Thursday, 6 April 2006

Into the frying pan - My first 'major' project - part 1

A couple of years ago I was asked to look into consolidating the help desk operations of 3 councils that were looking to work in partnership to deliver ICT services. My role at the time was that of a system support officer with a primary responsibility for help desk and customer service. The local face of IT if you will. Initially I was quite excited at the opportunity and could envision a more professional help desk providing better services. Seeing as they had asked me, they saw this too, right? Perhaps I was naive, and if I am honest I do have a tendency to be when I am excited about something.

I started off by forming a working group formed from the help desk operators / supervisors at the other councils and having a relatively informal chat about what I had been asked to do, followed by a fact-finding mission to discover what I considered to be key things. These meetings went very well and those involved were very open (contrast this with how closed the management themselves were on certain issues, especially when it came to finance). I've compiled a mind map (requires Mind Manager viewer) to show the areas that my questions covered. I hope it will act as a useful kickstart for someone out there faced with the same task.

Once this initial task was complete, I sought to gain further guidance from those that had given me the task before writing my report as I wanted to be sure it would answer their questions. Ironically, they couldn't tell me what their questions were. If I were me back then, the alarm bells would have been going off and I would have said that they needed to all sit down and figure out exactly what they were hoping for. As I didn't know then what I know now... I didn't.

I wrote the report which raised far more questions than it answered, of that I have no doubt. However, it did give management enough information to make the decision to formally go ahead and consolidate the help desks of the 3 councils. Result!

I shouldn't have been surprised when I was asked to be project manager - but I was. With no formal project management training behind me or substantive project mangement experience I felt that it was too high profile for a first 'major' project. I actually recommended that they appoint someone else and that I act as Project Lead. Looking back I'm glad they ignored my recommendation! They agreed that they would support and train me to use the Prince 2 Lite project management methodology to deliver the project, so I agreed to do it. After all, it's not often these opportunities come my way. (Incidentally, the training never came; at least not until after we had finished the project! I got by through primarily by reading project management books and websites on my own time - I'll document which I would recommend in another post for you.)

So there we have it... how I got into the frying pan that is project management, and subsequently ITIL. Stay tuned for part 2!


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