Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Managing the Project for Success

Managing the Project for Success

At the end of the engagement, every project is looked at as either a success or a failure. The end result of the project is going to be judged - usually by the customer, the project team, and senior company management. Just about every individual who either had a hand in the project or was somehow affected by it will have an opinion.

When judging the success of the project there are usually three key factors to look at - three key success determiners. These are:

* Was the project delivered on time?
* Was the project delivered on budget?
* Was the customer satisfied - is the delivered solution a workable solution that solves the customer's needs?

With the success criteria defined, we still must understand that there are many ways to get to the point of a successful - or failed - delivery on a project. One is luck, but I really can't go into that because no one has any control over that option. So let's look at some of the ingredients that go into good project management - some might consider these to fall under the category of best practices.

Good communication with all project parties

Communication is, in my opinion, the number one contributor to success or failure on the project. Everything - to some degree - revolves around effective and efficient communication. In order to lay the groundwork for good communication on the project, the project manager should develop a formal communication plan to that will identify what types of communication happen, when formal meetings and reports take place or are produced, who is responsible for each type of communication, and how to contact all important parties involved in the engagement. With this document in place and understood - and followed - by all, your chances for realizing efficient and effective communication in the engagement will greatly increase.

Timely delivery of status updates up and down the chain

This falls in the category of doing what you say you're going to do. During project kickoff - and hopefully in a formal communication plan - the project manager identifies when and to whom project status information will be delivered. Many project managers let this act slide or sometimes skip weekly reports and formal status calls. When that habit starts, customer satisfaction often slides with it. Deliver the information as per the agreed upon schedule. A well-informed project team leads to great project success. A well-informed customer leads to greater customer satisfaction, which is one of the key project success determiners as we previously discussed.

Continual project schedule and project budget oversight

The project manager who regularly revises and delivers the project schedule to the team and customer ensures that everyone is up to date on project tasks and what's coming in the near future. No surprises. And the project manager who is constantly monitoring and revising the project budget and overall project resource forecast will never be surprised to find that the project is 40% over budget. Why? Because it will never happen. Continual oversight and forecasting of the project budget will mean that the project manager will always be aware of the slightest deviation from the planned budget and will be able to take corrective action or at least discuss with the customer and senior management to figure out the best changes to make.

Use of repeatable processes when managing the project

Finally, nothing beats using the successful processes that have worked in the past. Luck is a good thing when it happens, but relying on it for continued project success never smart. And if you aren't using good tools and repeatable templates and processes that have brought successes on previous projects - if you aren't learning from the past - then you'll always be relying on luck. Put in place solid tools, repeatable processes that bring project consistency, and meaningful templates that project managers can use over and over again with confidence and your project success percentages will definitely rise over time.