Project Derailed? Get Back on Track!

In April, we were asked to take over the management of a project that had missed multiple launch dates. It was originally scheduled for deployment in December then rescheduled to March. Now June. The company – our client – would face penalties in the tens of thousands of dollars if the project (a system cutover) wasn’t completed by June 1. We had 60 days to turn things around. 

The client was and had been committed to the project and to the outcomes, but decided to rely on the vendor’s project manager to be the PM for the entire project. A senior executive was involved to review and approve progress, but didn’t really have the cycles to give it the focus it required, given he still had to do his day job. It was risky to rely on the vendor’s PM, because they would have been most focused on maximizing the outcomes for their own team, but in this case it was clearly detrimental. The vendor cycled through five different project managers during the project. There was no knowledge transfer between the PMs; each PM started over when they assumed responsibility.

Our team jumped right in and hit the ground running. Our project team performed a discovery and needs assessment to understand the situation and create a strategy for success. During our discovery we identified five critical failures to be addressed:

  • Specific project tasks and timelines were not clearly defined
  • Action item ownership was uncertain and not well defined
  • There was no established method to track issues and resolutions
  • The user acceptance testing (UAT) phase was unplanned
  • Deployment phase had not been planned appropriately

To take control of the project and move it toward completion, the BDM2 Project Manager:

  • Created a project management workspace with dashboards to allow transparence and visibility across all project team
  • Added additional status meetings with the core project team and provided written status reports each week
  • Focused on prioritizing key cutover tasks, so that most critical were completed first
  • Documented issues and action items, owners and due dates
  • Created a user acceptance test plan and tracking platform with dashboards for real-time visibility of status
  • Worked with the client and vendor teams to create an issue and action items log and tracked their status and resolution
  • Worked with client and vendor teams to create a detailed deployment plan with specific steps for deployment and ownership

In summary, when faced with the challenge of taking over a project that is leaning toward failure, we believe there are four key components to success.

1. Communication – Open lines of communication immediately.  Communicating clearly and consistently across internal and external teams will provide visibility and transparency to the project stakeholders and ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. 

2. Discovery – Assess the current status to get the true project health, identify and prioritize critical path tasks and activities required to successfully complete the project in the time that is left. This may require moving non-critical deliverable to a future phase.

3. Status Management – Have frequent status checks to minimize delays and make decisions quickly. 

4. Accountability – Ensure accountability on issues and action items, both in terms of the tasks required and the deadlines.

In the end, we were successful. The new system did launch on June 1, with all the key product features in place. No penalties were assessed against our client, and they told us repeatedly that they regretted not engaging us at the beginning of the project.

If you have a project that has gone off the rails and need to get back on track schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how BDM Squared can help.

BDM Squared is a boutique management consulting firm providing project management and business process improvement on demand.  Our mission: help our clients deliver their projects on time and on budget every time. Our edge: real-time access to our constantly updated, comprehensive project dashboard. At any point in the project, know that you’ll have access to every detail – every document – every resource being managed for your benefit.