This is a continuation of the SAP BW Best Practice Series on SAP Project Management. In this article I review the key documents and management plans I recommend you have on hand and maintain throughout the life of any SAP project. If you are in the middle of development for your next Go-Live or doing an upgrade of an existing SAP BW or Business Objects dashboard system or working on any type of greenfield or ongoing project, I recommend you also have a project folder. Even if you don’t have these project management plans in place when you join a project, setting them up soon after you join will make you look smart as well as help you turn around and regain control of any failing project. In this Article, I discuss the lowly Project Folder and how important that is to your project success.
Are you running a project out of your head?
Remember what I have been saying all along in this project management series : with “Better Planning” you get “Better Results”.
Let’s review the key documents I recommend that you always have on hand or be in the process of creating for any project, big or small. You should have:
- Project Charter
- Risk Register
- Stakeholder Management Plan
- Scope Management Plan
- Communications Management Plan
- Schedule Management Plan
By now it should be clear that in order to create any one of these subsidiary project management plans, you will have generated a lot of information in the process about your particular project. You will also have had to compile supporting documentation needed to create this documentation. Most likely, unless you have done this a few times already, you are storing all this documentation on your computer. Don’t do this. There is a better way and I will tell you how and why in a minute.
This documentation is commonly referred to as Historical Information. The PMI as well as the PMBOK often says that Historical Information is an input to all planning processes. This is true, however, one item that the PMBOK leaves out is how to manage all this historical information. One system I have developed that I find to be extremely simple to set up as well as vitally important to any project success is nothing more than a simple “Project Folder System”.
A project folder system is:
- Simple in concept
- Easy for end users to understand
- Easy for end users to work with
- Simple to maintain
- Globally visible or accessible to ALL stakeholders – This is a key to success
Establish a Simple Project Folder System
(Is that Old School or what)
A Project Folder System is one of those big benefit items that costs almost nothing to create. I recommend you set up a project folder system today.
I have also tried out some of the industrial grade systems such as Mercury Test Director, Visual Source Save, etc. I find them to be difficult to log into, hard to work with and more overkill than is necessary for a simple folder system. They are ok. They work. But there is a simpler way to do it. A Project Manager needs flexibility, not stiff rigidity which most of these products force you into.
The folder system should be set up to reflect the different categories of documentation that you have as well as organized to assist you in managing your project from one phase of development to the next.
I also recommend that the project folder system be set up to be globally visible to all project stakeholders. This means that no matter where in the world the other project members might be physically located, they can log onto the system or database that contains your project folder system, navigate into each folder, copy project documents from it to their PC, or upload documents and document updates into the various folders.
Use a Globally Visible Project Folder System
How to solve the “What is the latest and greatest document or the ‘What’s going on’ "syndrome
The issue of knowing what is the latest and greatest release of any particular document is also solved because the computer puts a time and date stamp on each file indicating when it was last created or updated. Since it is sometimes difficult for the end user to see these time stamps, I also recommend that a file naming convention be established and enforced so that end users can immediately know which file is the latest and greatest version of a document just by looking at the file name. The computer will sort the files based on the file name so it is a Best Practice to let the computer work for you by helping you sort the files by name rather than working against you when you use a non-standard naming convention.
How to keep the project team members updated on project progress
Just by looking at folder names or the contents of each folder a stakeholder should be able to understand the current state of the project and they should be able to do this without asking the project manager what’s going on. This makes the communications job of the Project Manager much easier. You don’t have to send out document updates any more. All you have to do is steer people to the project folder and let them look for themselves what is going on. If they need the latest document, they can find it themselves and download it for themselves. They don’t have to go through the project manager.
Establishing “Critical Mass” is the key to handling end-user resistance
If your project is in trouble, one of the likely candidate reasons your project got into trouble was because there was no project folder system established at the beginning of the project and end users and stakeholders have all gotten used to storing project documentation in their heads or on their own PC’s and trying to keep everyone updated by sending out e-mail updates. This involves an issue known as Brooks Law and the simple fix to the Brooks Law problem is a simple project folder system. When you first announce that you have a project folder system set up and that you now want everybody to start using this new system, they will resist you.
Load Up Your Folders with your Golden Documentation (Gold Docs)
Now, when you first set up your project folder system, you will run into resistance from end users. They will just not want to start using your project folder system. End users will complain that they are too busy to store their documents into the folder system or that it is easier for them to just e-mail out the updates to everyone. For the most part, they will just complain because they will think there is little to no value to storing ALL project documentation in a commonly accessible project folder system.
Overcoming End User Resistance
The only way to overcome this end user resistance is to establish what I like to call “Critical Mass”. Luckily, this is only a temporary uphill battle you have to go through. This means that you have to load enough project related information into the project folder system so that the project folder system becomes the go-to place for people to get project related information. Only after you have loaded up the project folder system with enough information to create Critical Mass will people then voluntarily start using the project folder system. I’ve seen it happen a few times where overnight a person who was resistant suddenly becomes a great supporter of the project folder system. They go to the folder to get documents and project related information they need and they also will start storing their updated documentation back into the project folder system into the correct folders.
Just Remember: “Better Planning, Better Results”.
Celebrating my 143rd Software Development Project