Tom Mochal, President, TenStep
There are some companies that have built reputations for being able to consistently manage projects effectively. However, the vast majority of organizations have a more spotty reputation. Having good project management processes and skills does not mean you have no problems. The value of good project management is that you have processes and skills to deal with all contingencies.
Some Key value Points
Yes, it takes effort to proactively manage a project. This effort is more than made up for over the life of the project by:
• Completing projects more quickly and cheaply
Once the processes, procedures and templates are created, they can be used (perhaps with small modifications) on all projects in the future. (In fact, if project management resulted in projects taking longer, it would make no sense at all.)
• Being more predictable
You will find that if you do a better job of planning you will better understand the work to be accomplished, and you will do a better job of estimating this work. Then as the project progresses you will do a better job of managing the work to hit your estimated schedule and budget.
• Saving effort and cost with proactive scope management
Many projects have difficulty managing scope, which results in additional unplanned effort and cost to the project. Having better project management processes will result in being able to manage scope more effectively.
• Resolving problems more quickly
Having a proactive issues management process helps ensure that problems are resolved as quickly as possible.
• Resolving future risk before the problems occur
Sound risk management processes will result in potential problems being identified and managed before the problems actually occur.
• Communicating and managing expectations with clients, team members and stakeholders more effectively
Many problems on a project can be avoided with proactive and multifaceted communication. A key aspect of project management is proactive formal and informal communication, which results in fewer surprises.
• Building a higher quality product the first time
Quality management helps the team understand the needs of the customer in terms of quality. Once those needs are defined, the team can implement quality control and quality assurance techniques to meet the customer expectations.
• Improved financial management
This is the result of better project definition, better estimating, more formal budgeting and better tracking of the project actual costs against the budget.
• Stopping “bad” projects more quickly
A project may have started with sound cost-benefit justification. However, if the project is late and over-budget it may hit a threshold where the business case is no longer valid. Effective project management allows you to see these situations earlier so that you can make better decisions to re-scope or cancel the project.
• Improved work environment
People that work on projects with problems tend to be unhappy. On the other hand, people on successful projects tend to feel better about their jobs and themselves.
People who complain about project management forget that all projects are managed. The question is how effectively they are managed. For instance your project will face potential risks. Do you want to try to resolve them before they happen or wait until the problems arise? You will face scope change challenges. Are you going to manage scope or deal with cost and deadline overruns caused by doing more work than your budget covers?
Scalability is the Key to Value-Add Project Management
In some organizations, project management is considered overhead. It is sometimes referred to as a “necessary evil”. Why is that? It is generally because of the lack of scalability. In some organizations, the project management processes are built to deal with every con¬tingency and every option. These processes might work fine on the projects that are very large and need a lot of rigor and structure. The problem is that all projects are told that they must use these same processes.
This does not make sense. If processes are going to add value, they must be applied in a scalable manner based on the size of the project. Big projects are going to need more rigor and structure. The problems on these large projects don’t have to do with having too much process. The problems are generally related to project managers being overwhelmed because of a lack of good processes. The project managers don’t have sufficient planning processes, estimating processes, scheduling processes, scope change processes, risk management processes, etc. This causes the project manager to feel like he is always reactive and responding to emergencies.
On the other extreme, project management processes tend to delay and frustrate small projects. These projects can be managed with very light and informal techniques. For example, the schedule for a small project might be on a checklist or a spreadsheet. Small projects usually are not very risky so they don’t need formal risk management.
The key to value-add project management is to apply a “sufficient” level of project management. “Sufficient” does not mean the least you can get away with. Sufficient on large projects is going to mean a lot of rigor and structure. Sufficient on small projects could be very light.
Most organizations have a poor record of project success. The projects that are successful are completed based on individual heroics - not repeatable processes. Value-add project management practices help you complete your projects better, faster and cheaper - and on a consistent basis.