Author: Duncan Haughey
As the project manager you are ultimately responsible for delivering a successful project. The buck stops with you, so it is in your interest to ensure relevant tools and techniques are deployed to make this happen. Some of the following may sound obvious but I encounter these basic mistakes month in month out with project managers scratching their heads wondering how and why it all went wrong.
Ensure that there is a strong business case, with high level support, that everyone can buy into. The business case is the justification for the project and should list the expected benefits. This is something everyone involved in the project can focus on and the reason why the project is taking place. Projects move us from one state to another by deliver a change, product or other desired outcome, with the business case explaining why.
Critical Success Factors:
Define with the customer the Critical Success Factors that will make the project a success. Ensure that you make them measurable e.g. a 20% reduction in the cost of raw materials by the end of the year. Use these factors at the end of the project to measure your success. This is all that counts and the must have items that the project needs to achieve. All other issues are secondary to these as the Critical Success Factors effectively form your contract with the customer.
Time spent planning is time well spent. All projects must have a plan with sufficient detail so that everyone involved knows where the project is going. A good plan provides the following benefits: -
• Clearly documented project milestones and deliverables • A valid and realistic time-scale
• Allows accurate cost estimates to be produced
• Details resource requirements
• Acts as an early warning system, providing visibility of task slippage • Keeps the project team focused and aware of project progress
To skimp on this area is likely to lead to problems. Ensure that you build in contingency to any estimate. I recommend between 10 and 15 percent. I prefer to be a little pessimistic and deliver early rather than too optimistic and deliver late. Be careful though, add too many contingencies and you could give the impression of being inefficient.
A motivated team will go that extra mile to deliver a project on time and to budget. Keep your team motivated by involving them throughout the project and by planning frequent milestones to help them feel they are making progress. Communication is key here, so let your team know when they are performing well, not just when they are performing badly.
Believe it or not some project managers and some team members come to that, have a problem saying no. Never promise anything you know you can't deliver, you are just storing up problems for later. Stick to your guns no matter how senior or important the person is, they'll thank you for it later. If they don't perhaps you're in the wrong job. When saying no, be firm and prepared to justify the reasons behind your decision.
Avoiding Scope Creep:
Scope creep is one of the most common reasons projects run over budget and deliver late. Don't forget the customer will forget the extra work and effort you have put in, insisting that you have delivered what they asked for originally. Ensure that you set expectations correctly at the outset of the project and clearly define what is in and out of scope. Record it in the key project document. Don't assume the customer will read and understand this document. I recommend that you spend an hour with the customer to walk them through the project and ensure that they understand and agree the scope. Don't proceed without a firm agreement.
Nobody likes to think about risks especially early on in a project....