As part of this week’s “back to work” theme, here in this project management posting, one will consider the aspects of project management. Projects need varying amount of management. The larger the project, the more likely it is to need formal project management. Mid-sized projects might have a part-time project manager that is shared with other projects, while large projects usually have a dedicated project manager.

Do You Need to Run a Formal Project?
Consider a piece of software that is large and/or touches many aspects of your lab, such as a LIMS, an ELN, an SDMS, or even a large CDS project. First of all, whether the product requires you to load some data, press a few buttons to setup your user preferences or even requires someone to write some code to make it work as needed, these systems can be quite complex to implement. Even when no code is to be written, there can be so many choices in these systems, that it can take time to decide what is required and how to set the system up.

Thus, whether a company initially expected to or not, they will probably end up doing workshops of requirements gathering and process mapping. If a company is GMP or has FDA regulations to meet, such as software validation requirements, this adds both activities and calendar time to the project. Getting the servers in place, testing the software works with the other company software, buying computers for all the people that might need a new one to run the software, training – all these tasks will add complexity to the project.

Make a list of all of these that you need to do, all the people involved, the time it will take, and if you feel overwhelmed, you probably need a project manager.

Good Things Come From Good Project Managers
Good project managers will help you control the scope of your project. One reason so many projects go over budget and don’t stay on schedule is that the scope of the project continues to grow. Managing the scope doesn’t mean the project manager will refuse to add things to the schedule, just that it will be done in a controlled manner. Thus, if a new requirements comes along for a complex feature, the resources to provide that feature must come from somewhere, and the schedule must be changed, accordingly.

The project manager will work to ensure that things happen in the right order. For example, if everyone needs a new PC to run the new software, the project manager will likely have the task to order and install PCs ahead of tasks such as “go live.”

Take it Seriously
Sometimes, there is a misconception that when people buy a COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) system that it’s boxed software that you just install and use. Thus, they would argue that it does not need a project structure. If the software a company buys is truly limited, it might actually still need a formal project, in order to schedule all the items, including things like training. Too often, though, the software we deal with is way beyond that.

Thus, systems often begin with what ends up being a chaotic approach that leaves users skeptical that the system will ever become live, that doesn’t produce the intended functionality, and that has cost quite a lot of money for little return. Don’t wait to end up in this position. Sit down, first, and consider some of the factors I mentioned in the last section. Do this leg-work, first, or suffer the potential consequences, later.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises