GANTT CHARTS, SMANTT CHARTS…
Projects come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own challenges. Unsurprisingly different methodologies have emerged to provide a solution to the different challenges. PRINCE and SCRUM are the two that I’ve spent the majority of my project management life working with; you may well have your own favourites.
Personally I love SCRUM and found it a more natural way to shape delivery, especially within the volatile world of software product development. Having an approach that embraced change appeared to me to be one with a greater chance of success than one that focused on minimizing it.
However I am not an Agile Evangelist and feel there is a time and a place for the more structured methodologies. Agile deals well with uncertainty and the invariable change required when working within an ambiguous environment. But when outcomes and the processes that deliver them are well defined having a methodology that drives predictability and consistency is more important than one that deals with change.
Compliance projects are very much the latter of the two. There is a clear set of outcomes that must be achieved, typically a timeline within which to deliver and often a well-defined set of processes to be executed. Predictability and consistency is what is required here.
Project plans are much maligned, especially the dreaded Gantt chart with layers of complexity defining dependencies, analyzing critical paths, levelling resources… It’s enough to make the most structured of us wince at the amount of time that will be spent updating such a plan.
Many project managers I know abandon their Gantt charts after the initial kick-off session and revert to spreadsheets as a more flexible tool to track progress. I have empathy for that approach and the rationale behind it. However as a Project Manager this feels like a backwards step. You’re role as PM is to ensure delivery as far as possible within the triple constraints (time, scope, money). Abandoning a plan feels like a dereliction of duty or at the very least a surrendering of control.
Whilst re-planning is time consuming and often a recurring activity it cannot be avoided if there is no flexibility within the outcomes, the tasks that deliver them or the time in which they must be delivered.
In such projects the importance of a well-defined, thorough, detailed, highly structured plan can be the difference between success and failure. Get the plan wrong, omit an activity or miss a dependency and you have a non-conformance that can result in a failure to achieve compliance. “Fail to plan, plan to fail” and “it’s all in the preparation” are glib expressions but in the case of regulatory compliance they hold true. Start out on the wrong path and it’s very difficult to recover.
However all is not doom and gloom in the world of compliance projects. The benefit of a well-defined plan that has been maintained and adjusted to ultimately deliver a successful outcome is that it can be reused the following year. Having attained you must retain and therefore the ability to leverage the knowledge and experience built into the plan should be an important goal for the initial project. Better still is the ability to leverage pre-built plans based upon industry best practice that you can augment with your own internal expertise.
This is exactly what OpusView from IdeasCast offers through its unique templating library. Shipped with the product are a range of templates that act as the shell of a project plan with the structure and activities already created. Simply selecting the relevant template and within a few clicks you are up and running with the confidence that nothing has been missed. Peace of mind and accelerated delivery comes from knowing that your compliance project is shaped from the experience of industry experts.
Finally with the benefit of this expertise distilled into your plan the likelihood of you having to re-plan reduces massively. So abandon those spreadsheets, uninstall that Gantt charting app and take back control by moving to a platform purpose built to deliver your compliance initiative.
Martin Shaw, CTO at Ideascast
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