One more tool?

by | May 14, 2016

In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of traceability and how the visual representation of all of the important relationships between stakeholders, requirements, services and technology ensures that everyone stays on the same page throughout the project lifecycle. I’d like to unpack that a little now.

Maintaining traceability and alignment across project phases

Firstly, one dimension to consider is time. Wikipedia defines a project charter, project definition, or project statement as:

“a statement of the scope, objectives, and participants in a project. It provides a preliminary delineation of roles and responsibilities, outlines the project objectives, identifies the main stakeholders, and defines the authority of the project manager. It serves as a reference of authority for the future of the project. The terms of reference are usually part of the project charter.

A project charter should:

  • Contain the essence of the project
  • Provide a shared understanding of the project.
  • Act as a contract between the project sponsor, key stakeholders and the project team.”

A challenge that project managers often face at the start of a project is getting the stakeholders to agree on the scope of the project and the delivery team to understand the boundaries and keep scope front of mind. Hubscope is an excellent tool for creating this initial buy-in as it provides a simple visual representation of the whole project. As we know things change, so traceability then becomes important as a specific point in time view can be saved and used as a reference point to compare with how the project evolves. Typically, each phase of a project could have its own Hubscope snapshot so that it’s easy to see how the project has inevitably evolved over time as a more detailed understanding of requirements and the solution progresses. Suddenly then, the project charter has more meaning and relevance to the rest of the project rather than a dusty artifact sitting on a shelf.

There are many different project management lifecycle models but I like to keep things simple. The CDEF lifecycle is nice and easy to remember:

CDEF image

Hubscope provides  an important constant for the key decision points and assists with determining if the project should continue onto the next phase.

Typically projects focus a lot of attention on the execution phase but not enough attention on conception, development and finishing. Hubscope can help with each of these:

  • Conceive: Hubscope facilitates the fast creation of a strawman view of the project which can easily and quickly be iterated and improved as different stakeholders input
  • Develop: Hubscope improves collaboration by encouraging input from the whole team and helps the project manager get a clear idea of scope in terms of high level requirements and high level solution components. This helps with estimating time and costs.
  • Finish: Handover to operational teams is notoriously bad. Hubscope can’t magically solve this but by providing an easy-to-understand overview of the project, the ops team can identify the kinds of questions that it needs to have answered before it takes on responsibility for support.

Maintaining traceability and alignment across project roles

The second dimension to consider is role. One piece of feedback that pops up often, is that it is difficult to get people to consider using another tool in their role even when existing tools may not be perfect. Basically, people like what they know and don’t like change.

However, we think projects need to consider using a new tool such as Hubscope across roles, as there are not many tools that help people to work together in a truly collaborative fashion. Existing project management tools such as Jira work great if you’re used to using them every day but can be off-putting for occasional users. As well as providing consistency across time, Hubscope can help to get different roles to see that the sum of the parts is greater than their individual pieces using a pictorial language everyone can get close to. Getting everyone on the same page promotes a common agreement where everybody understands their place in the project and engages fully because they can see how their work contributes to the wider objectives.

Typically large projects can have very complex interactions between different roles on different deliverables. Here’s an example RACI chart for the conception phase from Cardinal Solutions.

RACI image

Notice how many different roles need to work together to produce individual deliverables. Current tools are very domain specific, for example: project managers use MS Project, business analysts use Visio and solution architects use EA Sparx. I’m a business analyst and get confused by MS Project whilst EA Sparx is extremely intimidating. Typically, we all like to stay within our comfort zones and these tools almost preclude successful collaboration across roles through their use of specialist notation and terminology.

Hubscope aims to smash through these silos and get everybody working together via a simple, lowest common denominator visualisation that everybody can understand and contribute too.  Jira, Basecamp and Asana may be great for the Execute phase of a project but you need something that brings together everyone and can be used for all phases of a project.

Yes, one more tool

So, we believe that projects do need one more tool, a visualisation tool that can be used in conjunction with existing tools. As we evolve Hubscope we will investigate ways to better integrate it with data from existing team oriented and project oriented tools and processes but for now we believe that Hubscope offers considerable value as a standalone tool. A tool that can be used for improving project outcomes by improving communication and consistency across project phases  as well as project roles.

All Perspective

Happy Hubscoping!

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