Thought Leadership from Industry Peers

Project Management for Charities Series: Should we value project progress over particular tools or techniques

Peter Heather | 07 December 2016

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Project Management for Charities Series: Charities Project Manifesto - Lessons learnt last year.

The Charities Project Manifesto was published nearly two years ago. I have been looking at the content of the manifesto and asking is it still relevant and is it being applied in practice.

Part 6 Value project progress over particular tools or techniques.

The manifesto states that we should value progress over particular tools or techniques but I do not agree with this.

It seems to me that the path to progress comes from improving the standards we use so that we have consistent outcomes. We should learn from our experiences and use current good practices, tools and techniques.

Quote from a Charity IT project lead "How you manage a project is as important as the project outcome"

There have been significant developments in tools and techniques that have improved the project culture and standards of IT project management and these tools and techniques should be valued.

If you take the analogy with finance ….bookkeeping has been around for about 300 years and the practices and techniques of double entry bookkeeping have added value to our ability to use common standards for finance. IT and project management have a shorter history but we are moving towards an improving standard in how we manage projects and I would equate Agile as the technique we should use in IT just as we use double-entry bookkeeping for Finance.

IT software projects have been using Agile methods to great effect for some years and the impact has been felt across the whole industry. Agile is now the emerging leader for IT project management and is even being used in government projects …..I suggest that charities do value Agile as a particular technique as it is more likely to deliver project success.

You may also like this – Give projects the same respect as business as usual

Project progress in traditional waterfall methods has always bothered me as it has been difficult to give an accurate status update on progress…..just because we have used 75% of the planned time and effort should we be reporting that the project is 75% complete?….this gives a false sense of confidence in the report and for most complex projects the status report rarely give accurate predictions. Earned value calculations just seem to me to add to the opportunities to be more accurately wrong.

A change in how products are delivered has also emerged. Products are delivered with the main minimum features working and the secondary features are only developed if the product is successful and there is market demand…or not at all if the main features are sufficient. We see this in a variety of products and services provided by Apple, Microsoft etc.

Agile methods, coupled with an increasing acceptance of the principle of a minimum viable product (MVP) can work to deliver value more quickly.

In a sector where time and cost are at a premium then techniques that deliver against core requirements more quickly should be valued.

I, therefore, think that Agile should be promoted more across the sector and its more widespread adoption would be of value to all.

I recommend a strong core Project Management foundation knowledge for people working in charities so that we all understand the theory of change and our roles in the process and for IT projects a focus on Agile as the principle technique for delivery.

Peter Heather Former IT Director | ActionAid & WaterAid

Former Head of IT with WaterAid and ActionAid helping charities and not for profits have a good experience with IT & Systems. Peter has a strong background in IT and significant experience with transformational change projects. His career in business analysis and programme management as well as operational and general IT management brings specialized knowledge of the sector for the benefit of charities and not for profits. Read More

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