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I am facing a strange situation in one manufacturing company and I need help to figuring out what to do. The company has a very low PM maturity level, especially when it comes to non-manufacturing activities.

Global management has recently declared a strategic goal to finally release an internal hardware/software development platform for use in multiple company's manufacturing sites and start training developers to use it. It is being developed on and off for a few years and they now want it completed in 6 months.

I am assigned as an architect of the platform - my responsibility is making and enforcing technical decisions because developers in multiple countries are unable to agree themselves.

  • There is no project charter: project is defined by marketing material mostly and developers are to decide what to do and how to do it themselves. That is why I have my role - they can't agree. This also indicates the maturity level of the team.
  • There is no project sponsor: technical department managers (line managers, basically) are expected to spare some resources for common benefit and a strategic goal.
  • There is no project manager: "because project managers are expensive and busy with manufacturing projects". To some extent I try to do manager tasks to keep development going.
  • There are no dedicated resources: developers are allowed to work on the project on their spare time (i.e. when there is a gap between commercial projects).
  • Even "dedicated" resources like me have other higher priority tasks, in particular those that bring direct revenue.

This is not the first iteration like this and managers are not quite happy about wasted resources and developers spending 1000s of hours without completing anything. Platform is already in use by skilled developers, but it is in alpha stage where user/developer has to fix issues when build applications on the platform.

Previous iterations were "completed" when either deadline came or resources were removed from the project to do something else. Product documentation was simply declared complete and released as is, completion reported to management.

I don't know how to approach this. I am not in a position to change situation myself, my expressed concerns are either politely ignored or "we have heard that before". I really wish this to succeed, but am lost in how to go towards success. Failure will harm me and will not bring the expected value to he company. What options do I have? What else is there to consider?

This company has a long success history in manufacturing, is growing and doing great from financial perspective, but development projects are treated as above and usually (if succeed) succeed only due to dedication and heroism of developers.

  • A project does not depend on a project manager to succeed; it depends on project management. Turns out that if there's no manager, someone will have to do the management, or else everyone does as a hive... but it's likely to be an utopia based on your project description. – Tiago Cardoso Sep 24 '17 at 19:18
  • For the most part it is a hive: users just branch their own copy when they need it and do not report issues back, and contributors try to add their own ideas that they think are more suitable and endless discussions commence. – user29921 Sep 25 '17 at 19:27
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It sounds like your company understands the need for project and operations excellence as it relates to what they manufacture but seems to have a blind spot for other non-core projects. As we all know, change occurs with the right sponsor. You were silent as to who politely ignored you but, if there are higher ranking people above, you need to talk with someone more senior and state your case. Draw as many comparisons as you can with what they do well with manufacturing to other projects and bring all risks back to a financial impact, both favorable and unfavorable. Keep climbing the organization until you have the right sponsor.

If you hit the top and you still cannot change their thinking, then you have two alternatives: do your work and collet your paycheck and forget about results or find a new job.

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David Espina's answer covers most of what I wanted to say. I just wanted to add:

Keep a paper trail.

You not that you're afraid that the project's failure will ham you. So, whenever you bring these concerns to someone, document it.

When asked 'why did you fail your project?', the following:

"On Oct 5th, 2017, I went to John Doe and informed him that if we didn't get X, Y, and Z, then the chances for the project's success would be low. Receiving a negative response, I went up the chain to Jane Toe on Oct 6th, and was explicitly told to drop the issue and continue regardless of the low chance of success. Here are the transcripts of [those emails/followup emails for those discussions].

sounds a lot better than:

"I brought up my concerns about the project many times, but everyone ignored me. It's not my fault!"

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