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An Indispensable Guide to On-Time, On-Budget IT Project Management

“An Indispensable Guide to On-Time, On-Budget IT Project Management” on SmartSheet, August 10, 2018.

Alan Zucker, Founder of Project Management Essentials, LLC has the following advice for each phase:

Initiation Phase

“Initiating is the most critical project phase. At the beginning of the project, the risk level is the highest because there are so many unknowns. I recommend that the project manager be selected and assigned early in the initiation phase. The more they understand the context and backstory, the better they will be able to guide the project and fulfill the stakeholders’ needs. By the end of the initiation phase, the project manager should make sure that the customer or sponsor has defined the acceptance criteria or definition of done. If the customer is not clear or sure what they want, either don’t proceed or proceed with extreme caution.”

Planning Phase

“When planning the project, leverage your experts. They are also often the ones who (or whose teams) will be executing the work. Use your facilitation skills to bring them together to build a plan they can support. The project manager also needs to develop the project management plan that guides the execution of the project. The PM Plan is comprised of eight subsidiary plans that describe how everything from cost, schedule, quality, and scope to procurement and resources will be handled. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use templates, standards, guidelines, and experience to develop these plans. If you don’t have anyone in your organization to assist you, reach out to your local Project Management Institute chapter.”


“I recommend that the project managers conduct lessons learned, sometimes called retrospectives, regularly during project execution. Ask the team how we can improve the project’s execution. What improvements can be made?

Monitoring and Control Phase   

“There are several key performance indicators that the PM should be monitoring:

  • Schedule: How is the progress compared to the plan?
  • Cost: How are project costs compared to the plan? What about for the current period and project-to-date?
  • Scope: Are we still planning to deliver what we committed to?
  • Quality: Are we producing a high-quality product that meets our customer’s stated expectations?

Project managers spend a lot of time in meetings collecting and delivering status. Listening skills are important. Smell the project. Do things smell right to you?”

Closing Phase

“Delivery acceptance is important. We want to make sure that our customers are happy with the final product and the process around product acceptance. Often project managers and customers will squabble about immaterial items at the end. Take the high-road – remember, you may want to do business with that customer in the future.”