It’s important to understand all dependencies when planning a project.
While dependencies can be within a project (schedule dependencies), we are going to explore the practice of managing those dependencies that impact the project but are external to the project work “Inter-Project Dependencies”.
It’s essential to have a good handle on these activities as there is often little opportunity to control and influence them.
Let’s Look at an Example
To illustrate this, let’s look at an example. You have a project that started on 1/14 called the “Fargo Road Move Project” that is to move a bottling plant into a new building. When the building was purchased, there were some necessary updates for all of the departments that will be housed in the building. There is a separate initiative “Fargo Road Construction Project” to update the building, including laying new flooring in the bottling suite. The flooring is scheduled to be completed by 3/15. You cannot move the equipment until the flooring is complete. You have scheduled the equipment move for 3/26. Your schedule is dependent on the contractors completing the floor work prior to 3/26.
In the situation where you have required work beyond your project, you must take steps to assure you minimize the impact this may have.
Monitor and Communicate
As project managers, we are used to the ‘Monitor and Control’ aspect of our job. However, there is often little control when you are dependent on efforts by another project, therefore we ‘Monitor and Communicate’ inter-project dependencies.
Constantly monitor that the work you depend on to assure it is going as planned and understand the confidence factor of completing that work on time.
Communicate to your project leadership so they are always aware of this risk and the impact. If they heard about it regularly, they will not be surprised if they learn there is a possible slip in work and they have the potential to influence completion of that work. Often our project leadership may have control over work beyond our project.
Tools and Documentation
Inter-project dependencies should be established as soon as they are understood to exist. Below is a table that displays various project management tools and documentation that are recommended for this work.
|Scope||• Clearly state the dependency in the scope||• This assures that the project leadership is aware of the dependency and that they agree to it when they approve the scope.|
|Staffing Plan||• Add the manager of the project/work for which the dependency exists to the role of ‘providing updates to the project team on the status of [detail] work’||• This is an opportunity for that manager to be aware of dependency and the expectation that they are accountable to communicate status.|
|Task||• Add an on-going task to monitor/check in with that manager.
• Add a task to the project scheduled for ‘completion of’ the dependency. This is the milestone. As able, allow some lag time in anticipation that this work may be delayed.
• Link your related tasks so that any slippage of this work can be easily identified and addressed.
|• This will assure that you are monitoring the work and tracking any impact to your project.|
|Milestone||• Add this inter-project dependency as a milestone.||• The dependency must be completed before certain project work can proceed, therefore it is important that everyone is aware of that date and it will be reviewed often.|
|Risk||• Add a risk to the risk register. Included impact if the dependency date is missed and a contingency plan.
• Identify a senior leader, preferable from your project leadership team, to be the owner of this risk.
|• This is an opportunity to highlight the importance of the dependency and providing a warning to project leadership of the impact should the date be missed.
• It also provides a chance to plan what the team will do should the date be missed.
|Status Report||• A solid project status report will include milestones and high impact risks. Determine what information is needed related to the dependency for a given status report.||• Status updates allow the project team and leadership to continue to be aware of the dependency. It provides an escalation point for the owner of the risk to influence the work should there be signs that the date will slip.|
If possible, the inter-dependent project should include the work and due date as a deliverable in their scope so there is a higher accountability to meet that date and that project leadership is aware of the impact to other projects.
If there are multiple projects that have dependencies, a regular meeting of the project managers should be occurring to discuss status and impact. This team could include other individuals who may help influence completion of critical work.
There are situations where projects that are tightly inter-related can share a leadership committee. This allows for oversite at the project leadership level. If this is possible, then there should be a status report of milestones for all of the projects so that the relationship between the projects is clear.
Pay attention to all inter-project dependencies and be prepared to make adjustments should the other work slip. Keep all of your team members and leadership aware of the status of the other work, particularly if you are not confident in the due date.
It is also important to consider the magnitude of the impact should a date slip. Do not over-burden your leadership team with concern if there is enough slack to accept a date slip or there is an acceptable work-around. This is the value in tracking the dependency as a risk and analyzing it early in the project.