I recently had the opportunity to jump back into Project Management after many years focused on other things. I worked with a group of very talented IT engineers, many of whom are more accustomed to focusing on operations than being part of a large project. What I noticed is that many highly skilled technical people want to immediately jump in to fix mode and overlooked the assess phase. They also tend to want to focus on the technical and jump past the business drivers behind the technology or process.
My biggest challenge was getting them to slow down on execution and focus on preparation. I went back to a principle that has served me well for the past 30 years working with technical teams which is effective with almost any project management methodology: STP – Situation, Target, Plan. It works like this...
Situation: Understand what exists today and why. Be clear about who the end customer is and how this process or technology affects that customer. During the situation phase you also dive deep into the details of what runs on a server for instance; who it affects and how it is managed today. That allows you in the Plan phase to develop meaningful processes and metrics for managing the environment from a customer-centric point of view.
Target: Based on you having examined the situation, certain targets will rise to the top to guide you forward. You will identify the critical devices, servers, processes, and use that information to first, ask more questions (never assume you asked everything meaningful in the first pass) and second to plan how to plan. At the end of Target phase, you know enough to start building a project plan. You should also learn which PM methodology will work best and what resources in your organization you need to include to build a successful plan.
Plan: Engage your PM and build a plan that has a clear objective. For most that objective is to make a change that improves the customer experience without causing disruption in service. Even if this project is rewiring a campus, or re-hosting an environment, keep your team focused on the customer and not just the technology. A plan will fail if it gets enamored with the technology; otherwise, in the end then you might have great infrastructure and dissatisfied customers.
STP is basic and it seems like common sense. However, when you have smart people they often like to jump to the end. Insist your team does the S and T before the P to ensure you have a result that benefits your customers and not just a shiny rack of new equipment on premise or in the cloud.