Beyond all the tools and techniques of project management, there is an essential requirement that must be present throughout the life of the project: a common understanding. Leadership skills are essential to keep the focus on this key element. It is easy for one person to think that they understand, but this is only one view of a situation. A common understanding is obtained when both parties have the same understanding of the project.
Let’s take the example of the development of an IT application for a business unit. This kind of project can have its ups and downs and come with various challenges. The outcome can range from a successful application, a working solution accepted with some level of frustration, or sometimes a mere failure.
The core challenge relates to the nature of the project: It should not be viewed as an IT project. It is primarily a business project, supported by technology. This change of perspective is very significant. The development team might view it as a technology project, while the business team see the application as one of the tools they will use to manage their activities. For a business application, the real owner is the business unit. Success requires their time, participation, and executive leadership of the project.
From the beginning, there is a high risk of not having a common understanding between the development team and the business team. If they are not careful, this risk will have significant impacts throughout the life of the project.
Documents as facilitators
Assuming that the project did not fall into the trap of doing everything informally, documentation will fast come into play. During the development of the application, various documents will need to be created to record the requirements and obtain approval.
The key objective of documents should be to reach a common understand between the business unit and the development team. The documents should be clear and transparent, and support the proper discussions on the various subjects. Once these discussions have occurred, then it is possible to make timely and meaningful decisions.
For sure, documents fulfill many other technical purposes, including proper documentation of project management, system requirements, and system design. And for an IT application, leaving proper documentation helps the development of future releases. However, if documents fail to achieve the key objective of obtaining a common understanding, the project will be like walking through a maze of issues.
Among other things, the following problems are likely to appear if the documents were not designed for a common understanding:
- Misunderstanding of features included in the application
- Frequent change requests to add features
- Unable to approve the solution during the user acceptance testing
This concept also applies to the documentation of the proposed development process. It is essential for success to establish a common understanding of how the application will be developed. This does not mean making the business unit leaders into experts in software development. However, they do need to have sufficient knowledge of the process. Without that common understanding, the project will run into various problems.
Two rights make a wrong
What is the root cause of chaos that we often observed? The whole project is not managed to obtain a common understanding. There is a disconnect between the business unit team and the development team. It can degenerate into full-scale confusion and frustration. Each side will be blaming the other side for issues. The activities of the development team and business team won’t be synchronized. It ends up as a blame game, with both sides being right and ultimately being wrong.
So you are the project manager for the development of the new business application. Here is the challenge question:
Do you have a common understanding with the business team on the project on the various elements of the project?
If you do, excellent job!
If not, it is critical to review the design of the documents, presentation, and meetings to ensure that aim for obtaining a common understanding between the development team and the business unit. The success of the project will often depend on it.
For more brilliant insights, check out Michel’s website: Project-Aria