All too often there are ramblings about project management being an overhead cost to avoid, along with a litany of reasons why that opinion is being shared. The reality is, project management occurs whether it is formalized or not. Without dedicated project management, processes become burdensome for those involved in the project, often distracting them from their actual role and efficient execution of their expertise. The result impedes success.
Success can be defined in many ways – in the Project Management world the focus is on the accomplishment of an aim or purpose within the constraints of scope, time and cost. Overlooking any one of these constraints and the success of the project will be delayed or difficult to achieve.
What does success look like?
One of the first questions that needs to be addressed when starting a project is, “What does success look like?”
This is important to know for all people involved in a project – Executive sponsors, Managers, End Users, and those involved in maintaining the product once the project has been brought to life. Without this clear vision a project can end up with dissatisfied end users, delays caused by re-establishing intent (and potential for increased cost) or worst of all, the project gets cancelled.
There are (2) primary stakeholders involved in a project: those delivering the project and those who benefit from the project. Their alignment is crucial and will require a representative (Project Manager) that will actively communicate internally within the organization during the project and provide the catalyst for collaboration with all participants. Without these representatives, single points of contact from each organization could make responsibility and accountability unclear, introducing additional risk to the project.
These are the resources that tackle the technical elements of the project. There is collaboration between those delivering and those benefitting from the project, and it is important they understand who to turn to in the event technical issues hinder or block their progress. Having a person serving in the role of Project Manager removes “management of the minutia” from the technical resources so they can focus on the tasks where their expertise can be applied to and benefit the project. As minor as this may seem, maintaining focus on what they do best helps maintain desired timelines and cost constraints and makes them easier to achieve.
Project Managers ask, “What are the risks”?”
Every project has risk potential that needs to be identified and managed in a way that avoids or prepares for risks throughout the project. This is important to be managed by a single point of contact from each stakeholder to keep the risks clear, identify and log the implications for each risk, and develop contingency plans in the event they are unavoidable. One of the more common risks is the resources of those who gain the benefit of the project are also trying to maintain their daily activities. Sometimes communication is lacking on incoming project, giving project managers a short notice on project details. Those delivering the project then end up coordinating their effort around the daily business of those who benefit.
Scope, Time & Cost – the 3 constraints Project Management aims to fulfill. On the outside it seems simple right? The problem is these constraints conflict. If a short timeline is needed, that may require overtime or additional resources thereby driving up cost. If the scope is changed, that typically has an impact on timing, as well as cost. These need to be addressed with an objective eye toward the goal of providing a quality product that fulfills the needs of the end-users.
Scope is the most common constraint that tends to change because of missing detail identification that wasn’t involved when the project budget was established. Project Management then needs to usher all of the resources involved to determine if the change is a necessity or just nice to have. If it is a necessity, finances and management will be engaged to coordinate a change request and communicate the implications. The goal is to re-establish expectations while keeping all the balls in the air to minimize impact on the remaining elements of the project.
Though this brief outline may be common circumstances of any project, each project differs and has a tendency to take their own path – making Project Management even more crucial. EAC has dedicated Program and Project Management in an effort to provide the foundation for success and build the partnership required to not only succeed in the short-term, but to assure strategic business initiatives are kept in sight with all projects existing and future.