Data Discourse

Managing a Big Data Project? Here are Six Good Practices to Keep in Mind


By Ajay Ayyar, PMP


As more organizations implement big data initiatives, IT project managers are learning how to navigate this emerging world. Earlier this year, I completed a big data platform rollout project at Nine Entertainment Co. (NEC). I hope that my insights from the experience can be valuable to other project managers.

The project kicked off in October 2015, with completion scheduled for six months later. Our scope was to commission both a big data platform to capture emerging data sources and a business intelligence tool to provide reporting and analytics capabilities. Six major lessons emerged from the process.

1. Avoid talent bottlenecks. During the project's early stages, we relied too much on specific individuals with data platform experience. If the team member with the specific skill or knowledge we needed was unavailable, progress ground to a halt. To manage this, we began training multiple team members on individual components of the end-to-end technology.

2. Coordinate dependencies. Business intelligence platforms contain a number of integrated components and dependencies. To manage these dependencies, I required team members to update their task statuses at least once per day so owners of dependent tasks were always aware of the progress. The first three months of the project was a learning process. But over time, team members came to understand their roles and the nature of the dependencies, and a healthy cadence was established.

3. Communicate the big picture. Because we were implementing a new platform containing a number of integrated components and moving parts, I came up with a simple one-page diagram to communicate the end-to-end picture. This provided the team clarity and direction while also explaining how each team member role supported the end result.

4. Work toward short-term targets. We used an agile approach, setting small two-week targets to ensure focus on priorities. It worked well: Daily scrums let us quickly identify roadblocks and inform team members of priorities for the next 24 hours. Working in short cycles also ensured that regular progress was presented to the project sponsor, a priority for projects involving new tools or technology.

5. Keep performance and usability in mind. When a new type of technology platform is introduced, users will not fully adopt it unless it is easy to use, aesthetically appealing and fast to load. So our project team used automated performance tools and tested reports from a usability standpoint before showcasing the technology to users.

6. Involve support and operations staff at all stages. Because this was a new type of project for us, we worked especially hard to engage support and operations teams throughout the project, from kickoff to close. This made the formal handover to these teams much easier and smoother, because they already understood the platform. PM

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img Ajay Ayyar, PMP, is a group IT project manager at the media and entertainment company Nine Entertainment Co., Willoughby, Australia.




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