Often project regrets abound on failed projects, right? And of course, we don’t want to repeat the same failures over and over again. I realize that sometimes the project you’ve just been handed seems like one that you can take some shortcuts on and still be ok. You can save the company some money by omitting this process or leaving out that planning document. Or possibly this project is such a small one – why does it even need formal PM oversight? Please reconsider.
PM is a process that can apply to all-size projects. While some actions may seem like overkill, it is all done in the name of best practices to help ensure project success. You may have to ‘scale’ your best practices for the project depending on its size and budget, but it’s never a good idea to skip key activities altogether – even if you’re being told to do this by superiors. If the directive to cut corners is coming from above, you may need to educate them on the risks that are invited into the project by eliminating key best practices steps along the way.
It’s important to pay attention to detail no matter how big or small the project is. Because of that – I’ve come up with my list of eight actions or processes that are sometimes overlooked or omitted, but should not be…or you may regret not doing them at some point later in the project. Let’s consider…
Sharing the project budget with your team
I realize that it’s the project manager’s responsibility to manage the project budget. But I’ve found that by sharing the budget with the project team can be a tremendous benefit to me as the financial gatekeeper on the project. Think about it – none of us (or at least very few of us) track our time meticulously throughout the week, though we may be working or leading several projects. At the end of the week, there are always ‘grey’ hours that everyone knows they worked, but no one can remember exactly what they worked on. They have to be charged somewhere, so most project team members will charge a few of each to the several projects they are working on. If they know that you’re watching the project budget extremely closely, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get those ‘grey’ hours charged to your project. Over the course of a long-term project with several team members, that can save your budget thousands of questionable dollars and help keep your project financially on track. Let your team know where the budget stands every week and that you are managing it closely. It will make your job easier in the long run.
Sharing the project budget with your customer
Likewise, keeping your customer informed on a regular basis of the project budget status can also be beneficial, though not for the same reasons as mentioned above. If your customer knows where the budget stands at all times, they’ll be more understanding of close scope management and more likely to swiftly approve necessary project change orders as they come up. Likewise, they’ll be more prepared to help you get the project budget back on track if financial health becomes an issue. They want you and your team to succeed, but not keeping them informed means that everything will be a surprise if financials become a concern – and they are less likely to be understanding and helpful if you need to look for ways to cut costs or add revenue to stay on track.
Doing those early planning documents
What you or your customer may consider time wasters are actually building blocks to good project documentation and understanding. Even if the customer isn’t paying for the early planning documents some of them still should be created – especially ones like the Communications Plan, the Risk Plan, and the Change Control Document outlining how project changes and change orders will be handled. Creation and sign-off of these plans at the beginning of the project will ensure everyone understands how to handle these issues and processes when they come up and customer satisfaction will be higher as a result.
Managing from a detailed project schedule
This should be done even for the smaller projects. A detailed project schedule created and distributed early in the project provides the customer and project team with a solid understanding of the tasks, goals, level of effort, and timeframe for the project. Even if the project is extremely simple and you never update it after the first creation, it will still help your project team and customer – and you – far more than you realize.
Creating a requirements matrix
Thorough requirements documentation with a matrix to trace the requirements through the design and development of the solution will help ensure that key requirements aren’t missed in the process. With a requirements traceability matrix, you’ll be able to document how and where each customer requirement is met in the solution.
Performing risk management
Failure to plan is planning to fail. We’ve all hear that, right? Well, it’s true…and if you fail to proactively identify potential risks that may affect your project then there’s no way you’ll be prepared to react when one of them hits. And, believe me, it’s highly likely that at least one of them WILL hit. When was the last time that you managed a project and everything – I mean EVERYTHING – went according to plan? Nothing was late, the budget was perfect, all 3rd party vendors delivered as expected, the customer requirements were right on the mark, etc. It’s best to have a risk management strategy and work with the customer and your project team to identify some potential risks up front in the project. Develop some risk avoidance and risk mitigation strategies for these risks and you’ll be far better off in the long run.
Involving senior leadership on the project
I know many of us spend years trying to establish a great reputation of success in order to avoid heavy requirement management software. and keep our senior leadership out of our hair. When they know they can rely on you to always ‘deliver’ to the best of your ability, then they tend to disappear. I saw, don’t let that happen! Sure, perform admirably and make sure they know you are consistently successful and manage projects with excellence…always following PM best practices and keeping the project customer as satisfied as possible. However, you actually may want your senior leadership more involved than you think. By keeping your executive management aware of your project through meeting invitations, periodic status reports, etc. you may ensure that someone is in your corner who can knock down roadblocks or get that critical resource for your project team when you need it taken care of quickly in a crisis situation. Plus, it’s often a good think for the executives in the organization to know who the best project managers are.
Replacing that questionable resource
Finally, the last one on my list of eight is make sure you never regret hesitating to replace a questionable resource on the project. It’s great to have friends and not rock the boat, so to speak. But never at the expense of suffering a major project setback or failure due to a rogue, problematic or underachieving project team member who you considered replacing early on but decided not to because you just weren’t sure. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. Trust your gut when it matters the most. If you sense early on that your project would have a better chance for success with another resource than the one your were assigned, then speak up. Making changes later one will be costly and time consuming, and may cause customer satisfaction issues that can be very hard to overcome.
Well, that’s my list of eight things to be aware of from the outset of the project and to do these things, because you may likely regret not having done them at some point later in the project. Start the project off right by making good project management decisions for your project and customer and you’ll have a much easier time the rest of the way.
Readers – how about your thoughts? Please add to my list and share your thoughts and experiences as to why your items should be included.