ARTICLE | 6 AUGUST, 2014 | BY BERNARD DEPONT
People often ask what the essential aspects to successful project management are. Whilst there are many books written on the subject, and after years of experience and training, many people believe that the heart of a good project management rests in its best practices. Seven practices can be summarized to be the fundamental aspects to successful project management from generally accepted project management methodologies.
To complete a successful project, you must understand the objectives of the project. Deciding on what the project is supposed to accomplish will help you determine how you will proceed in planning and managing the project.
Deciding the scope of the project is also crucial. The project manager must choose the activities that will be within the scope or out of scope of the project which will have an immense impact on the amount of work performed throughout the project.
You must also take into consideration the stakeholders. You need to have an understanding of who they are if you are going to enlist their support, and understand what each stakeholder expects to be delivered from the project.
Once the scope and the objectives of the project have been defined, the stakeholders will then need to evaluate and agree to them in addition to deciding on who should be on the list of stakeholders.
To complete the project successfully, you must clearly define what the things (or products) are to be delivered by the end of the project. If you are a consultant implementing a new sales order tracking system, your deliverables might include training sessions, user manuals, and a working system. Project deliverables are the tangible products generated from a project. Without deliverables, projects would be pointless. Therefore, you need to decide what the tangible things are to be delivered and you need to clearly include enough details of what these things are.
When the deliverables have been clearly defined, and after the stakeholders review the work, you must make sure that they agree that this accurately reflects what they expect to be delivered from the project. Once the stakeholders have agreed, planning the project can begin.
Once you have reached this stage, you will have to define and decide how the desired outcome can be achieved within the objectives and definition of deliverables. The project manager during the planning phase decides which people, resources and budget are required to complete the project. You will need to decide whether or not you will split your project into stages, which products will be delivered in each stage, and the actual work of your project team. You must also decide the activities that are required to produce each deliverable.
Techniques such as Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) can be applied to help you achieve this. Time and effort required to complete each activity must be estimated, dependencies between related activities must also be estimated, and you must decide on a suitable and a realistic schedule to complete the activities. Involving the project team can help you accomplish this as they are the ones actually doing the work. Once it is accomplished, include it all into the project plan and get the key stakeholders to review and agree to the plan.
Never underestimate the triple threat factors of time, scope, and cost. Ensure management plans have been carefully and thoroughly prepared for these critical elements and baselines are well prepared and managed throughout the project.
It is crucial for the project plans to be communicated effectively to the project team. The project can only succeed if every project team member knows exactly what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them, and what they are accountable for.
Throughout the project, you must monitor the actual progress of the project constantly against the planned progress. In order to do this, the project team members must regularly report to you their reports of progress. Any variations between the actual and planned cost, schedule and scope will need to be recorded. If any of the variations get too large, you must report to your manager and stakeholders in order to take immediate and corrective actions.
Sometimes the original plan might need to be adjusted to get the project back on track. There are ways that can help you do so such as, rearranging the order of tasks, assign tasks in parallel if the variation is small, or add more staff to the project or reduce the scope if the variation is very large.
In every project the manager is constantly organizing the cost, scope and schedule. If the project manager increases one of these, then inevitably one of the other elements will need to be changed as well.
Therefore, if the project is behind schedule, the project manager might decide to employ more staff increasing the budget or the scope will need to be reduced. This is known as the project triangle; when the project manager manages the three elements.
There are many reasons that can cause a project to change. For instance, a key stakeholder might change their mind about what the project needs to deliver, or if a project is on a longer duration the business environment often changes, therefore assumptions made at the beginning of the project may not be valid anymore. The scope or the deliverables of the project will often need to be changed. The result of all the changes can inevitably deliver the project late and would most likely go over budget.
To manage these changes, the project manager can decide whether or not to incorporate the changes right away or later on in the project, or to reject them completely. If the changes are not managed effectively, the project may fail. It is important for the project manager to control how the changes can be integrated, allocate resources accordingly, and plan when and how the changes are made in order to achieve project success.
Risks can negatively affect the successful outcome of the project. As risks vary from project to project, it is crucial to identify the main risks to any project instantly in order to plan actions that are necessary to avoid the risk. However if the risk cannot be avoided, actions can be planned to at least lessen its impact. This is known as risk management.
Trying to manage all the risks can be very difficult. Sometimes there could be too many risks to manage. To identify as many risks as you can, you can work out how likely each risk is to occur on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being the worst), estimate its impact on the project on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being the worst), then multiply the two numbers together. The result is the risk weighting. A high risk weighing is the most severe risk. Try to manage the top ten risks, the ones with the highest risk weighting. Review the risks regularly and constantly look for new risks.