Wednesday, 18 July 2012

An IT Professional's Guide to Preparing for IT Project Work on Client Sites

Quote 1: "Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance" (British Army adage - "The 7 Ps")
Quote 2: "Forget deadlines, at least as a way to manage your activity. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take. Do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then use your "free" time to get other things done just as quickly and effectively." (Jeff Haden)

A list of 7 steps that might come in handy when preparing to deploy for IT Project Work on customer sites.

7 Steps
Note: Many of the below will be dependant of having the time to do them.

1: Know what is expected of you!
  • Be sure to know what it expected of you.
  • Check through the scope of works and make sure it is watertight and there are no ambiguities in there.
  • If there are any ambiguities, get clarification (a difficult customer might try to stretch things out in their favour, or ask why something wasn't done in the way it was written.)
  • Make a list of all the major items of work / technologies (perhaps even a flowchart)
2: Points which should have been verified and correct before receiving a completed Scope-of-Works, but you might want to check anyway.

Q: Will all the components of the solution interact okay?
Double-check interoperability matrixes and support.
Q: Can you use the latest version of the software?
Q: Is it expected to get up to a certain version (if so then research the correct procedure to get there.)
Q: Does the solution's sizing check out?
Q: What are the customer expectations, and is this realistically going to be possible?
Q: Is the planned solution going to work, or will it need to be ammended?
Q: Is the required kit going to be on site when you arrive?

3: Prepare yourself for all the tasks at hand.
  • Make sure to at least familiarize yourself with all the technologies that will come into play.
  • Go through the list of major items of work, checking each one off when you're satisfied with your skills, knowledge, and understanding.
  • Check for the latest version of all components, and check the latest manual (a new version may have come out that has passed you by, and something may have changed in a later version;) and download the latest/required softwares, manuals, integration components, and tools whilst you're checking them out.
  • Consult the oracles at your disposal (meaning the gurus in your professional network.)
  • Check for best practices.
  • Check blogs.
  • Check support forums and communities.
  • Watch YouTube videos.
  • Test things out in a lab.
    And if you can catch a course (web-based or instructor-led) to fill up any knowledge gaps....
4: Pre-prepare documentation.

If you're lucky, you'll have pre-prepared documentation from a previous project, otherwise prepare/obtain template documentation for the project beforehand. It is much easier to fill in documentation as you go along, taking screenshots as necessary, and then do the finishing touches later; rather than have rough notes or memory to rely on, and be in a rush to get everything documentated on time.

5: Preparing for on site attendance.
  • Come prepared for the task at hand and be armed for the unexpected – make sure you have all the tools, software, and any licenses you need.
  • Prepare to do all your tasks efficiently (Any good company is not going to oversell the days to do a project; if you can build time by being ultra-efficient, then you have lee-way for if anything goes not-to-plan, and it leads to a less stressful life. Also, you can add value by providing increased education/training to the customer, better documentation, benefit yourself by using the time to gain additional exposure, do extra research, and a little bit of fine tuning.)
  • Make sure you know where you're going, when, and who you're going to meet.
6: (On Site) Only do what's in the scope!
  • Follow the plan.
  • Enjoy what you do.
  • Don't get stressed – "nothing in life is worth getting stressed about!"
  • And if you encounter a problem, "Don't Panic", seek help, or work around it, or work out the solution – "every problem has a solution!"
  • And finally – good luck!
7: (Off site) Evalute your performance
  • What have you learnt?
  • What could you have done better?
  • Any knowledge gaps, or skills weaknesses you need to sharpen up on?
  • Where can you find efficiency savings in your work?
Final word: A lot of the above is common sense; methodology is handy though, and if this list can help whosoever wanders across it, then the few bytes of space it occupies in the ether, has served a purpose.

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