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10 top tips for creating timing plans: Post project review & optimise

One of the most overlooked parts of a project is what happens when it’s gone live. In the euphoria and excitement of delivering a project, scheduling the effective close of a project is sometimes overlooked. All too often a project plan will end with a single milestone, the project live date. While a project might be live, it’s not over. In fact, the end of the first phase of a project should really just be signaling the start of the next phase. In this post we’ll explore how you can ensure your timing plans account for the complexities of the post ‘go live’ phases of a project.

Don’t stop smoking

Post live, ensure that there’s an additional post live phase of Quality Assurance (QA). If you don’t account for this up front not only will the client be surprised when everything’s not working perfectly, but you’ll find that your resources have already been reallocated to another project, and it can be difficult to get them back! When creating your project plan for the closing phases of your project, ensure you schedule smoke testing after the project has gone live, and additional resource to fix those sneaky bugs that only ever appear in production.

Be clear about when it’s over

It can be tempting to end your project or timing plan with a convenient milestone, labelled Live. It feels good. The problem with doing that is that it’s not really accurate. There’s always going to be post-live activity that needs to be accounted for, and planned. It’s important though to be clear where one project ends, and where the next one begins. The scope of work document should clearly define when a project is complete and all in-scope deliverables are delivered. Wherever possible, I’d suggest it’s important to allow the project to percolate before you schedule proceeding to quickly to an enhancements phase. Some of the biggest and worst mistakes to projects are made trying to make quick fixes to a project in the days just after it goes live.

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Test and analyse

Schedule a code freeze. Instead of scheduling the inevitable period of knee-jerk post live quick fixes, try and be a bit more strategic.  Build into the project plan a phase for testing and analysis to measure how the project is performing against the KPI’s. This phase will enable you and the client to ascertain the extent to which the project is getting results. Schedule within your project plans working sessions with client stakeholders,  user testing focus groups and reviews of the analytics to identify any issues and explore opportunities to optimise the project.

Create a roadmap

When you’re clear about the issues and opportunities, scope out the updates and create a roadmap for the updates, creating a timing plan to schedule the implementation. If you’re not careful you’ll end up with a mishmash of change requests with no particular structure. Instead, plan it out taking into consideration the client’s budget and the importance rather than the perceived urgency of the changes. Start by with any quick wins and plan out the bigger opportunities and enhancements so that the client knows what they can expect, when.

Optimise, analyse. Repeat.

Got the roadmap approved? Now start implementing each of the enhancements. Be sure to keep scheduling into your project plan an analysis and optimisation cycle even after the initial roadmap is complete.

Review and take heed of lessons learned

If we’re going to become more effective project managers, an important step in every project is to learn from it. Post project reviews are essential. But if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen, and memories fade quickly. The the post project review meeting to analyse what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what can be improved on for next time. Schedule review meetings to take learnings from everyone who was involved in the project, including the client. Ask yourself how this should shape future projects and make sure you share your learnings with the rest of the Project Management team.

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What do you think?

What do you think we’re missing? What else is there to defining the idea that should PM’s be thinking about when creating timing plans and project plans? We’d love to hear if you’ve got any more tips – why not share them using the comments below?

10 top tips for creating timing and project plans

This 10 top tips blog series has been written as a guide for estimating and approaching creating cost estimates in the midst of it all. In this series of posts we’re looking at the following:

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and VP of Client Services at FCV, a full service digital agency in Vancouver, Canada. I've been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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