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Evolve your IT project delivery methods by implementing best practices: Part two

Running IT projects in an efficient manner leads to all kinds of benefits, not least a greater likelihood of delighting your customer with the finished product. Well-run projects also lead to increased team morale and job satisfaction, and with talent at such a premium, anything that helps attract and retain brilliant people will be important to ambitious technology leaders.

In the first article in this series, we looked at how to assess where your organisation’s digital delivery processes are working well, where they need improvement, and how you compare to other organisations. In this piece, we look at how to use these findings to shape the improvements you need to make.

1. Map out your journey

Based on the benchmarking outputs, you’ll likely want to see some evolution (or possibly revolution!) in the way your digital delivery teams are working, to better gear your function to meet organisational and client requirements.

Set out a roadmap

Draw on the benchmarking findings and your organisation’s wider needs to map out what you want your teams’ ways of working to look like, and how you intend to get there.

Share your vision

As we touched on in part one, securing buy-in for change is essential. Share your vision for your teams’ future operating model, explain your rationale, listen to feedback, and demonstrate how the change will make everyone’s jobs easier and more rewarding.

Encourage your teams to innovate

As you go on the journey, encourage your teams to propose new ways of working, tools to support these, and the expected benefits. Be open-minded, and willing to implement change if it’s justified.

Be flexible and pragmatic

Your overall journey will likely be taking you towards a DevOps-style model. But there may be situations where you need to address a pain point in a way that doesn’t neatly fit with this wider journey. Weigh up the short- and medium-term benefits of the change – there will be situations where it’s merited.

All sorts of things can impact the way an organisation needs to operate, so be flexible around your plan. Events may occur that require you to alter course and do things in a different way.

2. Implement digital delivery best practices

Whatever your vision for a future digital delivery operating model looks like, there are things we advocate doing in all organisations, if you aren’t already.

Keep your product owners and business stakeholders engaged

The most successful digital products and services are usually those where product owners and business stakeholders play an active role throughout design, development and testing. Their involvement in defining requirements, prioritising work and shaping the product as it develops plays a huge part in ensuring the final result delivers on the business goals.

This continuous engagement can represent quite a shift in mindset, particularly for those used to working in conventional waterfall delivery models. To support the change, showcase the benefits as early as possible.

Ensure regular end-user engagement

Testing with end-users should be a standard part of your digital delivery processes. It helps keep the product or service you’re building on track to meet a genuine user need.

Improve visibility of what everyone is doing

Knowing what your teams are spending their time on means you can ensure resources are used where they’re most needed. And sharing this visibility between teams is also beneficial, since it minimises the possibility of teams duplicating each other’s work, or solving problems in incompatible ways.

Greater visibility also surfaces symptoms of other issues: a certain task taking a disproportionate amount of time could be the result of friction in an underlying process that needs attention.

Your teams will probably be using time-tracking tools, but would it be helpful if people logged tasks in a more granular way? If so, make sure you find the right balance between collecting more detailed information and this becoming too onerous on individuals. Bring your colleagues on the journey by demonstrating the value of the additional granularity, and how it will benefit them, their team and the organisation in the long term.

Ensure every project has a single source of truth showing what’s done, in-progress and pending

These lists provide visibility, ensuring delivery teams and their customers have a shared understanding of project direction and progress. The in-progress list should be relatively short and fresh.

Maintain razor-sharp focus

The most efficient delivery projects are those where the entire team is sharply focused on the same goal at the same time. Ensuring your team leaders keep their lists of in-progress work short and fresh is part of the solution.

Many organisations, understandably, have a default position that resources must be fully utilised at all times. While this seems logical from an economic standpoint, it can fragment the time and attention of key team members, add friction and increase hidden overheads. This split focus can negatively impact the overall efficiency and velocity of a team.

We generally advocate optimising for sharp focus over full utilisation. If someone has a short period of downtime, identify something indirectly valuable to the project they could do, while the rest of the team focuses together on the shared goal.

Strive for continual improvement

Best practices in any discipline evolve over time, as new tools, techniques and learnings become available. Smart organisations therefore see the type of journey we’ve covered in these two articles a continuous one, where they’re constantly looking for – and then implementing – ways to improve.

If you’d like to learn more about the different elements of modern digital delivery, head over to wherever you get your podcasts, and search “Softwire Techtalks”. You’ll find a range of topics in the back catalogue, including How to use DevOps to make your developers more productive, and Why the continuous delivery approach is important.

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