Chapter 9-Project Integration of my recently published book Risk-management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective discusses the challenges that many Project Managers are facing. One item that throws many to fits is project integration. It is a project requirement with varying level of complexities. Some have successfully toe the line but many just fail.
Integration happens throughout the project lifecycle using continuous collaboration. It becomes a big challenge to project professionals who do not have enough experience but especially true to managers handling large projects with multiple areas or multiple project portfolios.
Integration is similar to you and I having all our limbs, eyes, head, body, ears, etc. attached to us, functioning systematically to finish our chores. It is one essential criteria leading to success which many struggles with, an effort of pulling the project together to make a coherent whole.
The difficulty starts with the challenge of reconciling project decision maker’s own understanding of what integration entails. What does it really means. What it is all about?
What information does the project need provide at each Gate to build the final project execution plan required before sanction? Primer to Good Schedule Integration puts this requirement into perspective.
Metaphorically speaking, it is like asking the question “Should we pass Gate 2 (DBM) with just the head, an eye, an ear, and a lower limb.”
It still surprises me that in the more than three decades I've worked in the industry, there are still team members in every project who are not fully aware that integration is highly dependent on data/information maturity. While everyone goes about their activity semi-consciously in any particular phase and stage, the idea of data maturity and its relationship with integration remains vague to lots of project people.
A poorly integrated execution plan will result in surprises, potentially resulting in project failure much like a collapsed structure brought about by missing fasteners ( Figure 1).
Figure 1 - Poor Project Integration like a Tower with Loose or Missing Fasteners
Most concerning is when Project Leaders and Managers exhibit the symptoms. Clueless, it tags along with them like their favorite pet every time. They amazingly could not put their fingers on it or perhaps, intentionally refusing to accept. The sad part of the story are the consequences their decisions will make, omissions they will soon regret.
Here are some examples of project professional freely speaking their views. You probably heard them yourselves somewhere. Read and reflect...
- “I know that a schedule risk analysis is required to pass the gate but we have no more time. If you ask me, I have this strong gut feel that two weeks schedule contingency is more than enough.”
- “Don’t worry about that missing scope. It is not a problem. We can use any believable assumption just to fill the gap. That should do it so we can get the bridge budget we need.”
- “Keep your mouth shut and follow my lead. That’s what you need to do. This deliverable is not a big deal and should not affect the project’s end goal.”
- “Not to worry. We’ll prepare a management of change notice and shoulder the risk involved.”
- “We have to produce something from nothing. This is why we are here for.”
- “We can actually do it our way and the office boys can plan and schedule later. What say you?”
- “Project Auditors are too bookish. Why keep looking for something that is not there to fail us. Why not let us pass this Gate and we will complete this gate requirement on the next one. That sounds reasonable, right?”
- “The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task. We will finish when we are done. Parkinson law should set these governance people straight! Why ask for something not available at this Gate?”
Figure 2 illustrates the general relationship between maturity, quality and integration using time as backdrop. It is only a partial view of the whole project lifecycle but clearly demonstrates that data maturity increases through time. As the project moved to the right through the timeline, maturity summons higher quality. Increase in quality directly influences the degree of integration as well.
Figure 2 - Integration, Quality and Data Maturity Chart (Frago, R., 2015)
A huge chunk of information is usually not available during the Initiating/Scoping and DBM (G2) phase. Good integration is impossible at such an early stage unless it is an exact replica of a previous project. As for the schedule, a poorly integrated schedule will not show the real critical path giving a wrong handle to the team.
Situation like these are to be expected upstream of the project lifecycle (first two Gates) but should be addressed as red flags approaching EDS. Otherwise, with stringent auditors at the Gate, the project should not pass.
Consider the aforementioned statements from any of your leader, manager, director, and team member as risk indicators. It practically draws more or less a clear picture of what lies ahead. Of course, depending on the specifics of the situation, although the statements are generally unacceptable, some of these statements can actually be taken as normal.
The logic is simple.
Combination of maturity, quality, and integration is the lifeblood of a workable and successful overall execution plan.
Note: This article was first published in LinkedIn Pulse on October 10, 2015.
Rufran C. Frago-Author (100915)
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