Management: Successful Projects Are a Shared Vision
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To successfully deliver a project today, you have to know your onions, says Michael Ervin, Practice Manager: Strategy Team, Gallium (an EOH company). The current state of the world economy is pushing project delivery – preferably under budget, of course – to the forefront and forcing IT and business objectives to become intimately acquainted.
“If you can sit back and relish a successfully-delivered project it means you’ve done your homework and surrounded yourself with the right people because, believe me, the road to success is fraught with pitfalls. Often, a lack of management support, cross-departmental co-operation, common and clear goals, and knowledge represent the major snares, to name a few.”
He believes that without top-down leadership, a project is doomed to failure from the start. This means that it is critical to get senior management buy-in from the start, not only to gain funding approval, but also to gain or leverage stakeholder co-operation and address resource management for the project.
This will support and provide authority to the collaborative requirement of most projects, by cutting across departmental, scheduling and other constraints to generate co-operation of resources across multiple departments. This allows the introduction of project deliverables that span business functions in a seamless fashion.
In defining a project during its evolution throughout its lifecycle, a common set of goals and objectives are identified, validated and refined before accepted by the project team and stakeholders. This set of goals can also be seen as the vision of the project and the objectives as the projected outcomes. It is critical that the vision and outcomes are shared amongst the stakeholders, as this will manage project effort and avoid scope creep.
“If a project manager surrounds him/herself with the wrong project team, it is a recipe for failure. This could be a project manager that has no previous experience on similar projects, a lack of specialised resources, which are typically scarce or not available within the projected time lines, or the need for a project manager to teach new skills to an assigned resource to reach a specific milestone in the project lifecycle.
“It is, therefore, critical that the right people are engaged and that the key decision makers or sponsors understand good project management principles. People who have managed similar projects should be identified and used as mentors to impart their wisdom and contribute to the successful outcome of the project,” Ervin says.
Information and communication
The sharing of project information and effective project communication is critical in today’s project and portfolio management world, where code development may take place in India, support may reside in South Africa and the developed applications may be used on a global scale.
This creates the need to effectively communicate across different time zones, multiple management groups or levels, as well as manage different project priorities. In order to achieve cohesion in the globally dispersed project team it is important to hold scheduled meetings that transcend as much as possible all time zones that have an effect on project delivery.
Ervin explains that there are many tools available to perform this function, from the telephone to more advanced audio visual tools and even leading-edge software. It is important to keep all communication positive and proactive to enable a spirit of co-operation and leave everyone on the project team with a sense of ownership towards project success.
Project and Portfolio Management (PPM)
Any number of pitfalls can cause a project to be doomed to failure, but if real-time information is at the fingertips of the key decision makers or project stakeholders, the project manager or even the project team, failure can be turned into success. PPM and the tools that support it can be useful assets to any company, be it small, medium or large.
“For PPM to be successfully utilised, the organisation needs to make sure that the processes that govern selection of new initiatives to be included in the portfolio include an analysis of the value and risk of the proposed solution and that it aligns with a key business objective,” says Ervin.
Only those projects which meet the organisation’s established criteria for selection should be approved by the decision makers to be moved forward as a project. In addition, once a project has been approved and is proceeding through the organisation’s systems development lifecycle, the assessment of the value and risk of the project and alignment with business objectives needs to be carried out at key decision points.
If the project no longer conforms to the criteria for providing the initial value for the risk involved, or no longer is aligned with key business objectives, then the key decision makers will have to decide to either cancel, place on hold for re-evaluation of the scope or continue as is.
Effective change management is also critical to the success of any project, Ervin says, and this process must include the assessment of the continued value and risk involved with making the proposed change. Is the proposed change necessary because of a change in key business objectives, and will the cost of the proposed change cause the value and risk assessment to fall outside of the acceptable criteria for maintaining an acceptable return on investment for the project in question?
“It is important for any PPM tool to support most of the nine areas described in the Project Management Body of Knowledge, from the Project Management Institute, and should have at its core an integrated approach to the areas of resource, time and cost management,” he concludes.
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