Executive Series — Governance & Alignment Count!

Categories: Project Management in Software Development |

In my experience as a former COO, a practitioner of Scrum, and today, as one of Belatrix’s founders, I’ve seen countless projects succeed.  But some have had their challenges.  Reflecting on some of those challenges yields valuable lessons.

What are some possible indications that your project may be on a collision course?

  • The client sponsor only emerges to sign the contract then is never again seen.
  • Your development partner’s top people appear to make sure the “deal is in the bag,” but never resurface, leaving their people to fend for themselves.

Even given all of Scrum’s inherent benefits, as a highly interactive and iterative framework, success still depends on people.  And that factor drives the potential for success but also for failure. There is always the chance that an individual practitioner won’t execute Scrum well.  S/he may not commit fully or be able to invest the time and effort Scrum requires. In some instances, there may be strategic misalignment.  The client’s firm may have decided to take a different course but failed to alert the Product Owner.

The mere potential for these kinds of cases calls for a risk mitigation strategy, a forum to maintain and improve support for the project, as well as, ensure proper alignment.  Belatrix’s “Project Governance Committee” serves this purpose.  Governance is a pretty simple idea but one with a profound capacity to increase projects’ chances for  success.

The Project Governance Committee is composed of the following roles:

Client Side

  • Scrum Master – Typically a vendor side role, but sometimes on the client side too.
  • Product Owner – The chief person responsible for the overall project.
  • Executive Project Sponsor – This is normally the person who authorizes the project budget. With smaller firms, it’s usually a C-level executive, a VP or Director, in larger firms. This person is not involved normally in the day-to-day details of the project.

 Vendor Side

  • Scrum Master or Project Lead – The person responsible for ensuring all of the team members understand the shared goal and have the ability to meet that challenge.
  •  Area Managers – Depending on the type or size of project, this may involve a Director of Development Services or a Director of QA Services.
  •  Executive Project Sponsor – In Belatrix’s case, this is usually our CEO or in some instances, one of the three principals.  In larger engagements it’s also normal to have two principals involved.

The mandate of the Governance Committee is simple — ensure the project meets its goals.  The group meets for brief calls periodically.  Initially, calls occur every two weeks for the first six to eight weeks of the project.  The frequency then transitions into a monthly call, then eventually to quarterly calls.

Each call has a simple agenda: a review of the following:

  1. Combined team’s overall impressions and feedback
  2. Existing impediments or process adjustments needed
  3. Potential growth or productivity changes
  4. Strategic update – Are there changes on either the client or vendor sides that have potential to influence the course of the project?

The most critical item is the one regarding impediments.  Overall, this is an opportunity for the combined team to identify challenges jointly and determine ways to remove or minimize them.  We’ve seen great success in the Governance Committee being able to proactively identify and address project needs.  It’s a critical part of our strategy in working with our clients.

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