Project Timeline

Time is another vital consideration in technology projects because a tech solution that arrives too late — e.g., the day after a vital election — can have dire consequences. A party should consider the following before the implementation of a tech-based project.

  • The length of time it will realistically take to purchase, install, configure, modify, troubleshoot and train staff for a new tech project. Extra time should be taken into account to accommodate unforeseen delays.
  • The overall project timeline — that is, what the party will need to accomplish in the short-, medium- and long terms. A party should consider key milestones, such as party meetings and elections, that will influence project timing and possibly shift party priorities.
  • Time for testing and evaluating the tool. Rolling out a new technology before properly testing it can be an expensive mistake. This case study looks at two projects, Narwal and ORCA, from the U.S. 2012 presidential election: one tool was tested and ready for the strain of election day and the other was not.

Tips for creating a tech project timeline:

  • Establish a project completion/launch date and work backwards. For example, if the project must be ready by November of a given year, establish the project timeline based on that date. Ideally, the project deadline should be set some weeks or months before the technology is absolutely required to work.
  • Identify essential project segments and tasks, as well as sub-segments and sub-tasks (i.e., the parts that make up a larger project segment or task).
  • Identify dependencies among the segments and tasks. In other words, understand which parts must be completed before other parts can begin or finish.
  • Identify which party staff and/or contractors will be required for each segment or task. If tasks are concurrent, be sure that staff are not over-committed.
  • Identify segments and tasks that will require review and approval by the client or end user. Build in time for the review process and for changes that may be requested after review.
  • Identify training that may be required before party staff can use the technology and incorporate it into the timeline. If staff training will require the technology to be fully operational, that time must be added to the schedule as well.
  • Based on the essential tasks and dependencies, establish milestones/interim goals and assign due dates to them.
  • Based on milestones, assign dates for review and evaluation of project segments and tasks.
  • Build in time for project testing and troubleshooting.
  • Prepare an enforcement strategy for the timeline. A timeline won’t be effective if people don’t stick to it.
  • Whenever possible, build extra time into the timeline. Technology projects almost always take longer than expected.

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