Best Practice | By Michelle Symonds | Read time minutes
There are many factors that contribute to the final outcome of a project, whether it is large or small, simple or complex. But just a few of these factors will determine the ultimate success of your project.
Projects come in all shapes and sizes such as straightforward improvements to products or operations procedures through to new product research or major software development. But the key components that contribute to the success of a project are the same no matter how simple or complex the project is and whether it is being run in a small organisation without any formal project framework or in a large organisation as part of a well-established framework in an ongoing programme of projects and with the support of a project office.
The most important factors that will contribute to a project being completed successfully can be broadly broken down into the following five areas:
1. Strategic Planning
Understanding your marketplace, the wider industry and your competition is necessary so that the specific business objectives of the project can be well-defined and, more importantly, meet a genuine need, or anticipated need, within the market to which the end-product will be targeted. For simpler projects in small organisations the "marketplace" may, in fact, be a small internal team or department but the concept of understanding them and their objectives is still the same and still just as important.
2. Developing the Product
Any new product, process or service needs to be developed or established solely to meet the defined business goals, which need to be articulated and documented at the very beginning of the project. Where a project involves a new process, it is important to prevent it becoming an opportunity to add or change related processes where they do not add real business benefit and do not affect the final outcome or contribute to the overall business aims.
Focused marketing aimed at the right target audience is as vital for the simplest internal projects designed to change an existing operations process as it is to a new product with a global market. Of course, the realities of such marketing are quite different - internal projects are unlikely to have big-budget advertising campaigns for example - but it is still important to "sell" the product/process to those who will be buying or using it. In many internal projects involving major change to the status-quo the greatest challenge is to convince the end-users that they will be better off with the new process in the face of typical human reluctance to change.
For the wide variety of projects that take place in organisations year-round, the provision of a support mechanism both before and after implementation is another key component to the success of the project. Support might come in the form of IT support (providing the right hardware and software), Human Resources for recruiting and retaining the appropriate staff, facilities for providing the necessary offices or other building space and any number of other support services relevant to the project.
There are different categories of people involved in projects and they all have different and specific roles to play, but they are all stakeholders with a vested interest in the project being a success:
- Sponsor: The sponsor(s) of a project is often a member of the senior management team of an organisation, but can also be someone from outside the organisation if a strategic alliance has been set up. Their role is to define the business objectives that are the driving force behind the initiation of a project, to ensure that adequate resources are made available to complete the project and to influence the completion date of the project by defining priorities. They will tend to have a good overview of the project, but not become involved in any of the detailed aspects.
- Project Manager: A professional project manager has the responsibility of creating a detailed project plan that meets the budget, schedule and scope determined by the sponsors. They advise, teach and motivate team members; resolve conflicts and issues with deliverables and deadlines and have a good understanding of all tasks required to complete the project. They also aim to manage and control risks and changes.
- Team Member: These can range from a subject-matter expert through to a recently hired novice, but all team members will have a contribution to make towards the end-product. Each will be responsible for completing individual tasks to a deadline, including resolving issues that arise related to their tasks. More experienced members of the team should help the less-experienced members by answering questions and giving advice to maximise the ability of the whole team to deliver projects successfully.
So if you can get these five components right you will be able to do the following on your project:
- Clearly define the aims of the project
- Stay focussed only on those aims
- Successfully "sell" the project to the end-users
- Provide support for the whole project team as required
- Select a committed team that will work co-operatively
This will go a long way to ensuring that the final outcome of a project is a successful one. Of course, underlying all of these components and driving the project to success will be professionals who have gained on-the-job experience as well as completing project management training in a recognised methodology such as PMP or APM PMQ.