Why is Everyone Talking About Project Management? Part 4

What are the keys to successful project management?

There are several common threads to effective project management. The one that is most regularly repeated is the need for good communication. Once staff members – and senior management – have visibility on how a project is proceeding, it brings peace of mind.

 “You need to be able to communicate effectively, making sure everyone knows where we stand with the project we’ve completed up to this point, and what our current projection is for getting to the next stage so they can see it clearly. It’s important everyone is aware of what the plan is,” says Bart Bradbury, Senior Project Director, Achillion Pharmaceuticals.

“One of the reasons [projects] fail is that people don’t know what ‘the score in the game is’. They don’t know where we stand. It’s an important part of executing. Imagine yourself going to a soccer game. You’re at the stadium and nobody posts up the score. You’re sitting in the stands. Would you be engaged watching this game if you had no idea are you a goal behind and you need to score to tie – or what? It’s the same thing in a project. If we don’t know how far away we are from completing our goal, people aren’t going to be engaged. It’s a critical part of making sure execution happens.”

McGrath says that typically it takes seven years for a project management office (PMO) to start delivering a return on its investment. Software forms a key component of the way a business will execute on its portfolio of projects. A good software solution can be invaluable, for example, in managing how resources are allocated on projects and programmes, which can be an extremely difficult science – and a costly one when it goes awry.

“As a manager in a busy and growing organisation that runs many projects every year I think it’s really important that expectations are set around what projects can be delivered in a year and what is required if more projects need to be delivered. You could describe this as ‘top-down capacity planning’,” says Philip Martin, CEO, Cora Systems, which delivers project management solutions to organisations such as City of London, Honeywell Building Solutions and the UK’s National Health Service. 

“Clarity on the organisation’s capacity is key,” he adds. “Projects generally fail because not enough resources are allocated, or the same resources are allocated to different projects simultaneously, or simply the manager planning budgets has no idea what a project entails and naively allocates only 25% of time needed to deliver it.

“Top-down resource management facilitates resource planning through resource pools. What skills are required to do this project and for how long? Do we need, for example, a project manager for six months for 50% of his or her time? Various skill requirements can be bulk-assigned by project to provide management with an accurate picture of resources required for the year ahead. This leads to a realistic set of project estimates and a clear view on capacity for the year and helps deliver a realistic programme plan rather than falling behind on estimates of an unrealistic programme plan.

“By having clarity on the capacity of an organisation, it becomes a much easier task to deliver projects on time and within budget.”

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