Friday, August 3, 2007

Creating Project Templates

This week someone emailed me and asked me how I create templates for my pre-written software (PeopleSoft, Clarify, Siebel, INFORM, etc.) engagements, so I thought I would share the thinking and one of its products this week. First, let's look at why I create them.

Effective consultants have tools which enable them to repeat engagements and bring value to customers while integrating new and improved practices, but never start from scratch. For a project manager, this represents a "starter" plan which can be used again and again. From the customer perspective, expectations need to be solidly set. An "out-of-the-box" plan is usually a good starting point since you can point to this plan and clearly identify the customizations and enhancements which are out-of-scope.

To create the out-of-the-box plan, you either need to get input from many people who have conducted implementations, both successful and unsuccessful or conduct them yourself. This will allow you to determine the correct list of tasks. The experiences will help you home in on the correct effort and resources to allocate to each task. Adding the billing rate of the resources means you can get a good look at the actual cost to the customer for the out-of-the-box implementation. Now, when the customer wants to start a discussion of customization and changes, you have something to build on. Before seeing the customer, I typically review the contract and any customizations already agreed to, populate them into the plan, and proceed to manage changes in an effective way which customers can easily understand.

Creating a good template doesn't stop there, however. Its nice to make sure each concrete step and deliverable has some associated tools, templates, or guidance to assist in completing the tasks. At Siebel Systems we both posted them to our web site and zipped them up for CD distribution so consultants could refer to the plan and the tools necessary to complete the task.

I'm obviously not going to upload anything proprietary, but I do have a very old plan for a very old version of Siebel software which should give you some ideas of what's possible. You will need MS Project to view this file (you may need to right click the link and save the file locally with a .mpp extension). In this particular case, we didn't worry about the effort and resources so much since we had our own estimating tool which would help us fill that in. Don't have MS Project but still want to peek at the file? Just drop me a line via email or comment and I'll get you a PDF version.

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