How to drive your project into success?

A short guide to make your project management successful and reach your targets! Become a leader who will reach the target by following these easy step by step instructions for more successful projects.

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Introduction

Articles and studies used in collecting data are from Harvard Business Review, PMI, Wrike, Calleam, KPMG, CIO and Hive. Some of them are older than others, but based on latest research we still find similar problems and outcomes in our projects. Typically IT projects exceed their schedule, not deliver the complete scope and also have other issues. When we change processes it involves many teams and people and better project management is needed.

Each of the sections will cover short introduction to tools and methodologies you can learn to become a next generation, successful project manager.

Project budget

According to Harvard Business Review common outcomes for budget failures are

Projects go over budget on average by 27 percent of their intended cost

One in six projects saw a budget overrun of 200 percent and

IT failure rates are estimated to be between 5–15 percent, accounting for a loss of $50–$150 billion per year in the United States.

How could these be avoided or significantly changed? There are ways to make better estimates, which are based on previous projects, history. It needs much better ways to collect project information into a shared project database. In one company it can be done quite easily, but there are still certain difficulties or hesitance to show actual statistics outside your project. It may not be a question of project manager only; even project sponsors may have their concerns for future positions due to unsuccessful history. You still need to start collecting all necessary data one day to get it up and running in the future.

Sometimes failures happen because of doing too many times or fixing bugs that could have been avoided. In this case there are approaches like Total quality management or Lean management, avoiding waste that can help to improve performance. This should be easier to do, right?

To avoid budget failures, you also need to look into schedule according to PMI

Organizations with 80 percent or more of projects being completed on time and on budget waste significantly less money due to poor project performance.

Take time to plan not only start and closure, but the milestones in between. It also goes into scope planning: what can we achieve in short term and what were the long term milestones, outcomes we wanted to achieve? Schedule planning must involve not only project team; also other resources need to be available at right time. It goes back to lean management; one solution could be to take a look in Value stream mapping technique. This way you’re able to decide schedule, plan the outcomes, know the previous failures, learn from experiences, and so on. I highly recommend to learn this technique and become a next level project manager.

Proven steps for becoming next generation project manager

  1. Total quality management

Customer-centric approach in all operations

When only benefit you look into is in end-customer, end-user or someone outside the project you’ll be more likely to achieve the target

2. Lean management

To avoid doing many times

See only value adding steps, also take into account in checking critical path

3. Value stream mapping

Recognize tasks that are most important to complete on time

See supporting tasks which also need to complete

These tools can be learned in my complete Udemy course: How to drive your project into success

Project planning and goal

According to PMI only 28 percent of companies use performance techniques to follow structured planning and goal setting for projects.

If you have more structured way to plan, start and execute project, it will certainly help to reach objectives, keep stakeholders happy and make changes whenever it is needed and immediate actions can be done smoothly, managed way. To always know how close you’re to complete your project and what’s the status for budget and schedule, you can use Earned value management.

Another interesting fact comes from Wrike: Only 64 percent of projects meet their goals.

Project teams need training, experience and empowerment to make them more successful. Meeting the goals is sometimes difficult because of changed requirements or unclear plan in going to same target. Some cases it’s a question of competing projects inside the company. It needs a more strategic way to do projects, project portfolio management, connection between enterprise objectives and individual project goals.

IT project failures are known by all of us who work in the area. Not so known fact about IT project failures comes from Calleam: 17 percent of IT projects fail so badly they can threaten the existence of a company.

This is extremely dangerous and should wake up top level. It’s not so difficult to setup status reporting and KPIs to be able to follow all projects. Again, project portfolio management is a great tool for every organization. A good way inside company is use structure method for project portfolio management, such as Balanced scorecard in reporting or other tool which has more than one or two dimensions to follow success.

Proven steps for becoming next generation project manager

  1. Learn how to use Earned Value Management

You can follow scope/earned value to know how much has been already gained during project

You will see schedule performance to estimate if something is going too slow or fast

Cost and Schedule Performance Indicators are comparable within program or project portfolio

2. Empowering the team

Know what each team member can decide by themselves

Save time by reducing bureaucracy

3. Take Balance Scorecard into your toolbox

Four dimensions financial, internal, customer and learning and growth

Each of the perspective have separate KPIs

You can compare different programs or projects with same KPIs and take actions, objectives to enterprise strategy when needed or learned something good from one

These tools can be learned in my complete Udemy course: How to drive your project into success

Continued project management improvement

According to KPMG 60 percent of organizations manage their projects in a portfolio structure. This number has been increasing in recent years.

This is good news, but we still have almost half of the organizations which aren’t managing their project portfolio. Another way to think is how they are doing the project portfolio management. It may sound important, also top level may give ideas and expectations for the process, even select strategic tools for this. I have worked before with an organization which had official tools, methodologies and ways to manage all programs and projects, but it was still too far from perfect because not all projects were connected or managed same way. In a large organization like that, it took time to start improvements but now they are already more advanced.

