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Performing a Needs Assessment on Project Management (Intro Part 4 of 6)

About the Genesis of The HRIS World Project Insight Series™ #thwCES

The genesis of this series comes from 6 posts written to introduce the Client Executive Sponsor role as well as the need to perform a needs assessment on Project Management methodologies.

Those 6 posts are as follows...

It is highly recommended to refer to these posts early on -- they will be updated as this series grows and new thoughts, practices and successes come about.

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About The HRIS World Project Insights Series™ #thwCES

This series is focused on approaching HRIS Project Management from outside of the box as experienced and documented by Garrett O’Brien of CGServicesUSA Inc as well as Lauren Gander of HR Software Solutions, Inc.

Let’s be clear right up front that we are not ditching any of the methodologies of Project Management. Instead, we are taking a look at just why some projects go so well while most others do not from our own experiences as well as those documented elsewhere. From there we are focusing on the successful elements that seem to be missing from most Project Management methodologies. The projects that do not go so well happen more frequent than not and it seems most Project Managers just give in to timeline extensions and over budget occurrences as being part of the learning curve to gain for the next project as well as being part of the job.

Garrett did as well until his 5th project and decided there was more to making a project come in on-time and within budget than just luck and more likely the cause of missing skills as well as incorrect perceptions. If some Project Managers could run most if not all their projects on time and within budget while most others could not, then we sought out to find out why some could consistently do so well.

We look into what contributed to those consistent successes in our entire content series The HRIS World Project Insights Series™ with the first 6 posts sharing the professional experiences of Garrett O’Brien. These 1st 6 posts are the foundation of most of this series and it is highly suggested you give them a good read. They are easily found with the short URLs to /thwCESintro6 as well as in the listing of related content in the toggle box at the end of all posts related to this series.

All other content arrives from contributors like you as well as the sharing of experiences from Lauren Gander’s company. Feel free to reach out to us if you wish to contribute some your thoughts via a post by clicking the contact us button on the lower right of any page.

Feedback, debates, discussion, collaboration and conversation are always encouraged in the comments section below... For more information about this series, use the blue contact us button on the lower right of your screen to contact us -- or if you are reading this by our newsletter, then hit the reply button to get back to us!

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In our first 3 articles of this series, we provided an introduction to…

As with any methodology, it is inevitable there would be a need to strengthen any weaknesses.

Most methodologies and processes evolve in cycles, usually resulting from the needs that grow as the result of new technologies and from the evidence that certain aspects of the processes need improvement.

Complexity and change always magnifies weaknesses as well as strengths.

The more complex the project,
the more the weaknesses and inefficiencies
become magnified.



Personal Experience

Most of what I have discovered has been born from having worked on a project where 38 systems were being implemented simultaneously with the system of record being a different system for each department for various (and insane) reasons.

The complete and ready for production date for all the systems fell within a 2 week window meaning if one system was not ready, then all 38 projects needed to be restarted and it was estimated it would take another 2 to 3 months to attempt another go-live attempt.

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Nooooo pressure…

Standing Back Objectively

Beginning with this article, we will ask questions that look at the whole process of obtaining and implementing a HRIS system.

By looking at the weaknesses and inefficiencies of those processes, your own answers will determine what will work for you and if you see a need to modify or change any methodologies.

The answers will be different for most everybody, particularly across industries – but some industries will find the answers to be universal…

What is being discussed in this and the next 2 articles does not recreate anything that is not already in use.

Instead, the questions are focused on refining what is already in use as well as hone our skills with questions.

There is not right answer unless it improves your project – thinking outside the box is not comfortable, but it does shed new light…

Basically, let’s start by asking is it really necessary to…
change what is working?
improve upon what is working?
change what is not working?
change what is not working well?

Are You Really Asking the Right Questions?

Most of the answers, at first, may appear to be obvious.

But — have you really examined if  your answers are creating inefficiencies later in the project?

More specifically, are your answers creating inefficiencies that are resulting in a higher operational cost for the system once it is in production?

There are many hidden-costs that have to be taken into consideration – most these hidden-costs will be obvious only after a thorough review of your business processes BEFORE seeking a system… others will become obvious through time and testing….

And not everything will become obvious before the testing phase…

If you find your answer to be yes to the answers above, then what are the risks beyond the obvious?

What isn’t working or isn’t working well is obviously something that will be assessed for improved processes.

Measure Before Changing Anything

To measure the effects of any changes, naturally you must have a standard before the changes.

