Friday, May 27, 2011

Beginners Guide to Project Management
Part 05, Case Study - The Project Charter

This is the 5th part of "The Beginners Guide to Project Management" and the first article to feature the case study that will accompany the rest of the guide. I tried to make it as useful as possible to everyone (a generic example, industry independent), so this project is all about moving your current office to a larger new one.
This is presented in the form of a story, which is the best way I could think of to learn something new.

Previously on “Beginners guide to Project Management”
Part 04 – What to do
  • Outputs and outcomes, again
  • The Project Charter, again
  • About scope
  • The “What” part
  • Alternative outputs
  • Wants and needs
  • You’re not planning
Part 03 - Where to start
  • Start focused on the end
  • The Project Charter
  • Wants and needs
  • Why?

Part 02 – Context for Project Management
  • The project life cycle
  • The product life cycle
  • The Project Manager
  • Project success
Part 01 – What is Project Management
  • Defining a project
  • Defining what isn’t a project
  • What is Project Management
  • Where do projects come from
  • Outcomes and outputs

When you arrived at the office last Monday your boss called a meeting to tell you that he intended to move to a new office that would accommodate everyone. The company has been growing fast for the last 6 months and it got to a point where there was no more space available and the perspective of hiring more people was real. In fact they have just started the recruitment process for 3 more people. This all sounded very reasonable, just maybe late in the decision.
He then assigned this responsibility to you. Your first reaction was to find an excuse:
- I don’t know the first thing about moving an office! I do Marketing projects, that’s what I do know about...
He tried to pull you down to reality saying that a project is a project whether it’s a Marketing, an IT or a health care project. Instead of arguing that each industry had its own way of doing things, you realized that your boss was showing a great deal of trust empowering you to do this project.
- Don’t get me wrong, I feel honored with your offer. I mean, it’s a big deal, it’s something that will affect everyone and stay very present for a long time. But I...
Your boss cut you off. It was to be that way, you were the one responsible for that project and that was it. And he ended the meeting.
Wow, that was simply too much for you to take on a Monday morning just after entering your office. So you went outside for a coffee and a walk around the block - something you usually do when you need to get a new perspective on things. Two things were clear when you got back: (i) you were responsible for that project (so you'd better get it right) and (ii) you had to learn a lot about what was expected with that move. You didn’t even know the costs of the actual office, so how could you know what would be reasonable for the new one? And the location? And how big? And what were your boss’s expectations?

Second round
To address the first problem (the fact that you were designated as the project manager for something completely new to you) you decided to first ask some people for advice. You picked the ones that you knew well and that somehow you figured that were able to give some useful pieces of advice. And of course you also searched the web for templates to guide through the initial steps. This was very useful as you found several guides in the form of question you should be able to answer as a project manager - and get from others the answers you couldn’t give yourself. You knew you didn’t know enough, but you were surprise to see an objective measure of your own ignorance: on one of the templates you checked, you were able to answer one single question out of 40! You really had a lot to learn about this project...
You scheduled a new meeting with your boss so you could start getting some answers, mainly focusing on the whys and whats. One technique you have used in the past (with plenty of success but for Marketing) was putting questions in the form of options that are either extreme or unrelated, like: "Would you rather have an office downtown or in the countryside?" - extreme opposite options. "Would you rather have independent air conditioning controls for each room in the office or a small kitchen where anyone can warm and eat his/her lunch?" - unrelated features. You figured it should work well for this project as these questions were about exploring and not related to any field or industry in particular.
The meeting took place on the next morning, Tuesday, and it was enlightening. You learned that this move was expected to increase the company’s status (that one never crossed your mind!) and there were some cash flow issues within the company that prevented to take this initiative sooner (you'd never have guessed that a growing business could have issues like that either). You also learned that everyone on top management already knew you were in charge of this project. And a recommendation to start talking to the financial department in order to get an idea of costs related to the office.
After the meeting things were kind of crazy. For example, for the first time in the 3 years you worked there the CFO, the CIO and even the CEO actually stopped at your desk for a chat. Of course you took the opportunity to check what their expectations were and ask the CFO to guide you to the right people in the financial department as you needed to check for the current costs on running the office.
To cut this story short, you finally got to compile all the information you gathered from everyone you talked to and started to work on the project charter that in the end looked like this:

Project Charter
Project Authorization
This document formally authorizes this project to relocate our current office to a new location. A project plan will follow to be approved by the Project Sponsor and will follow the company standards regarding Scope, Cost, Time, Human Resources, Risk, Procurement, Communication and Quality.
Project Scope
The purpose of this project is:
- to relocate this office to a new location in a premium area of the same city
- to increase to 150 the number of people that can work there
- keep all current conditions regarding parking, meeting rooms and open spaces
- keep the same costs of  running the office
This meets both the company’s need of more office area and increase the company’s image on the market.
The deliverables are:
- the rental contract for the new office
- new contracts for electricity, voice and data communications, etc.
- the actual physical moving of furniture, hardware, personal belongings, and people
- the cancellation of all previous contracts (rental, electricity, voice and data communications, etc.)
The Project Manager
The Project Manager is hereby authorized to interface with management as required, negotiate for resources, delegate responsibilities within the framework of the project, and to communicate with all contractors and management, as required, to ensure successful and timely completion of the project. The Project Manager is responsible for developing the project plan, monitoring the schedule, cost, and scope of the project during implementation, and maintaining control over the project by measuring performance and taking corrective action.
- Approved project plan: in 1 week from today
- Approved selection criteria for the final decision: in 2 weeks from today
- Approved short list of 3 candidate locations: in 6 weeks from today
- Negotiation of the rental contract with the 3 candidate locations: in 12 weeks from today
- Decision of the moving date: in 13 weeks from today
- Signed contract: in 13 weeks from today
- Actual move: to be announced
Due to the lack of experience, the budget is set based upon the last relocation of the office 5 years ago, plus inflation, at 12.800€. This budget does not include the contract with the new landlord nor the costs related to the time required by some of the employees to the assigned to the project in the project plan that will follow.

Project Charter approval
The next day you had a meeting with your boss who was also appointed as the project sponsor. You sensed he wasn't all that happy with the reference to the "company image" and the "premium area" in the Project Charter but you offered that it was one of the project's objectives and that it certainly sounded better than "improve the company's status". In the end he signed the Project Charter, agreeing with everything in the document.
It was Wednesday afternoon and now you had a week to set up the project plan and get it approved. You had some hard work to do.

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