SSP’s New Project Management Methodology Explained

May 20, 2016 — Matthew Stuart  [13:42]

SSP’s clients sometimes ask, “Why is a Project Manager needed for our project?” In this video, Matt Stuart from SSP Innovations explains how SSP got back to the basics to make its projects more consistent. Matt discusses why project management methodology is so important – and how it will benefit each client we work for.

Curious about the types of projects SSP has performed? Take a look at some of our most recent projects, which we have performed fro electric and gas utilities, pipeline operators, and telecommunications organizations across the nation.

If you’re interested in a specific SSP project, you can also view the types of services we provide here.

Video Transcript

Hi I'm Matt from SSP Innovations and in today's video I am going to be talking about SSP's approach to project management. Now I've been with SSP for about three years, and I've been managing projects for most of the last 20 years. And in that time, many clients have understood the importance of having a good project manager on their project, but there are still some clients who don't understand the importance as much. And over the years I've found that their arguments for not having a good project manager really fall into two main categories. The first is, "Aren't you just overhead? Really we're just paying SSP for their development time. Everything else is just fluff, and anyway our budget isn't that big. We really don't have enough resources or enough money for a dedicated project manager.

"The second big argument that I hear is that "Our projects are easy. We really don't have any cost, or schedule, or technology risk that would require a project manager to come on site and manage those." While those are valid concerns, I will say that every project will have problems. And that, every project will have problems regardless of the size or the complexity of the project. Every project will have problems, and a good project manager can identify those problems early. A project manager is also a single point of contact, will manage: risks, resources, and communication on your project, and will also make your projects more predictable. That's the key, and that's something we are going to be talking about throughout this video.

Now, if you've ever looked into project management methodology, you would probably be familiar with the concept of triple constraint. I will draw that here, it's represented by a triangle with time, cost, and scope representing each leg of the triangle. Inside the triangle, we have quality. The concept here is that if one leg of the triangle changes it impacts the other legs of the triangle. For example, if a client added some tasks to the scope, we call that scope creep. That may impact the overall cost of the project, and it may also increase the time it takes to complete the project, the duration to project completion. Conversely, if a client says "we want to reduce the cost of our project".

What they may do is that they may go in and take out some tasks in the scope in order to reduce the overall cost or perhaps the overall time that it takes to complete the project. Now when SSP first started, Skye Perry when he was first founding the company, he did all of this. Not only did he manage the project, but he also executed each project. He realized, after a very short period of time, that if he was going to grow the company it was going to be hard to continue doing that. So he brought in, over the last several years, some employees who could really specialize in areas like project management. Since then, we have developed a project management approach or methodology that we use on every project that again makes projects more predictable.

And that's really the key. Every SSP project that we undertake we strive to make it as predictable for you and for us as possible. Now that all begins with Dean. Dean Perry is our director of sales, many of you know him or have interacted with him. And Dean, is kind of your first line of defense. So if you have a project need or a problem, Dean will work with you to see if SSP can address that problem. Dean also works with our director of operations, Dennise, Dean and Dennise work together. Dean makes sure that the problem can be addressed by SSP, and Dennise, working with Dean, makes sure the right resources are there from SSP to be able to do the work and address that need. So that happens even before a project is closed. Dean and Dennise work together to make sure that there is enough resources to be able to go ahead and do the work that SSP is committed to do. So, once that project is closed, usually two things result.

The first is scope of work (SOW), that's a high level look at the work we have to do. The next thing is Microsoft Project Schedule, and that is the guts, the detailed look, all of the tasks that SSP is going to do to be able to address that need. So once a project is closed and those two documents are final, the scope and the schedule, then we give those to the project manager. The project manager then will review the scope and schedule to make sure he or she has a good understanding of all the work to be completed. Now he or she may work with Dean and Dennise to answer any questions or get any clarifications, but the end result is that the project manager, even before there's any client contact, really has a good grasp of the work that needs to be done.

