Strategies for Effective Automation Project Execution
Most projects, including automation implementation, consist of several phases. Elements of a project life cycle include defining, planning, executing and delivering. Management of the project stakeholder’s expectations during each of these phases is critical.
You may currently be responsible for managing an automation project. Or, it is likely that you will lead one at some point in your career. Once your project receives approval, you face pressure to perform. You must define the project scope, be thorough in planning, and execute to that plan. Company executives need to see expected results within the agreed timeframe. And, by the way, you must ensure limited disruption to their current production schedules. Piece of cake, right?
When you are managing a project, it is important that you are clear on the outcome. What are the “customer” expectations (whether internal or external)? What problem are you trying to solve through automation? You must keep your eye on the “pain” that is being resolved by the project. Although this may seem simple, there are many things that can get in the way of a successful execution.
How do you lead the most successful project your company has ever implemented? Here are some tips for defining, planning and executing your automation implementation.
1. Understand the demands on everyone involved in the project (including yourself)
Complete a workload analysis for all team members that have tasks to complete. This should include internal and external resources. If you have never performed this type of analysis, research the process. Or, consider getting guidance from a professional. Adding a large complex project to a team member’s current responsibilities is a common mistake that can lead to burnout and inefficiency. It is important to understand task responsibilities and plan well.
2. Communicate early and often at all stages of the project
You should establish the ground rules early with all participants including your customer. How will you handle changes? How will this effect deadlines? How does this affect the budget? What are the expectations for communicating? We recommend having critical conversations face to face instead of video or conferencing. Build solid relationships and communicate. These relationships ensure that when pressure builds, all resources work together.
3. Check on project status often and request feedback
Hold yourself and your team accountable to deadlines. Set up milestone gate checks for your project. You must have open and honest conversations about issues. You need to understand how to recover if timelines are slipping. Hiding “bad news” can derail a project. Document actions and timelines. Ensure that your team (both internal and external) reports to you on a schedule. Team member follow-up and accountability are critical.
NOTE: Don’t forget to update company upper management on your progress. This report out can be more strategic than tactical. Be concise to ensure you keep their interest. Disclose current status and ask if you need their help. Report project delays that cannot be recovered immediately. Keep update meetings specific to your project. Do not fold this meeting into another event. It is important that you have management’s full attention.
4. Follow your process for implementation
A defined and qualified proven process for automation implementation is very important. If you don't have a process, consider working with a resource who can provide a framework. Trying something new or “customizing” a process for implementation can lead to failure. You want everyone involved to have confidence in a successful result. Use a proven process. Do not cut corners.
5. Always do the right thing
Always remember the goal and serve your customer well. A large majority of complex automation projects face delays and obstacles. Be honest with your team members, over-communicate and provide a solution for recovery. You are the project manager and that role is important but it’s not about you. It’s about the effectiveness of the project that you lead to completion. Stay engaged and lead by example.
Are you responsible for an important automation project? Do you need a resource to support your project execution efforts? Do you need help in defining an implementation framework? Contact KM Shinn Consulting. We can assist you and your organization through project execution. Schedule a free consultation to see if we can help.