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How to keep your project on schedule and finish when you said you would.

My oldest daughter has her driving permit. Actually, she's had her driver's permit for almost a year now but, given that she has to have 70 hours of driving completed before she can apply to take her driving test, I began to worry that she would still only have her permit when she goes away to college in another year.   In the beginning, we were not very diligent about fitting driving time into our hectic schedules, especially given the rules about who can and cannot ride with her.  When we finally did a check last month to see how close she was to her 70 hours, we realized she still had over 40 hours to go.


It really highlighted the importance of setting schedules and keeping to them in order to achieve goals. I see how often this can derail a software implementation. You can start off with the best of intentions but then other projects begin to take priority and you keep thinking, we'll get to that one next week. Next week turns into six months and now you're looking at not only delays on your go-live date, but also having to start over again as some things that had already been completed are no longer valid because too much time has passed.

It is so important at the start of an implementation to put together the project schedule and then make a true commitment to staying on track with the schedule even during those crazy weeks. By working together with the implementation team, you can structure the schedule realistically and plan for known variables. By also setting up milestones during the project, you can break the project down into more manageable chunks and have natural break points that allow some leeway as you progress towards your final go-live goal.

What are some key points to staying on track with your schedule?

Spend the time creating a realistic project plan with achievable goals and project milestones.  This should be aggressive enough to complete the project in a reasonable time period but not so aggressive that it will be impossible to meet. There are some variables known at the start of a project such as employee vacation schedules, fiscal year end, and annual fundraising events.  These known variables should be incorporated into the timeline and accounted for at the start of the project.

Be sure all people involved in the project understand and are committed to the timetable.  This includes all those who will impact the success of the project from upper management to the end users.

Available Verify that key employees are available during the times that they will be needed for the project. For example, your IT staff is available to install and configure the software in week one.


Ensure that you have all the materials you need ready before they can cause any delays.  You don't want to start pulling them together after you need them. They should be organized and prepared well ahead of when they are required. This may be as simple as putting together your contacts list at the start of the project to having sample report files available when you begin configuring them in your new system.
Responsibility Take responsibility for the parts of the project to which you are assigned and hold others accountable for their parts. If someone is causing delays in the project, don't put off being prepared for your part. This will just exacerbate the problem and intensify the delays. 
Meet Connect regularly with the project manager to review the status and ensure you are staying on track. This could be just a fifteen minute call each week or more structured review meetings. The key is that they are done regularly and consistently so that you can identify anything that may be impacting the schedule early and make any necessary adjustments to keep things moving forward.


While it can often feel impossible during the course of a project to stay on track, by implementing a few key strategies it can be done and you can "go live" exactly when you planned.

We have a driving plan now. My daughter drives five hours every week no matter what else is on our schedule. Some weeks that may mean two hours of aimless driving on a Sunday afternoon to meet the required five that week, but it's all worth it because she will be ready to schedule her driver's test in another month! I only wish we had planned our schedule earlier. She would already have her license.

Soft Trac is  a woman-owned business and accomplished team of nonprofit software consultants. We believe in making nonprofits "do good" better. For more information on any of the topics discussed in this blog or to learn more about the software products and services we offer, please CONTACT Soft Trac.

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