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In 12 months everything is done! NOT!

Time to rethink project planning. Ditch the calendar first

In 12 months everything is done! NOT!

So many projects and so little time. Sound familiar? It is that time of year when institutions start budget planning for the following year. Of course, every profit plan contains capital expenditures and what is a Cap-Ex without a new project? But why do these approved projects have to be completed during the next 12 months even though the projects from the previous plan have yet to be completed? Yup, the project pile just keeps on growing.

Just because you have a budget and 12 months to get things done doesn’t mean things will get done. On the contrary, too often the expectations when it comes to project management are unrealistic. The news flash here is that most IT departments have a regular job that demands their time and projects are secondary. Let’s face it, if the IT staff had enough time to do their regular jobs and get all of the projects done in a 12 month period, they would being accused the department of being overstaffed. And if they don’t get projects done in 12 months, then they are accused of being disorganized or unproductive.

The reality is that IT departments are traditionally run lean and project implementation timing is seldom based on an analysis of available resources. The annual budget plan is more the culprit than anything else.

It’s time that we change our thinking in regard to project planning. First, if your IT staff has a difficult time meeting the daily demand, trying increasing staff before you add any projects. Take care of the day-to-day business of the organization, the part that services customers, then you can look at the project list.

Next, any project that has been on the list for a year or longer with no action most certainly is not a crisis and you could live without it. In fact, my recommendation is: Delete it! Finally, it is important to understand the seasonal requirements of the IT staff and adjust accordingly. Projects should be spread out over a great period of time. Twelve months is unrealistic. Try using an 18 to 24 month cycle and be more deliberate on when and how much.

Finally, the management team needs to learn how to say “No”! Too often management reacts to the competition and runs to the Technology Committee screaming, “XYZ has it, we need to get it!” Well, my response to that is, “Why are we letting XYZ bank run our bank?” Hmm… Planning is good, vision is good, focus is good, and saying “no” is GREAT!

There is never enough time to get what has been requested done when projects are exclusively planned using the January to December calendar. The world just doesn’t work that way, but we still try. Come December, there is disappointment and frustration for the IT staff that you depend so heavily on! Give them a holiday gift this year. Go ahead make their year!

The Wombat!           

Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is president and CEO of The Copper River Group, a consulting firm headquartered in Fargo, N. D., that focuses on technology and payment systems research and consulting for community financial institutions. For nearly 30 years, Fisher has worked in the financial industry using technology to improve the bottom line. He was CIO of Community First Bankshares (now part of Bank of the West), has served as a director of the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis, the chairman of the American Bankers Association Payment Systems Committee, and was a member of the Independent Community Bankers of America Payments Committee. Fisher has written numerous articles on banking technology and the payments system. He has authored or co-authored six books and recently published a book titled, "Capturing Your Customer! The New Technology of Remote Deposit." You can contact Fisher at dan@copperrivergroup.com.
P.S. To understand Dan's nickname, check out "About the Wombat" on his website.       

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