November 1, 2010 at 5:15 am #113937
Make Sure Your Project
Isn’t on the Chopping Block!
Add to those statistics the fact that OMB recently scrutinized 26 government IT projects, and it is clear that something needs to change if projects are to beat the high likelihood of failure.
So how can we set up our projects for success from the start?
For starters, we can learn from each other!
Please share 2-3 project management best practices
you use to ensure your projects make the cut!
November 1, 2010 at 11:07 am #113959
Start by asking three questions:
1) Why is this project needed? Fully define the problem that the proposed project will solve. If you don’t understand the problem then your project is already off to a bad start.
2) Before implementing a new process or system, is there an existing process or system that can be modified to handle the problem? Upgrade projects are much more likely to succeed over projects that build new systems from scratch.
3) Does the senior management support the project and will devote the necessary resources to the project? Projects without executive support are doomed from the start.
November 1, 2010 at 11:38 am #113957
Building on Bill’s
-Does the project have a clear purpose?
-Does the project have a clear owner and stakeholders?
-Can I show we are making progress?
November 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm #113955
As a former PMP (just let it expire), some of the things I remember:
– Ask “Why” five times, not only when trying to diagnose a problem in root cause analysis, but I think it’s good practice to ask that question several times from the outset of a project – make sure what you are doing really ties back to the mission and goals. If it doesn’t, ask “Why are we doing it?”
– Work breakdown structures are incredibly useful. Rarely do projects go through that kind of forethought in order to consider the resource implications – time, cost, people – and assign projected values to each.
– Love Gantt charts and the ability to know whether or not a project is on time…or slipping…but, again, it’s about directing project outcomes versus just executing and hoping for the best.
November 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm #113953
Great guidelines to follow and fundamental to getting any project off on the right foot. As we define the problem and the opportunity to be addressed we can then begin to understand who the project touches. A good stakeholder analysis can help to establish the necessary communications to enable us to level set expectations and get buy-in and commitment for the project among key stakeholders.
November 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm #113951
Thanks Andrew! Definitely good practices to follow. Your last point is a great one – I like to think of project management as one big mitigation strategy – it’s a proactive attempt to bring order to chaos. Someone once said – good project managers solve problems; great project managers avoid them!
November 2, 2010 at 6:13 pm #113949
Since the reason we do projects is to deliver some form of measurable value to a customer, I recommend we stop doing bad project management practices that result in wasted time and money. Getting a project off on the right foot and following best practices will surely result in time and cost efficiencies and happy customers.
November 3, 2010 at 10:37 am #113947
Paul Jerram, PMPParticipant
Adding to several key things that have already been stated, I think there are several critical things that often get overlooked – or don’t get addressed early enough in the project lifecycle – especially if we move too quickly past planning and jump straight into execution (I’m the only one that has ever experienced that phenomenon, right?)
First; have I clearly identified who my stakeholders are (yes, all of them) and exactly what stake they have in this project?
Second; do I clearly understand what my key stakeholder’s primary drivers are? For example, for this project, are they most interested in getting the project done on schedule, within budget or within scope/quality guidelines etc? The key here is to not arbitrarily say “all 3” (just because that is the text book answer); yes, we are obviously going to care for all of these, but I owe it to the project to really understand what is driving my key stakeholder’s need for the project and what I have little to no negotiation room around – should I need to know that.
Finally; have I truly taken – or made – the time to really get to know my team, what their role is on the project, what they hope to get out of being on this project, what their skills are, their strengths and opportunities for improvement, etc?
Certainly these are not in any way the only critical things to be addressed as I kickoff my project; but I recognize that I have a different, more positive set of project outcomes when I make the time to make sure these things are addressed before my project moves too far along.
November 3, 2010 at 10:39 am #113945
Great comments. Especially #3 on “really getting to know the team”
December 13, 2010 at 4:22 pm #113943
Seems as though these are the best practices we have compiled through this discussion:
1) Define the problem and what the solution is going to accomplish.
2) Research before implementing a new process or system. Ask “is there an existing process or system that can be modified to handle the problem?” Upgraded projects are much more likely to succeed over projects that build new systems from scratch.
3) Upper management support vastly helps the outcome of the project. If there is senior management support of the project, necessary resources will be devoted to the project. Not just in terms of budget, but team members as well. Getting to know the team and their individual roles and skills will strengthen the opportunities for improvement in the project.
4) Keep projects to a schedule. Gantt charts and the ability to know whether or not a project is on time, or slipping behind schedule, can help direct the project outcomes versus just executing and hoping for the best.
5) Clearly identify stakeholders. Know who they all are, exactly what stake they have in the project and what their primary drivers are.
Please add more or elaborate on what has been offered!
December 14, 2010 at 11:22 pm #113941
I agree with the comments made so far and note that the underlying principle of what everyone is saying is that planning is the key to successful projects. Often there is pressure to just get on with the job but it’s critical to resist this in favour of actually thinking things through first. Another useful thing to think about during the planning stage is measures of success. How will you know that your project is successful? Not just because it met time, budget and quallity expectations – what outcomes have been achieved? What has changed for the better because your project is now complete? How long will that change last? How many people will it effect?
December 15, 2010 at 12:37 pm #113939
Ania- Thanks for your comment. I agree that project success needs to be measured beyond cost, time scope and quality. You raise a very important point about proactively managing the change result of the project. Value comes as a result of change and equally change must be sustained by the value realized from a project. Very often once a project is completed and a new product and or service implemented, people must change how they think, manage and act in order to sustain the benefits of the project results. In order to effectively leverage change, it must be planned and managed. I believe managing change is an essential enabling condition for effectively implementing project results. Planning for change proactively is critical to project success.
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