Projects fail. It’s well known that more than 50% of all projects fail to some degree or another. With three key project success determiners out there, on time delivery, on budget delivery, and customer satisfaction, dropping the ball on any one of those usually means project failure to some degree. And sometimes projects fail due to issues far outside of the control of the project manager, team and sponsor. The reason projects fail are as far reaching as the clients and industries they serve.
Here’s my main question, if we, as project managers, focus on best practices when running our projects, are we doing enough? Are we serving our projects well enough to ensure success? Or at least well enough to show that we’re doing our best and keeping customer satisfaction at a high level? If we are managing our projects using powerful project management software tools are, we ensuring project success? The answer is no. Practicing project management best practices is more like a mandate for us rather than a ‘should do.’
At least in my opinion, practicing best practices are critical in project management. By sticking with best practices, whatever you define best practices to be or what your organization defines them to be – will help you to consistently manage projects in the same fashion. That is something I think we can all agree on. If you seek out and utilize the good project management software tools to consistently manage your portfolio of projects, then you’re managing with consistency and that’s always a good thing. And it’s a given that if you are consistent in how you manage projects then your project success percentage should remain consistent over time. Likewise, if you are engaging in some useful best practices on every project that you lead, then it is my belief that over time you will see more project successes than a project manager who is erratic in his project management activities and does not often utilize best practices when overseeing projects. What I’m trying to establish through some logic is that utilizing project management best practices consistently will bring you more project successes than failures, will result in higher customer satisfaction.
However, I still don’t think best practices are enough. Some other factors to consider are organizational and infrastructure related. Other key concepts that aren’t necessarily related to Project Management best practices that should be on the point in order to experience the highest degree of project successes in your organization are:
- Relevant technical expertise in the organization. Nothing can take the place of technical competence. No best practices will make up for personnel who aren’t up to the task of providing technical excellence on an implementation or in the technical support function within the organization. Hiring good people who can take the organization to the next level has to be a top priority for every company who wishes to experience repeated project successes.
- Proper funding for the projects and initiatives we manage. Few things can replace the need for available funds just to get the job done right. Proper funding for projects to help ensure they are fully staffed and have the tools they need is critical. Proper funding for the organization to ensure that those peripheral departments that project management and project managers must utilize to push the solution out the door is extremely important (quality, technical support, any third-party vendor needs, accounting, legal, etc.). Ensuring that the proper funding is in place for the management tools you need – including project management software to oversee the engagements you manage – is a critical step in the right direction. An improperly funding project will leave your customers asking lots of questions and will likely leave your customers dissatisfied with the entire engagement experience, even if they do end up with a somewhat successfully deployed solution.
- Commitment from your executive management team. Executive management backing of the project management function within the organization is critical whether that’s the PMO or a project management process that is not centralized but is spread across all business units. Ideally the project management function is centralized, but either way it’s critical to have the buy-in from senior leadership to help legitimize it and keep it funded.
Separate quality control functions in the organization. Having a separate quality control / quality assurance entity in the organization is important. It looks good to customers, it’s essential on government contracts, and it can be of enormous benefit during system planning and development, system testing, user acceptance testing, and final roll-out. The implementation of any system without proper oversight from the quality group during development and testing can be suspect at best.
These are just a few of the areas that I can think of – beyond using good forward-thinking judgement and best practices when managing our projects – that can help to ensure ongoing project success and consistent delivery to the customer on the projects we manage for them.
What about our readers? What would you add to this list? What are your thoughts on secrets to an ongoing successful project management infrastructure?