By Martin Webster
Most people will say that a project is a temporary management setting needed to deliver some unique benefit to the business. And, project management is the governance – the principles, processes and tools – which is used when delivering projects.
But what does this really mean?
And, of greater importance, how does project management result in business success?
For me, most project management definitions seem somewhat simplistic. Or even confusing.
Business Success Through Projects
The focus of project management is almost always on what is temporary. Yet, this is a fallacy. Delivering projects – delivering business success – needs something far more permanent.
Projects need to be nurtured
For businesses to thrive, they need a suitable environment. The same holds true for projects. They need to be cared for and nurtured.
Projects need the right surroundings. With the wrong setting projects are most likely to fail. There is less chance of success, and greater pressure on the project manager, who is likely to be held accountable for any perceived failure.
How does your business measure up?
How prepared is your business to start a project?
Now that’s a question!
You may say, “I have a great project manager.” Or, ” We use the … project management methodology.”
But you’d be forgetting there is more to managing projects than project managers and a clearly defined approach to project management.
10 Vital Ways to Business Success
So… how do we make business success more probable? Successful project delivery is never guaranteed, but the chances of succeeding are greatly increased when organizations have these 10 vital things.
- Competent project managersIt takes the whole organization to deliver successful projects, and in the same way, a project cannot be delivered without a competent project manager. The project manager must understand project management, and the business must recognize project management is a specific competence.
- A project process framework
Every business is unique. However, competent project managers is only one part of the solution. All organizations must be sure business change projects are led from the top, where leadership sets the direction, and the entire business follows a single project process framework that allows projects to flourish.
So, the senior team must play an active role in project management … not passing off responsibility to middle managers. Project sponsorship provides that positive influence. It’s about the tough choices executives need to make and empowering people to deliver organizational change with authority.
- Learning and development
To encourage a culture of effective project management, the language and practice of project management must be commonly applied throughout the organization. Project management capability matures with experience, training and education. So, learning and development must include the entire project team.
- Coaching support
Every business facing business change must grow its project management capability. This isn’t easy in many business-led projects because many participants are neither likely to be experienced nor capable project managers or project team members. Coaching provides the inexperienced and experienced with the confidence to work in a way that may be new to them.
- A project support office
Most mature project focused organizations have a project support function or project management office. The role of of the project support office is to support both project managers and project sponsors. However, the role is usually more than just administrative. The project office can ensure compliance and best use of corporate methods.
- Project assurance
Project assurance is not project support. Project assurance is an independent function that checks a project’s potential to deliver business success. This may take any number of forms, but is usually aimed at giving the organization greater confidence in its management of projects.
- A strong start
Projects need a strong start if they are to make a positive difference. The purpose of project initiation is to state explicitly the business drivers, scope and objectives for the project. Unless strong actions are taken at the outset, projects are likely to fail because the business is unprepared and unclear about the reasons for change.
- Benefits review
Since the purpose of projects is to deliver transformational change that add value to the business, the organization should know explicitly how a project has successfully delivered stated benefits. And, it is the project sponsor, not the project manager, who is accountable for realizing the benefits after the project is closed.
- A project-friendly organization
Ultimately, project delivery depends largely on the role the entire organization plays in facilitating business success. A organization structure which supports project delivery is more likely to stand a far greater likelihood of success.
Delivering projects is a team effort. Business success depends on project sponsor, project manager, team leader, subject matter expert, end user … and so on. Everyone has a responsibility. Everyone has their role. Project leadership starts long before the project manager writes a product description or draws up the project schedule.
And, a great deal of what is needed to be successful in managing projects is outside the role and responsibility of the project manager. It takes the whole organization to deliver projects and be successful in business.
Next time a project goes awry, ask yourself this: were these 10 vital things in place when we started?
Want to learn more about managing projects?
Great. But can I ask what you’ve been doing up to date? Why do you think your projects aren’t going as well as they could do?
Martin Webster is Systems Support Manager at Leicestershire County Council. He has over ten years project and programme management experience. Martin’s professional interests include project management, leadership, and strategic information systems planning.
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