How to keep your IT project running during the Coronavirus pandemic

Projects should be kept running for a lead in catching up once restrictions are released as well as to avoid a potentially non-recoverable project stop. This is what you need to know when switching your project from an onsite to a remote working model.

Projects can and should be kept running

The current Coronavirus pandemic is already exposing more than a third of the global population to lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing measures. Businesses are cutting or even shutting down. Individuals are losing jobs. Not only will this have dramatic and immediate effects on the global economy. It will also have adverse effects when businesses are trying to quickly ramp up operations to pre-crisis levels once restrictions are released. 

Fortunately, the IT services industry has long established means that can now be used to mitigate the impact of social distancing and travel bans. Remote delivery models have been successfully introduced many years ago. If planned and managed well remote work yields substantial benefits (e.g. travel cost savings).

Switching the services delivery model from a classical onsite to a remote working approach in the middle of an IT project within a matter of days, however, is anything but business as usual. Yet, in many cases, this is almost the only option if a potentially non-recoverable sudden project stop is to be avoided. 

The good news is that the required technical infrastructure (internet access, laptops and mobile devices, communication and collaboration applications) is broadly available. So, technically, remote work can be done literally anywhere. The question is more how smooth such a transition can be.

Below are some basic points that project managers and IT executives should look at as a starting point. Some may sound trivial. Some may be ticked off quickly if already in place – the more the better. Other points may have to be added in the context of a given project.

Infrastructure

System access

  • Ensure necessary authorisations for remote access across all project roles are in place 

Security

  • Laptops and mobile devices
  • Firewall, VPN
  • Data protection

Collaboration tools

  • Video conferencing
  • VoIP calling
  • Shared document folders

Project management 

Statutory requirements

  • Are there legal requirements preventing individuals (incl. tasks and data) from working remotely? 

Existing service contracts

  • Do long term travel and accommodation arrangements have to be cancelled?
  • Do service provider’s contracts provide for remote work?

Project plan

  • Any changes in available resources expected?
  • Any changes in deliverables and scheduling expected?
  • A solid project plan in form of a Work-Breakdown-Structure (WBS) with clearly identified deliverables and allocation of responsible resources is strongly recommended to keep the project under control
  • All of the above will show if the current baseline can be kept

Performance monitoring

  • Introduce weekly or bi-weekly reporting on actual time spent per task as well as an estimate to complete (must not be budget minus actual to date!) to compensate for lack of personal interaction
  • Use Earned Value Management to track and forecast project performance (i.e. time and cost) tightly and to predict deviations from the baseline early on  

Issue detection

  • A formal and project wide issue log should be available and managed centrally
  • Team members need to be motivated to report issues early on (praise early reporting, blame late reporting)

Team meetings

  • Have more team meetings with less participants (at least in the beginning) 
  • Keep virtual meetings short and precise
  • Be formal in how meetings are prepared and conducted (have a clear goal, an agenda, distribute meeting minutes with action items for follow up)
  • Make sure everybody contributes actively

Budget

  • Cost implications (e.g. savings targets, less travel, more communication)
  • Period allocation (will budgeted costs shift to later or earlier periods?) 

People

Soft factors

  • Actively address personal fears related to health and job security through HR
  • Be aware of possible psychological effects from social distancing and seek to address those outside the project

Engagement

  • Engage individuals to actively contribute through remote working
  • Ensure people remain engaged whilst working remotely

Time management

  • Consider and respect the consequences from people working in different time zones
  • How to control working hours (internal and external staff)?

Contact Aurelia Consulting (info@aurelia-consulting.com) to find out how to best switch from onsite to remote working for your IT project.

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