Most of the companies are already selecting to use agile methodologies instead of traditional waterfall methodology. CIO reported as high as 71 percent of organizations reported to use agile methodologies for project management. This is however fact from the US publication and has differences around the world.

While North American or European organizations have already adapted towards agile methodologies, typically some sort of hybrid, in developing world this will still be in progress. Sometimes part of the development is done in agile way, but actually many Asian organizations aren’t ready to go for this direction. It’s easier to setup short-term and long-term targets, common objectives. Then you can later improve after learning project management techniques, start even killing projects and making changes rapidly when needed.

According to PMI 62 percent of completed projects included project sponsors who were actively supportive. This means communication both ways: status reporting and advice from sponsors.

If you’re connected in weekly basis with project sponsor it may help in reaching the target, but at least a monthly basis is important depending on project or program scope. It doesn’t have to be official, just keep communication open and reach each other. Also, project sponsor may help to keep project in acknowledgement of other departments and board of directors.

Proven steps for becoming next generation project manager

  1. Start planning for project portfolio

First collect all project under one organization

Introduce same templates for reporting project, like setting KPIs

Involve project input part of strategy process in enterprise level

2. Think about using agile methodologies

You can try agile methodology in one project first

It’s more likely you end up using hybrid delivery, some part like development is done by agile but complete project follows longer timeline, scheduling for milestones

3. Use status reporting to involve project sponsors

Communicate with project sponsors weekly or bi-weekly basis

Learn how to report, escalate issue through status report to get immediate actions

Let project sponsors work for your success by keeping them updated and asking them to provide news, information to other departments as well

These tools can be learned in my complete Udemy course: How to drive your project into success

Project success

According to Wrike 68 percent of projects don’t have an effective project sponsor to provide direction or address problems.

This will definitely affect to initial success factors. Normally project sponsor is the one who is the most obvious, not the one who could help the most in reaching the target and giving consultation when needed. I have many times had even top level support, but they always know as much as they are told. It’s important to reach all levels, top level and the levels before reaching him. Some cases nearby the board of directors are for example communication manager and people who prepare important decisions. If you can keep in touch with them unofficially, you have keys you need from the beginning.

We can’t ignore the training or profession. 80 percent of high-performing projects are led by a certified project manager, says Wrike. Certification alone doesn’t mean success, but of course can help to show you are already able to run projects successfully and you have taken training.

To my mind you need also experience; for example a mentor who has already done projects a lot before. I was lucky and happy to start my own project management with very talented and experienced colleagues. Without this I wouldn’t become as good as I became. It can be somebody from outside, too. Start doing as early as possible, then you will at the end learn more and become even better. Don’t stop learning!

Both Wrike and Hive underlined the importance of software. It always depends of the scope and methodology, but Hive says 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software. Wrike went even higher: 87 percent of high-performing companies use project management software. You need to think about the background of them both.

I would say you need a structured way to manage your projects; you must have tools and methodologies. Sometimes it can be only a change log, issue log, but more often you need also other documents. You can learn and follow easy templates, but always keep track. It often fails if there’s no clear structure or log. This became obvious for me after working several year part of PMO and taking crisis projects under my management when somebody left the company suddenly or got another assignment.

PMI has reached the conclusion: organizations using any type of project management methodology are better at meeting budget, staying on schedule and meeting scope, quality standards and expected benefits. I truly agree!

Proven steps for becoming next generation project manager

  1. Start benchmarking

Sometimes easiest way to do benchmarking is networking and discussing what kind of challenges you or others have

If you go forward, there are techniques like Total quality management or Lean management which can be started by benchmarking to others

2. Communicate to all levels

Assign right project sponsor who can be communicated any time

Don’t forget to make other connections interactive, people nearby decision makers or who prepare important decisions, keep them updated

3. Find a mentor

It helps you to become better if somebody can share you experience

Mentor will also listen to your challenges and how you plan to solve, tell opinion

4. Project management structure and methodology

Start easy way, use templates to collect issues, changes and other things

A software can help, but is not always necessary for small scale projects

Best methodologies are adapted according to your or your company’s needs

These tools can be learned in my complete Udemy course: How to drive your project into success

Conclusion

I have a course Strategic Project Management which you can enroll to learn all introduced methodologies and tools in this publication. It follows easy structure and you don’t need previous experience. It helps you to get a kick start for successful, proven project management. All in strategic level, easy to follow steps!

Please also join my FREE email course 7 days and 7 tricks for strategic management. Get your free tips today by checking the web page.

References

CIO, 2017: https://www.cio.com/article/3174516/it-project-success-rates-finally-improving.html

Harvard Business Review, 2011: https://hbr.org/2011/09/why-your-it-project-may-be-riskier-than-you-think

Hive, 2018: https://hive.com/project-management-statistics/

KPMG, 2017: https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/nz/pdf/July/projectmanagementsurvey-kpmg-nz.pdf

Project Management Institute, 2017: https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2017.pdf

Wrike, 2015: https://www.wrike.com/blog/complete-collection-project-management-statistics-2015/

I'm experienced project manager with multi-cultural experience. I'm passionate in strategic management and innovation capabilities. Discover tools with me!

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