The next step is part of SSP's promise on every project. First thing we do is a kick off. Now fairly recently we started having an internal kick off, even before we went out and did a client kickoff. An internal kickoff is when our project manager will get the whole SSP team together. The SSP team that's going to be working on your project to make sure that everybody is on the same page and everybody has an understanding of the work that needs to be done. The project manager leads us, meaning it really get into a lot of details: they dig into the schedule, they look at the tasks that are to be worked on, when they're supposed to be worked on, they look at on-site time, they coordinate schedules, they look at vacation time, and who’s going to be available when. Just to make sure that, again, everything is done on time, within budget, and to the agreed upon scope.

So that's the first time, the internal kickoff. The end result of the internal kickoff in which the project manager leads, is that the entire SSP team even before there's any interaction with the client knows exactly the work to be done. The second SSP promise, again to make our projects as predictable as possible, is the client kickoff. Alright so the client kickoff, depending on the size of the project, can be anywhere from an hour of remote kickoff or GoTo meeting. Or if the project is really big, I've seen kickoffs that are a day or more, and they are all on site where everybody is together. The client kickoff is very similar to the internal kickoff, and that is the SSP project manager’s, his or her, goal is to make sure that everybody, not just the SSP team, but everybody on the project is very aware of the work that needs to be done and when it's going to be done.

So that is the two big things we do even before a project is underway. So once the internal kickoff happens and the client kickoff happens, the project is on-going and then the project manager steps in and on a weekly basis will do several things. The first is a status report, a weekly status report. Now weekly status report can include a lot of detail, but we have found that there are two main components to every status report we have produced. Status reports can include a lot of detail and we can definitely provide that. But it has to include two things at a minimum. First is the activities that we are working on, the tasks that we have accomplished, and the tasks that we're about to accomplish. The second thing is any risks or issues that impede that project progress. Issues are things that are going on right now, things that we're struggling with, working through. Risks are things that haven't quite happened yet but they might happen in the future and we have to account for those.

Those two things, the issues and the risks, and the project tasks that we're working on, are two key components to every status report. Our goal each week is to make sure that the client project manager and the client team really knows exactly what's going on. We don't believe there is any such thing as over communication, and in order to make our projects more predictable, we really want to communicate to you what is going on with each project that we do. The next thing that we do is the project schedule. The project status report can only be so long. I've done some status reports that are 20 pages or more each week. That's not the norm, usually they are one or two pages and they provide a high level look on what's going with the project.

The project schedule is that detail, the guts. It really shows the tasks at a detailed level: what we're working on, shows each tasks, when it's supposed to start, when it's supposed to end, the percentage complete, and who is working on it. It really shows the detail that maybe the status report can't show. So at the end of each week, we're going to be sharing with you a status report and a project schedule updates that you're very aware of where we are on each project. Finally, perhaps most importantly, we do a weekly status meeting. We realize that not everybody is going to read the project schedule report, not everybody has a good understanding of Microsoft project and can really dig into the project schedule, we understand that and we appreciate that. What we want to do is we want to have a status meeting each week and, again depending on the size of the project, it might only be a one-hour call with the client project manager.

For bigger projects it might be a real big thing where both project teams get together and sit down for an hour or two, and we really talk through and hammer through some of the issues that we're dealing with on the project. This status meeting is very important because again we realize that, at least on a weekly basis, we're communicating with you not just a written status report or a project schedule that people sometimes have a tendency to ignore, but we're communicating verbally as well and letting you know how the project is going. Over the last several years as Skye has built out SSP, again we've had to improve our project management methodology, and our commitment on every project is to make projects more predictable. Our goal on every project is to make sure that each project comes in on time, within budget, and to the agreed upon scope that everybody is aware of. So that the quality standards that the client has come to except from SSP can be met. We look forward to working with you on a future project.

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Matthew Stuart

Matthew Stuart works as a Senior Consultant for the Utility and Telecommunications GIS consulting company SSP Innovations, headquartered in Centennial, Colorado. Matt has 25 years of experience specializing in Project Management, Testing, and Quality Assurance.

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