Archive for the ‘Project management’ Category

On Hold Considerations

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

An important part of spending wisely in a harsh economic climate is establishing where to stop spending. All IT and building projects are fair game in this process, whether they take the form of custom applications, software maintenance, support services, infrastructure, networking or telecommunications. Remembering that placing a project on hold implies that you intend to resume it at a later point, take a look at what criteria you should consider before choosing which projects to put on ice.

The cost factor
The bottom line is without doubt the biggest and most important consideration factor. For a project to be successful from a business perspective, it should ultimately result in increased revenue, decreased expense, and reduced risk. A project needs to meet at least one of these requirements to be kept going, and it needs to do so within an acceptable time frame. Sunk costs should not be considered when deciding whether or not to pull the plug on a project; these will never be retrieved and should be written off as such.

The time factor
To ensure sustainability, it follows logically that smaller projects with shorter return periods should be prioritized over larger projects with longer return periods. Resources locked into longer-term implementations could be better employed on shorter quicker projects.

The stakeholders
Often overlooked and underrated, make a point of gaining buy-in from the relevant business community when putting a project on ice. Having on hold buy-in will go a long way to gaining stakeholder trust. You should aim to have as much support for putting a project on hold as you would for kicking it off.

Consider the key personnel involved in a project and assess the likelihood of their availability when the project would foreseeably be re-introduced. Relying on an irreplaceable member who may not be around at recommencement could possibly be the only reason not to place a project on hold.

Consider also, the effect on dependent projects of placing a project on hold. For example, the management team might have plans for executive reporting functionality from an ERP. Plan around mitigating the effects on these and ensure the relevant people are kept in the loop.

Structure your stop
Make a point of mitigating future risks when putting a project on hold. Where the impending absence of a critical member is a factor, ensuring knowledge transfer to replacement project members before the project is placed on hold is essential. All processes and research to date and should be fully documented, and interim work-arounds implemented. A structured stop thus reduces the expected ramp-up time for recommencement, making the option more attractive than if the project ended suddenly.

What is your investment strategy?
While it may be the last item on the minds of most, a downturn can be a great time to gain competitive advantage. Where a company has some capital in reserve, and an aggressive investment strategy, it might be worth outlaying the cost in favor of competitive gain. While an enterprising idea is coupled with substantial risk in a volatile climate, the long-term return of a well realized initiative might place you ahead of the game when things recover.

What to do when you’ve hit pause
Remaining effective when things are quiet shouldn’t be difficult if you plan correctly:

  • Go internal
  • – A quiet period is a good time to hammer out those items which require internal resources and relative stability e.g. hardware or software upgrades.

  • Don’t lower quality
  • – While the immediate need is to cut cost, this shouldn’t be at the expense of quality of service.

  • Make a ‘Play’ checklist
  • – Decide what the core criteria are for assessing how to take a project off its ‘on hold’ status, and establish interval check points.

  • Identify key personnel
  • – Identify the key personnel involved in ‘frozen’ projects and consider their availability when it kicks off.

  • Ensure you’re set for the upswing
  • – Where you don’t have the ability to seize the opportunity to excel in a downturn, it’s worth preparing yourself internally for the recovery of the economy. By fully documenting projects on hold, making internal processes efficient to facilitate future growth, and finessing the lower priority processes, you will ultimate make the revival easier.