Effective Project Management Improves Project Success

project manager direction

IT project success can be just as likely as failure the numbers attest. The cost of unsuccessful implementation of IT projects is estimated to be $260 billion in 2020 in just the US, according to BCG. According to a McKinsey report 45% of projects run over budget, 7% run over schedule and 56% deliver less value than predicted.

Why IT projects fail

Project failure comes in many shapes and sizes. Some don’t meet user needs, others fail to offer expected capabilities, some others don’t generate the estimated returns. What IT teams need to learn is the reasons behind the failure and how to proactively eradicate them.

So, why else do project fail? According to Project Management Institute’s survey, about 40% of failure stems from change in priorities. A similar portion of failures can be attributed to changing objectives.

Resource constraints

Resource management is one of the most important aspects that contributes to the success or failure of a project.

Companies often tend to underestimate the resources it takes to implement a project, be it in estimating the number of people required, understanding the skill and expertise needed or the time and budget the project demands.

Poor scoping

Many IT projects start without a thorough understanding of the business need or vision, which ultimately translate to undesired outcomes from the project.

From the purpose and business justification for a project comes the detailed requirements or scope of what the project needs to achieve. The scope will also consider risks, constraints and assumptions to realistically agree with key business stakeholders on what the project will be able to produce. The scope baseline then becomes what the success of the project is benchmarked against.

Establishing a clear scope and outcome for the project lays the foundation to success.

Managing stakeholders

Projects can be complex, confusing and chaotic when mismanaged. People are a major component of project interfaces. Proper identification of stakeholders with well define roles, responsibilities and a stakeholder management plan will go a long way towards project success.

Depending on the size of an enterprise, various structures exist within which projects are managed. The following graph exhibits the level at which various companies may place the responsibility for managing the project implementation of high-priority business strategies.

Source PMI PULSE OF THE PROFESSION ® 2018 SURVEY

To stay aligned and ahead of confusion, teams should clarify employee roles and responsibilities for shared task involvement throughout the project.

One way to do this is via the RACI method or sometimes referred to as a RACI matrix. By listing all stakeholders involved in a set of shared tasks, then assigning a level of involvement for each task, the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) helps teams communicate clearly and keep a smooth workflow.

Communication

According to theProject Management Institute, Inc. The Essential Role of Communications, May 2013 report, one out of three projects suffers from a communication failure. Without proper communication, it is impossible to keep all responsible parties knowledgeable and up-to-date on the changing status of the project. This gives way to inefficiencies, redundancy and lack of transparency.

Effective communication strategy requires setting up a framework of its own: objectives, communication plan, identified stakeholders, frequency, type of communications, channels and tools.

Project handling

No matter how well one may plan and implement projects, missed milestones, budget overruns, roadblocks and bottlenecks are bound to surface. Of utmost importance are skills in risk management, change management and crisis handling to also ensure project completion. Each of these areas requires expertise and experience as situations vary from project to project.

Project retrospectives to review situations encountered in the past projects will help the teams improve how to handles risks, changes and crises in the future. Solid lessons learned from these meetings, reflections, discussions, and root causes can be transformed into actions such as: education, process improvements, new techniques, etc.

Now that some primary areas where project failure may stem from have been identified, let’s move the discussion to what effective project management involves.

What is project management?

Project management is the application of skills, knowledge and experience through defined processes and methods to achieve the set objectives of a project. Projects are therefore temporary endeavors to produce products, services or results that offer value for a given set of stakeholders.

Projects differ from ‘business management’ as they are defined by goals and timeline whereas management is more of a continuous operating the business set of processes.

A range of competencies for effective project management to include people skills, technical skills, management skills and business awareness and acumen will be essential.

PMO as the seat of project management

A project management office (PMO) is a team, group or department that defines, maintains and ensures project management across an organization. PMO is responsible for creating and maintaining project documentation as well as implementation through best practices, tracking relevant metrics, and managing resources and conflicts.

Simply put, the PMO it is the body within the company that is responsible for the governance and coordination over all projects. It can either be internal or external.

