Slideshow How to Keep Projects on Track During the Holidays

  • December 13 2012, 11:26am EST

Here are six recommendations for keeping your projects in line during holiday disruptions.

Bake-in Agility

Holiday flux is a shining example of the benefits of project and business agility. Implementing project portfolio management and reaching out for lines of communication can give projects breathing room if and when there are bumps in the road. Software industry executive Kevin Kern writes: “Often, business priorities change, and when they do IT has to adapt without much notice. To mitigate disruption and confusion, IT management should always endeavor to find, and partner with, a functional business liaison who will advocate on IT’s behalf. Project prioritization can be the most difficult challenge facing IT – and the most misunderstood by the business.”

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Watch for Peaks and Valleys

Get ready for serious volume and silence from the outside world. Especially with projects connected to the customer during the holidays, the wave of interactions can be burdensome in a way that would be hard to handle at any time of the year. The National Retail Federation, for example, predicts a 4.1 percent hike in sales over the last two months of 2012 compared with last year. Are your project’s security, Web portals and product analytics ready for these waves while at the same time juggling in-house changes?

Make a Calendar and Check it Twice

Keep personal calendars on Outlook and any collaboration software up-to-date on vacations and office closures. Labor tracking software could come in handy, particularly for outsourced or offsite workers.

Back Away from an IT Crutch

IT projects are notorious for overruns from unanticipated hiccups like downtime or bad data. McKinsey says that one of the big tricks to keeping IT projects running smoothly is to avoid using a single program as a crutch for all operations, especially while it’s in an update period.

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Keep a Global Mindset

While it may be Christmas or New Year’s in the U.S. and U.K., that’s not necessarily true for your entire project workforce. This opens opportunities for segmented projects and problems if you miss an important date for workers abroad. Curt Finch writes: “With different time zones and calendars, your schedule will have to cut through different natural and religious holidays, varying weekly hours and even different weekends. In most Muslim-majority countries, for instance, Friday is an observed day of rest, with either Thursday or Saturday off as well. Without a strong grasp of your team’s calendar, meeting project deadlines may be nearly impossible.”

Remember, the Holidays Should be Fun

Bright moods can be brought down by a tough schedule. Dirty, mundane or tough tasks may be best meted out after the start of the New Year. Projects may call for extra work, even overtime, during the holidays, but there are ways to schedule less stressful tasks.

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