Lost in The Supermarket: Lessons in Project Planning

Avatar for Olive Dunphy
By Olive Dunphy Senior Project Manager
October 26th 2023 | 4 minute read

If you find IT project planning and initiation daunting (and who doesn’t), then help is at hand – in the shape of a humble shopping list.

Project planning and initiation are much like going to the supermarket (without the wonky-wheeled trolley). You know you want food, but if you just trawl the aisles with little forethought you’ll end up buying lots of products you don’t need (hedge trimmer, anyone?) and forget half the ones you do. You’ll go over-budget and find yourself having to return shortly after to get the actual ingredients you really required.

Pre-plan to get the result you want

The better approach is to ask a series of specific questions before venturing off to the shops:

  • What is already in the fridge and cupboards, and what needs to be used?
  • How many people will I be cooking for?
  • Have I drafted a meal plan for the week?
  • Do I need to consider any sort of dietary requirements?
  • Are there any other events occurring during the week that I need to consider (school bake sale, work event, etc.)
  • What is the budget?

Based on the above, we can compile a shopping list that defines the scope of our shopping trip and provides the best chance of getting the results we want.

Similar principles apply to IT project planning – albeit in considerably more detail. As I wrote in a previous blog, understanding the brief and in-depth planning are critical to successful execution.

So how do we get there?

Define the project scope

A clear understanding of the project is key. What is the (realistic) goal? What constitutes success? Is there a well-defined business case?

A thorough analysis enables tasks to be broken down, requirements to be drafted up, risks and challenges identified, and ways for existing processes to be incorporated. All of this should be detailed and documented, with input not just from the project team but all stakeholders involved in the project, including the ultimate beneficiaries. How many times have we seen projects worked on for years only for them to be shelved after it becomes apparent they are not fit for the end-users’ purpose? The roll-out of electronic voting machines in Ireland comes to mind …

Defining the scope is so important because this is what controls the outcome. As the project progresses, it is easy to get distracted by ‘shiny object syndrome’ – a desire to extend or shift the reach, and incorporate additional tasks. While an element of scope creep is inevitable, this must be controlled. Timelines and costs will spiral otherwise, and the focus become diffused (as the unused hedge trimmer in my shed can testify).

Importance of a project scope document

Creating a detailed scope document that’s agreed on by all stakeholders right from the outset ensures everyone is in sync in terms of the project’s goal. It helps the team to break down the constituent tasks and allocate appropriate resources to them.

A line we often hear is “we will figure that out at a later stage.” That’s fatal. When properly thought out in advance, the scope document keeps the team from doing unnecessary work, since the tasks have been defined from the get-go.

Curbing scope creep

As mentioned, an element of scope creep is inevitable. If this occurs, it should go through the standard change management analysis:

  • What is the effort involved to implement the change?
  • What impact will it have on the overall project goal?
  • What impact will it have on the project timeline?
  • What impact will it have on the project cost?
  • What impact will it have on project resourcing?
  • Is this change necessary for the project to go live?
  • Are all stakeholders aware of the proposed change?

At Deep Pool, our philosophy and approach is to work in partnership with our clients. Time and experience have taught us the value of buy-in, shared vision and careful pre-planning. We know our products best and can advise on how to implement and use them to attain your project goals. Which is why we’re always happy to engage with clients at the initiation stages of potential projects, so that together we can determine the optimal path forward to reach the most successful conclusion.

Deep Pool is the #1 investor servicing and compliance solutions supplier, providing cutting-edge software and consulting services to the world’s leading fund administrators and asset managers. Our flexible solution suite, developed by an experienced team of accountants, business analysts and software engineers, supports offshore and onshore hedge funds, partnerships, private equity vehicles, retail funds and regulated financial firms. Deep Pool is a global organisation with offices in Dublin, Ireland, the United States, the Cayman Islands and Slovakia. For more information, visit: www.deep-pool.com.

Olive Dunphy
Olive had 20 years of experience in the fund administration industry prior to joining Deep Pool as a Business Analyst five years ago. She previously worked in UBS Fund Services (now MUFG Investor Services) as Fund Accounting Manager, specialising in Fund of Funds, & as a Project Manager for internal projects.