Would you as a project manager like to be able to deliver successful projects more often and more consistently? This would certainly have it's advantages both for your own career and for the reputation of your organisation. But, unfortunately, there aren't many of us who can say we are consistently successful – we usually do deliver something good and useful in the end but how often do we have to spend more money or take longer to do so?
Everyone could benefit from a structured approach to project delivery, with clearly defined roles, a structured lifecycle and supporting processes. Often people are familiar with project management– they've done the training and got the certificate but sometimes project managers drift back into bad habits. It's easy to blame the culture in our organisation or senior management who just don't "get it".
If you aren't following a project management method have a look at these and see if any of them sound familiar:
- The different roles in the project are not clearly defined, especially the role of senior management in sponsoring the project.
- Different teams in the organisation manage projects in their own way, with little sharing of lessons learned or consistency of approach.
- Some projects are heroically successful, due to the skills, competence and determination of some project teams, but this performance is not common for all projects.
- Project teams re-invent the wheel every time, using different tools, templates and processes.
- You seem to be a long way from the APM vision of a world in which every project succeeds.
Following a project management method can help you avoid these and other common situations that arise from failing to manage projects properly. A method provides the project management framework to manage the tasks that need to be done. It doesn't, of course, mean that there will be no problems at all and that all your projects will be perfect but it will minimise the problems and make you better prepared to deal with them.
Since projects rely on people and are, by definition, doing something new there will always be a level of uncertainty but being clear about the roles and responsibilities, behaviours, competencies, processes and templates can ensure the schedule is accurate, that adequate resources are available, that everyone understands what is expected of them, what will be delivered and how much it will cost.
Many organisations have found that the main benefits of following a project management method have been the "soft" or less tangible benefits such as a shared understanding of the stages in a project lifecycle, with clearly defined responsibilities and specific roles assigned to specific individuals; especially the roles of senior managers and sponsors in governance and decision taking.
Put simply a method helps you avoid any nasty surprises. A structured approach to project management has been well-proven over time to help us deliver projects more successfully so there seems little good argument for not using one.
If you need any more persuasion, here are some of the main benefits:
- Effective decision taking – Having clarity on the roles and expected behaviours of the different players in a project enables effective decision taking. Confusion over who is accountable for what decisions is one of the main causes of delay in projects.
- Re-use saves money and time - Having a clear road map for a project supported by a common set of processes that are used over and over again for all projects speeds up the project initiation phase and ensures teams and stakeholders know what is expected of them so projects can be delivered more quickly and so save money.
- Project scope is controlled – An effective method will help manage scope, which is a common cause of cost and time over-runs.
- The client knows what to expect – unfortunately it's all too common that the final project deliverable doesn't meet the needs of the client. A project management method helps ensure that client and project team are in agreement on what will be delivered.
- Better problem resolution – the risk management processes of a project management method will ensure many risks can be anticipated and prepared for. The communication processes also means no one is surprised if a risk does occur.
- Costs are controlled – a more clearly defined project with good time and cost estimates and tracking of actual costs all help to keep costs under control.
- Struggling projects are more quickly identified – project management methods reveal those projects that have over-run on time or budget, or those that are no longer on track to deliver the expected benefits, so that they can be dealt with early on.
- A happier, more motivated team – projects that are better controlled with fewer unexpected surprises are more enjoyable to work on. And a happier team will be better motivated and so work more effectively, saving (you guessed it) time and money.
There are many more benefits to following a project management method so I have to wonder why some organisations still don't follow one. Do they think the additional time taken to follow processes and techniques adds to the cost so outweighs the benefits? But perhaps we should focus less on the processes because it’s really all about people - the establishment of clarity and the removal of confusion and doubt for them - this is one of the main advantages of employing a project management method.
I'd welcome your ideas and opinions…
If you want to find out more about project lifecycles, visit APM Learning.