Lessons learned pre-mortem – top tips

How to overcome common challenges when delivering a project

Here at Entec Si, we undertake project and programme assurance work for IT-enabled change. Our experience in this space has shown that most projects and programmes struggle with some common challenges. Many of these issues could have been avoided at the start by assessing risks and issues.

This has made us think that perhaps every project or programme should kick-off with a lessons learned session. Acting as a kind of pre-mortem, this would get the team thinking about what challenges might occur during the project and how these can be addressed.

So we’ve put together some top tips, these are common lessons learned that we find time and time again across projects. Although you’re more likely to find these in a closure report, by addressing these potential risks from the outset, you’ll find your project will be a much smoother experience.

1. Securing dedicated resources for the project’s delivery

This is one of the most common challenges for any project or programme. Typically the client will only offer their key people to support the delivery on a part-time basis. These people will have business as usual as well as specific project work to complete. There are a range of ways you can overcome this issue:

  • Careful planning
  • Adding contingency into time and budgets
  • Bringing in dedicated individuals to manage specific work streams
  • Commissioning specific work packages for part-time resources

2. User Acceptance Testing is cut short

This is always a challenge, often because build and other tests take longer than originally planned or anticipated. The only way to manage this is by adding contingency into time, budgets and resources. If possible, use a dedicated test manager to oversee user acceptance testing. For large or complex projects, consider pulling together a test team.

3. The level of business change is underestimated

It is becoming more unusual these days to find technology projects that don’t take into account the business change elements necessary for a successful project, however, they do still exist.

The old adage of ‘people, process, technology’ is still valid to this day. The only way to manage the challenge of business change is to ensure that you always approach technology-led projects from a business perspective. Similarly, you should outline business benefits from the start. Engagement and communication with all stakeholders throughout the project’s lifecycle are critical elements of this.

4. A lack of operational readiness planning

It can be the case that poor operational planning will not support a smooth go-live and transition into business as usual. This is especially the case for complex projects and programmes.

Often this is an area that is left to the last minute, or sometimes even neglected altogether. The only sure way to ensure a ‘soft landing’ is to have a clear set of acceptance criteria. These can then be managed using a series of gateway reviews and ‘go/no go’ meetings.

5. People were slow to embrace change

In this situation, a slow adoption of change often means a project has to have a second phase. The root of this lies in a lack of focus on the change aspects of a project or programme.

It’s also often the case that training is rushed and therefore doesn’t allow for different learning styles. The way to tackle this is to offer different options and channels for learning. This would allow for additional support and the offer of training and support for some time after the go-live period.

Contact us if you would like to find out how we can manage your project or programme.

Published: Feb 24, 2021

By Eman Al-Hillawi

Principal Consultant

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