Charter Your Big Projects to Define Scope, Responsibilities

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Top 10 Project Management Trends for 2011

Scope creep is one of the most commonly cited issues that causes IT projects to fail. Even small projects can grow to an unmanageable - or at least unplanned for - size as users slip in new feature sets and unexpected contingencies surface as you dig a little deeper into the business requirements.


Preparation, as always, is key.


For extraordinarily large projects, such as building out a data center, you may want to consider establishing a project charter before the formal reqs process kicks off. A charter's main goal is to define purpose, scope and deliverables of the project from the outset. If a dispute arises or things just seem to be going off the rails a bit, the business has a written agreement to use as the basis for any needed correction.


Our partners at Info~Tech Research have developed a Data Center Build Project Charter template to help your team set boundaries for this large endeavor. The seven-page Word document is available free to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library.


The template is extensively pre-populated with information specific to a hardware-intense project like a data center build out. For example, there is a risk category for personal injury incurred while unpacking servers. The general layout of the charter document can, of course, be modified for any large project your company has in the pipeline.


Pretty much every base is covered in the charter document:


Key Success Factors and Measurement: If you can't spell out in advance what success for a project will mean, you need to re-evaluate the project. Hard metrics - e.g., X percent decrease in per-transaction cost - are best, but some success measurement is a bare minimum.


Risk Identification: Think about everything that might go wrong. Everything. Budget and schedule overruns are a given risk with any project, but also be mindful of issues like personal injury (as we mentioned above) or underlying code base changes.


Identify Stakeholders: Projects of any size must have sponsors and contributors. Identifying them up front is key, as is defining who has rights (and responsibilities) to make decisions. Let's hope for the sake of your project that you don't have to evoke the clause in this sample template that "2. A non-answer from the executive sponsor or project sponsor by the specified date or time will imply approval and the project may continue."


Approval Sign-off: A project the size of a data center build out warrants that VPs and managers actually sign off on the terms expressed in your charter. Remember, this serves as an internal contract - it deserves to be treated as such.