As program managers or TPMs we often jump in the middle of an ongoing project or the one where the requirements gathering or discovery phase has already been completed. There is a problem statement and a proposed solution that teams are eager to start delivering and we are tasked to manage. We put together a roadmap and tracking the tasks to get us to the finish line. Things are going well, until they don’t. We realize that we don’t have the expertise we need, we don’t have the resources we need, we don’t have the hardware we need, we don’t have the testing / staging platforms, we didn’t check for compliance with our security, and legal teams and the list goes on, you get the picture. A lot of frustration and questions as to why the project isn’t moving forward at the rate we projected. So what happened here?
In the program discovery and requirements gathering stage we often think about solving the problem and delivering the solutions, we don’t often think about what we need before we can even get started. It’s like getting ready a great road trip and making sure you have all the awesome snacks that everybody wants and putting together a great itinerary of cool places you’ll see, but missing the fact that you don’t have enough money for gas. Having sufficient funds was a foundational requirement, you must have that before you can even get started.
I have learnt this lesson on a number of occasions and now I always raise this question as early in the planning phase of the program as possible. What are our foundational requirements. Sometimes I would get blank stares, like what are you talking about? So I have to explain. Do we have enough engineering resources. Do we have sufficient funding. Do we have the expertise we need. Do we have the sign-off / buy-in from the executive sponsors that are critical for this program’s success. If there are dependencies on other teams, do we need to get their agreement to allocate resources and prioritize the work we need them to do.
It is unusual to find a program where all of the foundational requirements are met before everyone starts going a 100% not realizing nobody has money for gas.
The lesson is – let’s think about what do we need before we get started, let’s ask questions early and take care of that first, then our chances of success of success increase dramatically.