The Holidays Are Here
The holidays are a time of family, friends, feasts and festivities. It can also be a time when your IT projects come to a screeching halt. Some companies plan for these interruptions. Others try to cram as much in before everyone starts taking their unused vacation days. And sadly, some react as if they had no idea the holidays were already here and are caught off guard.
When the holidays come knocking, are you prepared? What will happen to your IT projects? Have you planned your sprints around the holidays?
Successful companies know that successful projects demand predictable schedules and deliverables. Any delays, changes or interruptions interfere with those schedules, which inevitably lead to late deliverables. All of this costs money and if accurate expectations weren’t communicated with the client (internal or external), you could be looking at customer satisfaction issues.
Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
This old Army adage holds true in just about any area of life. When it comes to IT projects, it’s all about planning ahead to avoid everything from minor delays to catastrophic shutdowns. The holidays are obviously something companies can plan for and IT projects must have the holiday months worked into them.
Of course, this type of planning should be done on the front end during initial planning phases. If, however, you are a bit late to the game and realizing some of your projects may hit a wall in the next few weeks, there are still some things you can do:
1. Consult with an IT Project Management Company
Even if you’ve never used an IT project management company before and don’t typically need them, the holidays are the perfect time to consider them. As your IT staff dwindles down during the holiday months, you can leverage an IT project management company’s resources to fill in the gaps. They can loan you their own internal resources or send over talent from their extensive pool or resources, often on short notice. These people will come with the exact qualifications your project needs without requiring much hand-holding. That means they can usually jump right in with minimal interruption to the project.
2. Manage Your Resources Wisely
Resource management and capacity planning are additional areas where our Army adage is relevant. IT requires a company to plan ahead, understanding their resource capacity and assigning those resources to projects based on skills requirements and timing.
It isn’t a good idea to let your key IT staff take time off at the same time. If they haven’t already booked their vacation time, be sure you communicate with them that they will need to coordinate their off-time with each other to ensure you have skills representation for critical projects. Determine which projects can’t withstand a reduction in staff and what skills are required during the impacted sprints. Make sure you have the right resources on board to complete those tasks throughout the holiday season, even if it means rotating employees on a daily or weekly basis.
If you get pushback or simply want to get ahead of it, offer incentives for those who stay on during the most requested vacation days. This can be in the form of bonuses, extra time off after the holidays or overtime pay.
3. There’s Always January
If you realize your projects will still take a hit over the holiday months, it may not be all bad. Most people assume the holidays will slow projects. Of course, it would have been better to work those holiday months into the project timeline, but just as your resources are taking time off, so too are your clients.
Sometimes, you just have to do the best you can with what you have. If you must delay a project, you can often make up for those delays after the holidays. Again, consult with a project management company to beef up your staff in January, for instance, so you can get back on track more quickly. Alternatively, you can initiate an “all hands on deck” requirement whereby all of your resources are obligated to be in the office for a specific period of time after the holidays to play catch-up.
4: Plan Ahead for Next Year
Now that you understand the importance of prior planning, you can do better next year. Set a new precedence in project planning and resource planning. Require every project be planned with the holidays in mind. Be sure you know your current resource skills and plan their capacity based on current and future project requirements. Resources should always be aligned with project requirements well ahead of project initiation. Any changes to projects that require new skills or extending the time staff must dedicate to those projects must be weighed with the impact it will have on other projects waiting for those same resources.
This is a great time to look at hiring new talent to fill in skills gaps, whether permanent hires or on a contract basis. Consult with an IT staffing company to start the search. They will be able to work with you to determine your current needs and how best to build up your teams to get more work done faster. They can also help you prepare for the next holiday season and find the skills you anticipate needing this time next year. Yes, planning this far ahead is challenging, but the companies who do find they are rarely scrambling at the end of the year.
Follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy your holidays a bit more when you aren’t worrying about how projects are fairing.