What to measure? Money and time are good as they are most important to the life of the project and have the biggest impact as they become greater…

Providing more funding to a project will not necessarily fix a problem – it almost inevitably compounds the problem and leaves a bad flavor in the mouths of those that have to operate the system once it is in production…

There is also a common ailment – for lack of any other word – for all projects and that is pain…

Let’s face it, projects involve change, educating those that do not know, seeking resources that already have experience and know-how, unknowns that like to creep up on us like a snake – and striking when we least expect it…

All adding to the timeline as well as costs…

To start, this graphic will give us an idea of the effort and resources consumed for the life of a project that is lacking best practices and follows the current model of project methodologies…

Here is what you are seeing…

Orange boxes represent the budget as forecasted…

Definitions & Specifications – the two back boxes represent the two phases

  • Release Planning Phase (left black box)
  • Definitions Phase (right black box)

Development – the three boxes represent…

  • Functional specifications (dark orange)
  • Design (light green)
  • Implementation & testing (red)

Operations – the two boxes represent…

  • Implementation & testing (red)
  • Rollout and post-implementation (green)

The higher the box, the more effort and resources consumed.

Any box, in real-time, that extends beyond the orange box is indicative of project over runs – particularly budget and time.

Give the Budget a Timeline

As with most projects, there is little investment in the front end of the project, the definition and specifications phase.

There are many reasons for this and most of the time it is all for the wrong excuse and many times for the wrong reason.

As many tend to have a presumption that the information is already available then it is logical to keep the investment in this phase minimal.

But here is my question – how much of the information you need to start a project really already available?

The information for the system is readily available – but the information from the company and there processes are not always readily available.


How many times do you gather information on the old business processes,especially if undocumented, as you plan out your project?

Documented business processes and data flow may not even exist and will have to be transferred from thought to document.

Same can be said of policies and procedures – most companies have their Human Resource policies in writing, but are the consolidated together to be easily transferred into a technical resource?

Someone has to convert words to programming…

Other policies that affect the HRIS system involve hire practices, time keeping, eligibility for various programs and benefits, within the company, administration plans with vendors that have to be transferred to the HRIS system…

Another graphic provides the standard project life cycle, something most of us are familiar with…

There is a LOT of activity up to the project lock down point…

The tasks before the project lock down basically determine the direction and success of everything after the project lock down.

Yet the budget allocation and efforts and resource consumed is not exactly stellar.

Though the number of general tasks in post lock-down is lower, it does not mean there is less work to do or less effort required…

In reality, it is in the post lock-down where most of the problems surface as well as budget and project overruns.

Most of the projects I have been involved have almost inevitably pointed to the beginnings of the project and a common phrase, “If we only knew…”

Now, let’s piggyback the two graphics together for a better perspective…

The Last Word

There can be a lot of interpretations of what is being seen here, which I will address in my next post – for now, I will leave you with a set of questions…

  • Are the methodologies really working or is just providing the desired results for the moment?
  • For what is working, what results are trickling through the project that are producing less than desirable effects later on? What effects are these having on the resources, timeline and/or budget?
  • When changing or improving what is working – will this trickle over to what is not working without needing to make changes to them (to what is not working)?
  • What can be improved to provide better results in selecting a system?
  • What can be improved to provide a systematic and efficient project?
  • What can be improved to reduce risks and improve results?
  • What can be done to reduce the unknowns that will affect the timeline? the budget?

In my next article, I also will discuss the improvements that can be made that will result in greater flexibility within the project and possibly even a lower project budget by shifting and honing a few priorities and making some budgetary changes…

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Garrett O'Brien

CEO, Chairman, Publisher, Editor at The HRIS World Research Group

Garrett is the publisher, editor, writer forThe HRIS World Research Group, which includes The HRIS World, The HRIS World Research, The HRIS World Jobs, The HRIS World News, The HRIS World NewsMagazines, and The HRIS World Videos

With more than 20 years in roles as a client executive sponsor (#thwCES), project manager as well as functional/technical lead, Garrett is sought for his expertise for project insights, thought leadership, and team management globally.

He has been involved in large-scale and complex implementations since 1991 and has recently moved his operations to be with his wife in Brazil.

Garrett has had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest talents in the industry, and constantly shares his experiences and knowledge through content and webinars.

He maintains his fluency in Portuguese, German, French, and English with his various endeavors and contacts..

When not working, you will have to be adventurous to stay up with him as Garrett loves motorcycling, gunnery, boating, sailing, flying, and sports fishing -- and accompanying his wife on her various likes

About The HRIS World Research Group

The HRIS World blog, which is read by more than 50,000 from more than 160 countries monthly, manages to have more than 550,000 pages viewed monthly. 40%+ of the audience are decision-makers in their organization (and about half of that being C-levels!).

As CEO for CGServices USA Inc, he focuses on multi-provider, multi-line implementations consultation for HRIS systems

Council and Education Member of Gerson Lehrman Group Council, helping institutions of the world leaders meet, engage and manage experts across a wide range of sectors and disciplines.

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If you'd like to provide a post, a series of posts, or become a regular contributor to The HRIS World, click the blue contact us button on the bottom right of your screen to send us a message or reach us through our social media for details...

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