Three types of PMOs are: supportive, controlling, directive. Each enterprise will decide what type of a PMO is necessary to support and guide its project portfolio. The industry, audit and compliance requirements, and size of the enterprise are also factors for what type of PMO is established.

Smaller organizations with few projects may be successful without a PMO. However, larger organizations with many projects running continuously and of various types will usually establish the PMO best suited to its needs.

Project management methodologies

A project management methodology or framework is a system of principles, techniques, and tools used to manage projects. These differ in their approach to dealing with deliverables, workflows, and other structures.

Waterfall

The waterfall is a traditional methodology commonly used for software development life cycle (SDLC). It is a linear approach in which tasks are organized in a sequential order connected through dependencies whereby the outputs from the previous stage are inputs into and trigger the next stage.

Waterfall, in project management is a phased approach also known as predictive. This means all the requirements and a set of comprehensive plans are created first, then the project is deemed successful if the plan is followed and achieved as documented originally. Throughout the rest of the project phases of work are carried out until completion. Planned baselines for schedule, resources, costs and quality are managed and define the basis for success. This method discourages changes to the plan once the project work commences.

Agile / Scrum

Agile is a preferred set of principles to be achieve for improved value in the deliverables. Although it was established by software developers over two decades ago, today it is extremely popular and predominately in use. Modern projects especially for software or environment enhances are constantly changing. Faster production of deliveries becomes necessary to meet business needs.

Agile promotes people engagement and especially customer focus, transparency and active involvement. It focuses on value and welcomes changing requirements to achieve maximum value. It relies on the principle “minimum viable” amount of work to achieve the end results. These are a few of the highlights of the Agile principles.

Scrum is the most widely used project management approach to achieve Agile principles. It is suited for projects where the requirements are not all known up front. Changing requirements are welcome throughout a project even after development has begun. Adaptive requirements will cause an improved product to be produced. Scrum has brief delivery cycles (1-6 weeks) called sprints followed by regular demonstration of deliverables and feedback sessions. It is possible to release for use deliverables after every sprint.

Agile and Scum allow for iterative cycles of work to produce deliverables. The use of a prioritized product backlog is maintained as a list of evolving requirements (called user stories). Each sprint takes work from the top of the business prioritized backlog; therefore the right work is being done in the right order for maximum business value.

Hybrid

Hybrid methodology as the name suggests is a mix of both agile/scrum and waterfall frameworks. The project phases are planned through the waterfall method while the project implementation and execution for some of the deliverables may use Agile/Scrum. It is beneficial for projects where some parts are predictable while other portions are adaptive and incremental.

Lean

Lean methodology originated in the manufacturing industry. It is based on continuous improvement of processes aimed at eliminating waste, increasing efficiency and decreasing costs. Today, it is applied universally across all industries and especially a consideration to project management improvements.

Choosing the right project management framework for the type of project also contributes to the success of a project. It is recommended once a project is initiated that stakeholders understand their project requirements, delivery environment, resources and timelines before selecting the best suited framework.

Partnering with MSPs for IT projects

Working with an MSP (Managed Service Provider) for IT projects is a common practice for many companies whether they have their own IT or not. MSPs offer a wide range of services and immense experience in conducting successful projects. Be wise when selecting a MSP that’s right for you.

The following are the benefits of partnering with MSPs to outsource project management:

  • Strategic alignment of IT and business leaders
  • Availability of quality talent with required skills and exposure
  • On demand project management expertise
  • Decrease exposure and project management risks
  • Efficient allocation of resources through internal talent and outsourced processes

Conclusion

Project management can make or break IT projects and initiatives. Companies should not underestimate the importance of this function. Project management teams define, delegate and distribute project planning and implementation through set frameworks and methodologies to increase efficiency and reduce errors and by extension safeguard project success.

A successful project does not just mean delivery of the final product. Rather it is to produce desired outcomes with value and benefits for your business and within the timeline and budget. We at AKAVEIL understand that. With comprehensive IT services, AKAVEIL ensures consistency of intent, effort, results and business value leading to better and efficient project management. Talk to us today to find out how we can help your team.

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