Effective project management requires a holistic understanding of the business environment and an ability to adapt to changes in that environment. Being selective about project choices, knowing how to keep those projects on track, and how to expect the unexpected in the midst of a project are key components of an overall project approach. Additionally, by crafting clear project scope, goals and milestones and engaging the right people for different tasks, you can help ensure a successful conclusion to any project.
Which project, and why?
Having internal processes for deciding which projects to invest in, helps to ensure that both your overall business goals and fiscal responsibilities are prioritized. Projects should be evaluated with a review of overall costs and benefits, both tangible and intangible. For example, compliance or regulatory projects typically must be completed regardless of the return on investment. But other projects should be reviewed with a three to five year return analysis before committing time and resources to them. And if your project includes an opportunity for capitalization, your business should look beyond external expenses required and include items such as internal resource commitments and their associated costs, to see it through completion. Often overlooked expenses are related to software testing in system implementation projects and staff education on new technology. A careful analysis of all expenses is needed before funding the initiative. Clearly delineating the scope of the project and the expected impact for different areas of the business helps to ensure a comprehensive approach to making sure all impacted departments and staff adapt appropriately.
Keeping projects on track
A skilled project manager will take the time to understand the intricacies of the project environment to ensure a project stays on track. For example, a successful project manager will consult with experts on new regulations in the relevant industry in order to determine how these affect a project. It is important that the project manager is aware of other projects in process, or planned within the organization, which may have an integral impact on his/her project and its associated departments. Good project managers are proactive in addressing possible risks to the project and have contingency plans to accompany the risks. Keeping the project on track also entails organizing the necessary requirement and design documents, to be signed off on by appropriate stakeholders within the business. An organized process for showing the completion of milestones and interim deliverables also helps to prepare for internal or external audit processes.
A skilled project manager takes advantage of industry knowledge and best practices to manage the practicalities for the project and understands how to facilitate decision-making. For example, developing multiple contingency plans to cope with unexpected setbacks will save time and resources when things go awry. A quickly developed project plan which doesn’t identify risks is not as effective as one that provides ways to push forward past roadblocks.
Have Clear Goals
At the outset of the project, define the criteria by which you will measure the success of the final deliverable. This means engaging the stakeholders and end users in preliminary meetings to outline their needs and how they will determine if the final deliverable meets those needs. After identifying the problems or risks, you should clearly determine which of them can be mitigated by the final deliverable and delineate processes to verify and validate your mitigation. A project scope document which outlines to goals and measures of success will ensure the team is aligned. Taking these preliminary steps can reduce the risk of unnecessary project scope expansion.
In crafting the project lifecycle, establishing milestones with measurable criteria can assist in the identification of potential subprojects. These subprojects should be ordered in a way to minimize lag time between them and to share resources effectively. Breaking down the project into smaller steps allows you to look for ways to organize time and people, and improve overall efficiency. Best practices include clearly defined exit and entrance criteria between project phases and subprojects which provide gate checkpoints and early notification if the project is not on track. It is during these gate-checks that subprojects can be evaluated and for which resource allocation can be modified if necessary.
Engaging the Right People
Besides consulting with the relevant stakeholders and end users in a project, it is important to be proactive in assessing the skillsets of team members. Conducting an honest assessment of potential team members and assigning them to appropriate roles in the project helps ensure project success and efficiency. Make sure that each deliverable is managed by people with the relevant skills. In some cases, outsourcing or recruiting beyond the project staff may be an option, and doing so can help ensure that sub-deliverables are met on time. Staffing team members where they are inefficient will undoubtedly lead to delays; make sure to know your team members skills in the context of the project and place them on tasks accordingly.
The project manager should be the key point person for crafting the project plan, overseeing the execution of deliverables, communicating as necessary according to your communication plan and providing iterative evaluations of the project’s effectiveness. The project manager should be able to communicate the relative successes and challenges of the project and identify areas for improvement utilizing a lessons learned approach. Another role that may be present is that of a business analyst or business manager, who can be dedicated to regulatory and business requirements organization. While the project manager organizes people and activities, the business analyst or business manager can organize requirements and ensure the final deliverable matches its criteria in support of the overall business goals.
Conduct Smart Project Management
By choosing the right projects, defining goals and managing risks responsibly, developing a realistic work plan, and assessing potential team members honestly, your business can conduct project management the right way. Ninestone has certified Project Management Professionals (PMP®) which utilize proven methods and processes to ensure project success. Many of our staff have taken over troubled projects and in very short order assessed the risks and maneuvered the project on a path towards successful completion. Our Project Managers can also assist with transitioning in flight projects, moving ongoing projects forward, and preparing for project audits.