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Are there any manager tools podcasts that can help with this situation?

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I have been given the job of "project management" on a client project that is going to be completed with in-house IT staff as well as contractor staff. However, I have no authority and no "directs". The in-house IT staff report either directly to the CEO or to other managers in the company.  I report directly to the CEO.

In the past, I have used standard, formal PM techniques . . . project plans, objectives, milestones, requirement tracking, status reports, job change order forms, regular meetings and feedback. The contractor wants to use "Agile" methods without detailed milestones. I feel obligated to have more detail, and I am having difficulty getting the detail from the contractor, who presumably doesn't want to be measured on goal attainment.  Since they are really good at what they do and they are good for our company and our clients, I don't want to push too much . . . but I am worried that I am supposed to "manage" the project and if the contractor doesn't deliver, then I could be blamed. To make matters even more complicated, the contractor is a longtime friend of the CEO.  If it were up to me, I would recommend that the contractor manage the project, but, unfortunately for me, the CEO wants me to be involved and somehow navigate the project management minefield.

What do you do when hiring the best means that you lose control of project management? Do you just have to trust that the contractor will do the project on time and on budget or do you still try to manage the project because you have an obligation to the client? The contractor's past experience shows an excellent record of providing software on time and on budget and their IT skills are top notch--maybe among the top 5% of programmers.  So, if this project is like the others, then everything should be fine, but SHOULD is a very uncomfortable word.

Looking forward to the wisdom of the forum . . .

mtietel's picture

Any/all of the project management casts apply, including the project manager feedback casts.

Everything you need for your standard PM techniques are there, they just look different than what you're used to.  And your role might be slightly different than what you're used to.

  • Project Plans: Rather than a detailed project plan of who is doing what by when for the next 9 months, you have a detailed plan of who is doing what by when over the next few weeks and a general idea (likely to change) of what needs to get done for the 8 months after that.
  • Milestones: How long is your iteration? Two weeks?  The beginning and end of each iteration suggest several milestones.  Before the iteration can begin, stories and their acceptance criteria must be written & understood by everyone (requirements and requirements review in a different guise) and the stories must be estimated and matched against the team's capacity for the iteration (more project plan pieces).  The end of the iteration implies completed testing and acceptance of the functionality.  In between, the design and development has been completed.  And the result you're after is working code, not beautiful documents.  ;-)
  • Requirements tracking:  Stories and their acceptance criteria describe the requirements.  Tests implement the acceptance criteria.  Therefore, in a very real way, the tests provide requirements tracking (or traceability in CMMI-speak).  
  • Status Reports: burn-up/down charts show whether sufficient progress is being made vs capacity during the iteration.  You can also report on depletion of the backlog vs long term capacity.
  • Job Change Order Forms:  New stories that describe changes in the functionality serve as Change Requests.
  • Regular meetings: daily stand-up (reflect daily progress on all tasks in progress); iteration planning (what needs to get done over the next few weeks); backlog grooming (what's the next after what we're working on now); iteration retrospective/demo (what did we get done over the past few weeks AND did it meet the business need; this is also the feedback loop into iteration planning and grooming)
  • Feedback: not sure what you mean here; MT-feedback or something else?

PM me if you wish.  It's hard to be specific without knowing details about your situation.