Here’s a scenario that happens far too often.
A company needs their IT and business processes to be more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective. They come up with a plan, but lacking the time or internal resources to implement it, they hire an outside firm to do so. Before you know it, the project is past schedule, the budget has been blown, and the initial problem hasn’t been solved. What happened?
There are various factors that can contribute to a project’s failure. However, in my experience, there are four key elements critical to effective project management.
1. Clearly Define the Scope of Work
The first phase of any successful project is to make sure everyone involved understands the full breadth of work involved as well as the desired business outcome. The scope of work must be well-defined and goal-oriented, with realistic timeframes and budgets. During this planning phase, the project management team should act as consultants, not mere order takers. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting time and money through scope creep, the misallocation of valuable resources, unrealistic expectations, and the failure to achieve the project’s desired goals and outcomes.
Project team members should be empowered to ask the right questions, dig deep to find hidden dependencies, and involve the right people in the initial conversations – those who will implement the project as well as the end-users and stakeholders who will be affected by the implementation.
2. Allocate the Right Resources
Another critical factor to ensuring a project does not fail is to assign project sponsors, experienced subject matter experts, senior management, and other resources who can deliver what is needed within the given timeframe and budget.
Perhaps the most critical resource is an overall Project Manager to coordinate the day-to-day activities of the project team, monitor progress, proactively manage risks, and communicate the overall health and status of a project, often across multiple hierarchies. In the absence of such a role, team cohesiveness can suffer and a project can quickly become unfocused and ineffective.
3. Communications Plan
One of the key functions of the Project Manager is to maintain project momentum and avoid any unwelcome surprises via a clear and consistent communications plan. At Process Stream, we achieve this by ensuring our Project Managers prepare and circulate a weekly Project Status Report to all key stakeholders inclusive of:
- Summary of scope
- Key milestones
- Accomplishments (weekly)
- Scheduling deadlines
- Action items (weekly)
- Ongoing budget summary
- Underlying risks
- Resource allocation
- Health status (Red, Yellow, Green)
- Unresolved issues
Via such weekly status reporting, roles and deadlines are clearly defined, accomplishments are acknowledged, and next steps are clarified. In addition, potential issues can be identified and often mitigated altogether prior to becoming actual project impediments.
4. Project Delivery Standardization/Maturity
Finally, in my 10+ years of experience, the one thing that I have found to be the overarching linchpin to successful project management is the standardization of a project delivery methodology. At Process Stream, we undertake every project using the same high-quality, time-tested standards and processes that have proven effective over the course of various client engagements. From an initial kick-off deck and meeting agenda to consistent requirements documentation and Project Status Reporting, we continually review and tweak our approach to achieve best-in-class effectiveness. This enables Process Stream to provide effective project management for every undertaking and client – no matter the size or complexity of the engagement.
There is a consistency in the way that projects are planned, developed, tested, and implemented because everyone involved – including the client – knows their respective role, understands the process, and is confident that the process really works, a value-added best practice for which our clients often express great appreciation.