routine tasks. To support motivation, we need new challenges, goals, and tasks,” stated I. Šležė.
As for personal challenges related to the management, I. Šležė says that it is necessary to live up to the expectations that the employees have of their managers. The criteria, by which a team is formed, are also applied by the head of the Forbis Company to herself. The absence of double standards makes it possible to achieve a balanced, respect-based manager-employee relationship. Managers in any field, especially information services, should constantly learn, improve, look for new challenges, and represent an example for their team.
Despite the fact that Forbis started its activity several decades ago, today the company is an example of a modern, growing FinTech company. The director of the company emphasized that a major reason for this stability and ability to change is the balance of younger and more experienced professionals.
“We are proud of having found throughout these years of our activity a formula enabling us to remain stable and reliable partners of financial institutions, yet being able to change. Our employees can adjust their career paths not only by holding higher positions, but also by requalifying. We assume this to be one of the reasons why we do not face high personnel turnover. We are oriented towards a long-term employee-company relationship, and we extremely value both the need of novelties of the younger employees and the experience of the senior specialists,” said I. Šležė.