Refine your scope and roadmap, identify skill gaps, and mitigate risks.
As you review the project charter, you may realize that you’ve overlooked some points. Perhaps the costs are higher than anticipated or skill gaps remain that need to be filled. You may even still be struggling to reach full alignment with some key stakeholders. Don’t panic. This is all part of launching a cross-functional project with many moving pieces.
In this post, we’ll cover: (1) refining your scope and roadmap to reconfirm stakeholder alignment; (2) addressing skill gaps; and (3) formalizing a governance structure to avoid or cope with issues.
Note: for a quick refresher, be sure to check out article 1 in this series: How to Attain Support for Cross-Functional IT Projects.
Refine the scope and build your roadmap
You’ve gained a wealth of information from your meetings with stakeholders. But as a result of these—and any additional research findings—your perspective on the scope of your project may have changed. Use the points below to guide your reassessment of the scope:
- Reassess project aims: Are your goals still reachable given the timeline and resources? Do any elements need to be scaled back and incremented?
- Redefine top-line requirements: How will the project generate revenue or reduce costs? Do the goals of your project still align with C-suite's requirements?
- Reevaluate the metrics of success: Have the success metrics evolved? Are more measurements needed?
- Control scope creep: Do any requests fall outside the project’s parameters? If these asks are added to the scope, how will they affect costs and the delivery timeline?
- Set start and end dates: Will the timeline need to be extended? If necessary, how long will it take to train your team or hire a consultant?
After redefining the scope, you will need to reconfirm alignment with stakeholders. A roadmap is a great visual tool that makes steps and milestones easy to absorb at a glance. Here’s an example of a roadmap in a visual matrix that provides focus for discussion. NOTE: a detailed narrative document always accompanies this simple matrix.
When building your roadmap, be sure to:
- Detail criteria for prioritization: Which elements will take precedence over others, and why? Are the feature dependencies clearly mapped? Documenting the prioritization criteria allows teams to better understand the impact of their work and quickly identify the source of any delays.
- Perform an organizational-impact analysis: What is needed from each stakeholder to achieve a given milestone? Are all stakeholders accounted for? For example, a major update to a customer-facing website also impacts the support staff in a call center.
- Centralize your roadmap: Saving versions in different locations can lead to confusion. Maintain the roadmap as a living document stored in a central location all relevant parties can access.
- Set roadmap-review meetings: As your roadmap evolves it’s easy for some updates to go unnoticed. To maintain alignment, schedule roadmap-review meetings with stakeholders on a regular basis.
Identify skill gaps and choose the right team members
By now, you've developed a deep understanding of the project goal and detailed the necessary steps to get there. Before you can choose the right people for your cross-functional team, however, you need to determine if any skill gaps remain that could hinder or block project completion.
To assess skill gaps:
- Review an organizational chart to understand how the roles vary in each department.
- Specify which technical skills are essential to each stage of the project. If any skills are missing, can they be quickly gained through training?
- Implement a development platform to facilitate training, if necessary.
With a clear assessment of the necessary skills in hand, you can start putting together a team. First, take the time to describe the key roles and structure of your team:
- Consult with subject matter experts for feedback on scope framing, team composition, tech limitations, etc. Ideally, the expert you consult with has recently participated in a similar project.
- Determine who will lead the project. Will you have a designated project manager?
- Compose the team. Based on soft and technical skills, select collaborators who best fit these roles:
- Product owner
- Product manager (often the idea generator for R&D)
- Enterprise architect (the link between IT and business)
- Marketing and sales resources (frequent C-suite collaborators who helped you build a business case for the project)
Formalize a governance structure and an issue-review log
Detailing a governance structure lays the groundwork for effective communication between departments. Meetings will play a significant role in communication, so to maximize the value of each meeting:
- Specify the types of meetings that will occur: These could be stakeholder, steering committee, stream, project leadership, and project-status meetings.
- Set meeting agendas: Define the goal of each meeting so teams come prepared and can forecast the next steps. Agendas often get buried in email chains. For better visibility and to simplify updates, store your agendas in a central location that everyone can access
- Define rules for collaboration: Clarify if collaboration will be primarily in-office, remote, or hybrid. Additionally, establish which tools will be used for messaging (e.g., Slack, Teams, etc.), video conferencing (e.g., Teams, Zoom, etc.), visual collaboration (e.g., Whiteboard, Miro, etc.), and file sharing (e.g., DropBox, Box, OneDrive, etc.).
Of course, miscommunication or a lack of communication can derail even the best-structured meetings. To avoid confusion down the road, instill these best practices from the start:
- Make it clear that disagreements are not inherently negative but are a necessary part of the process. This helps create an environment where team members feel more comfortable sharing their ideas.
- Empower your team to solve their own problems; don’t try to be the source of every solution. Ask questions instead of dictating solutions to help team members think through problems and show that you respect their agency. The trust built through this exchange motivates your team to take the initiative and propose solutions.
Strong communication practices help reduce the confusion that can happen with cross-functional work. Some challenges, however, are unavoidable. A formalized issue-review process streamlines your team’s ability to field and resolve issues. If you’re using an issue-review log or similar method, follow these guidelines:
- List issues you want to avoid along with ideas for how to solve them.
- Schedule periodic stakeholder meetings to review specific issues.
- Record potential and current issues in a centralized document.
- Note the causes and solutions for each issue. Pay particular attention to problems that reoccur.
Let's recap all that you’ve accomplished thus far to launch your project:
- Refined the scope and leveraged a roadmap to reconfirm stakeholder alignment.
- Assessed skill gaps and implemented a development platform for training (or hired a consultant to help).
- Consulted SMEs to inform your decision on team composition.
- Formalized team governance and established tools and best practices for communication.
- Detailed an issue-review process.
Naturally, you may still need to make some tweaks here and there. So, once everything is in place, be sure to check out the next article in the series: Keeping Cross-Functional IT Projects On-Time and On-Budget for further guidance on how to keep your cross-functional project moving forward without a hitch.
Seabeck Systems is an IT consultancy that provides proven strategies, clear processes, and actionable roadmaps for Fortune 1000 leaders who feel overwhelmed with complex data demands. As a full-stack provider, we implement the systemic change necessary to convert our clients' business objectives into action. So, if you need any help launching or leading a cross-functional IT project at your organization, please don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We'd love to help you get started.