A project to sort projects

Published by Matt Setchell on

Due to staffing changes, I recently took on the project lead responsibilities in addition to my wider role.

One of the parts of my job in all areas I am responsible for is building systems and enabling my colleagues to perform their roles easier. I really enjoy this, and the feedback loop to getting it right to meet all the requirements.

For me, if we can automate it, we should. Automation doesn’t mean we don’t do the human element, but it’s a fail safe and backup.

What I mean by this is – we may strive to communicate often with stakeholders – but this might be delayed. With automation, we can be sure that the information gets delivered. And, then you can follow it up with the human side.

We may strive to follow a procedure, but in the moment it gets missed – we know this leads to mistakes and issues further down the line – so building a system and procedure which makes it’s more beneficial to use it then not helps avoid those.

When looking at the project management role, I wanted to create an environment where there is a framework which can meet the needs of current and future projects, technical, CX, procurement, regulatory and communication needs in a standardised format whatever the project entails.

For context, we must define a project. Because it’s one of the most common questions I get – mainly where colleagues are wanting to implement changes outside the scope of what we deem support. It’s great they want to do this, to improve things – but projects can impact a big range of people then solving an issue – and solving an issue restores a service – projects require change.

I’ve used ChatGPT for this:

A project in the IT domain refers to a unique, temporary initiative with a defined start and end date, intended to achieve a specific goal or create a new system, application, or infrastructure.

It could involve designing and implementing a new software solution, upgrading an existing system, or setting up a new network infrastructure. The process requires detailed planning, resource allocation, risk management, and may involve various stakeholders, following a structured project management methodology.

On the other hand, day-to-day IT support, also known as IT operations, involves the ongoing, routine tasks necessary to keep the existing IT infrastructure running smoothly.

This can include troubleshooting, maintaining hardware and software, providing user assistance, managing servers, and ensuring data security. Unlike projects, these operations are repetitive and continuous, without a specific endpoint, aiming to maintain service stability and user satisfaction.


Once we understand when we invoke the projects system, we can follow the procedure. There are several key goals in the platform I have built

  • Flexible for any project
  • Easy to use and access anywhere by anyone
  • Communicate with key stakeholders regularly
  • Show progress
  • Bring together different platforms

I’ve spent a bit of time reading up on Prince2 as well, and used some of the key elements, around how to detail phases and how to collect clear information from customers to define responsibilities, risks and context. I’ve also integrated the shift left principle I am guided by, wherever possible utilising the quickest and lowest cost way of achieving a goal.

I work well when I have all the information, I’m good at making decisions and taking action. If I don’t have all the information, this leads to problems with the decisions I make. I found that we often started projects without the right information, which led us to having to work around things we wouldn’t need to if we had known about them.

So ensuring we have that customer mandate to detail everything from their side and agree it, building a framework to get all the technical information in one place, even if at first it doesn’t appear to be relevant, making sure CX and procurement colleagues understand the context of the project to support their roles – keeping onsite colleagues up to date and involved in changes at their schools and ensuring customers know the project plan, milestones and progression are all key – and bringing this all together in one place (SharePoint list and app) from multiple systems (data collection in excel, plans and audits in PandaDoc, procurement and billing in Xero, context from help desk and customer details from Hubspot) has helped bring clarity.

Over the next 3 months we will recruit for a new project lead. I’ve built the house, and they can move in and decorate it and make it their own. As a landlord of the house, if they want to knock down walls they have to ask, but if they want to paint it pink – that’s their choice, and other people in the house can provide feedback to it. As we grow, it will turn into a house share, each person with their own style, but living by a communal code and ethos to live in harmony.

In the meantime we are now completing projects regularly – including moving schools to full cloud in term time – and ensuring we start and finish and meet defined goals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning and tweaking and listening to feedback on projects and supporting the wider team to understand the process and rationale behind it is key to that – but we’ve made significant improvements based on customer (internal and external) feedback – with plenty more to come.

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