When business owners or organization leaders talk about their projects, they generally speak in very specific terms about timeline and budget. The phrase "on time and on budget" is the stated expectation and often found on consultant websites as the company's USP.
But time and cost are only two legs of project management triangle. What about value? In our experience it's usually implied. This leads to a very good chance that your project will not deliver the anticipated value.
In our experience, ambiguous value statements whether written or silently held are responsible for most cost and time overruns. If you believe (as we do) that the source of all conflict is unmet expectations, then it surely follows that failing to specify our expectations with the necessary amount of detail will lead to conflict in our projects.
Here are 5 key indicators that your project will struggle to deliver the appropriate value:
- Skipping the project charter. Even if your organization hasn't fully implemented a project management office or even a consistent methodology, a project charter will go a long way in providing clarity and permission for your team. The charter will outline what the mission of the project is, who is involved, and the levels of authority for those involved. In many cases projects are held up because the team doesn't fully understand its responsibility and authority. In other cases, the lack of a defined mission leaves the definition up to each team member's interpretation.
- Unbridled creativity. That sounds like an odd thing to say, but if you don't slow down long enough to evaluate your make/buy decisions, you capable and creative team may just charge forward. Maybe they can do the work, but should they? Sometimes it may seem more cost effective for the internal team to tackle the project themselves, but a quick analysis of past performance or conflicting mission critical tasks may indicate a low probability or chance of success if you were to insource the work. What's the cost if the project doesn't complete on time? Is your product late to market giving your competitors a significant advantage? Evaluate the impact to your timeline and success before deciding whether to insource our outsource.
- An Ineffective Sponsor. Is your project sponsor enthusiastically on board? Does she know her role as guardian of the project? Does the communication strategy paint a clear picture of how the sponsor will be kept in the loop?
- Adopting "Good Ideas" Midstream. Carefully consider the impact of that next "good idea" from your project team. Project risks come from both positive and negative changes to the project. Even if the change promises increased value, all change brings risk to your project schedule and cost. In the end, the benefit of increasing the value may not be worth its impact to your schedule and budget.
- Ad Hoc or Untested Methodologies. Good software engineering requires a commitment to processes that produce consistent value within the constraints of time and budget for the project. Methodologies have their strengths and weaknesses in addressing problems in continuum of time, cost, and value. For example, methodologies that rely heavily on "design by prototype" may increase the overall value of the output, but they seldom address cost or schedule problems. Be sure your team is selecting a methodology that creates overall improvement without placing an unwelcome burden on your budget or timeline.
If your organization has come to accept cost overruns, late delivery, and poor quality, you may be suffering from a lack of project management knowledge. Poor planning, poor communication and poor team cultivation are at the root of most project failures.
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