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Tips for managing large scale projects

Large scale technology projects are funny.

They come with challenges right from the word go.

You don’t know where to start, and the confusion stretches for over 10 to 12 months. (well… until the project is done)

Another biggest challenge with massive projects is to get them done on time without bypassing clients’ expectations.

But the picture is not that good with these requirements. Most IT businesses are sleeping pandas.

Key stats

You’ll be surprised to know these worrying stats:

  • the average large scale project costs 45% more than the estimated
  • the projects exceed the deadline by 7%
  • the businesses deliver 56% less value than promised

No one wants to fall prey to such statistics, especially when a lot is at stake for many people. But the companies keep repeating the same mistakes. It’s because they leave the basic concepts of project management outside the project.

We assume you don’t want to be at the receiving end of such losing stats too. And of course, you don’t want to be leaving the project management skills out of the large projects.

So here are four tips to consider while you’re dealing with a large scale project.

Tip #1 Don’t discount the role of technical leads

Large scale projects are extremely uncertain and complex.

Today’s information turns stale tomorrow, and new data emerges every day throughout the project lifecycle.

Moreover, the projects demand smooth integration between many tools and technologies to fill the resource gap.

It’s impossible to address these challenges without having a quality tech lead in your team.

The leads manage all the technical aspects of the projects ensuring their decisions are based on rich information.

Remember! A bad or no tech lead will weaken the foundation, but a good tech lead will give your project a much-needed headstart.

Things to consider while choosing a technical lead

  • Have they managed technically challenging projects in the past?
  • Do they possess top-management skills?
  • Are they beyond the “right academic qualifications?”
  • If they aren’t experienced, what risks are you willing to take?
  • And important of all, do they own a style to reflect your team?

Tip #2 Get iterative and flexible with project models

Large projects also test the meat when you have to pick the right management models for them.

60% of the companies in the US experience profit with the Agile approach. But discounting the remaining 40% is the prominent mistake project managers make.

As stats favor agile over a waterfall model, managers may feel tempted to go with the flow.

In fact, many are obsessed with the agile bandwagon completely ignoring the fact if the project deserves it.

It’s easiest to fall for the buzzwords without considering any other options in between.

While agile can benefit some bigger IT projects, many are too big to handle a fully-agile model.

The same goes for waterfall management. It works best for the bigger projects with dependencies and large teams but may not be suited for all the large projects.

The key to a successful large project lies in discovering how flexible your approach is. Iterative development models break down huge projects into smaller chunks and manage deliverables.

Things to consider

  • Find the method most suitable for your business and clients alike
  • Know the total phases in your project and how you’ll stick by the deliverables
  • How will you move from waterfall and fully-agile management to an iterative-agile model?

Tip #3 Get a dedicated testing team

The second most weird thing about bigger projects is the designs incoming from different groups…

Wait! Integration being the weirdest.

And you know how integration also requires a dedicated testing team for your project.

Usually, businesses glide QA testing roles to their developers. But let’s be honest! No one’s good with analyzing their own work credits to tunnel vision.

So it’s always good to have a dedicated system integration team that allocates special time for these activities, absorbing much of the developer’s headache.

Some projects leave the end customers guessing with the user-testing. Results? Too many errors at the user level let customers battle bad experiences, resulting in the project’s rejection.

You would never want to leave the projects with high-level user validations without letting them go through the eyes of a devoted QA team.

Ask yourself:

  • Did you allocate enough time for QA testing, or are you going to skip it with hovering deadlines at the end?
  • Do you want to rely on developers rather than testing connoisseurs?
  • Are the testers objective? Great testers can look at the results of the large scale tests.
  • How do you know when to stop QA and move with other processes?

Tip #4 Organize your decision-making structure

Expect seismic changes in the landscape with large IT projects. And all that in a matter of a few seconds.

Small technical problems can lead to bigger ones, calling for quick decision-making at every project level. You don’t have any window to hold-on or wait for the directions.

Instead, you need to fix the problems because the project involves multiple teams sitting at different locations.

To ensure the commitments don’t fall short of inactive decision-making processes, arrange weekly meetings among team leads. Get in the executives in monthly committee meetings.

Meetings are to ensure a smooth information flow between the tech and business leads regarding the project’s requirements and problems. The committee meetings let the executives know about the project’s progress to make sponsorship-decisions as deemed fit.

The lack of decision-makers has failed many projects. So you can’t manage to miss this active process without being clear on decision-making structures.

Things to consider

  • Are you following a top-down decision-making structure where the information permeates from the top to the bottom layer of management?
  • Is your decision-making structure effective?
  • Do the representatives have the power to make decisions for the team and its people?

The final argument

As with small projects, you may think rolling your sleeves and sitting on work will take care of the large projects. But it’s not that simple. They’re different.

You need concrete planning and monitoring to check if your goals are accomplished, unlike the small projects where mistakes go unnoticed or don’t substantially affect the final output.

So consider all the mentioned tips before and during the lifecycle of your large scale project.

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