Friday, 16 May 2014

Project Neglect: Four Overlooked Tasks for Starting Projects

I'd like to focus on four tasks from the start of a project that are often neglected or performed superficially, but done well can make a key difference to the smooth running of the project.
1. Risk identification and analysis
Image courtesy Todd Dailey (twid) @Flickr, re-used with permission
Getting a project started is rarely as easy as it appears - especially when your appreciation for the four taks discussed at let is, at best, cosmetic. Image courtesy Todd Dailey (twid) @Flickr, re-used with permission.
Early risk identification is key to project success. The high level risks should be identified as part of the bid response process, along with their potential impacts on the project scope, timescales and costs. This information can then be used to update the business case for the project and to tailor the bid response appropriately. The project risks may significantly impact the business case; in extreme cases the risk identification may cause the project bid to be cancelled.
In planning, a full risk identification exercise should be carried out with the project team and input also sought from the project stakeholders.
This provides early visibility of potential risks and their impacts. The project manager then has the information to run the project in a way that reduces the likelihood of their occurrence and mitigates their impact.

2. Stakeholder identification and analysis
A key measure of project success is the satisfaction of the project stakeholders. The project can deliver the required deliverables, on time and in budget, yet still be considered a failure if the stakeholders are unhappy with the outcome. Equally, projects that were late and over budget can still be perceived as successful if the stakeholders are satisfied. It is therefore vitally important to identify all the project stakeholders when initiating the project and to document their interests, impact and communication needs. The stakeholders can then be appropriately engaged during the project life-cycle, maximising their satisfaction with the project.
3. Complexity analysis
A project complexity level can be obtained by analysing criteria such as the project price, technical complexity and clarity of the scope. Defining a complexity level for a project enables selection of a suitably experienced project manager and appropriate internal governance. The complexity level also determines the project management effort and documentation to be specified, included in the contract and communicated to the customer. This communication is vital. Project management effort and documentation are often poorly defined, yet where the customer clearly understands what they will receive then the potential for conflict over the scope is considerably reduced.
4. Quality planning
Checking that the project deliverables have appropriate acceptance testing is highly important, but this testing by itself should nor form the entirety of the project quality management. There is a significant omission; the quality of the project management must also be planned, monitored and controlled. The quality of the project management can be determined through actions such as reviews of the project by the steering committee and customer satisfaction surveys. Quality processes appropriate to the project should be defined during project planning, and included in the project schedule to ensure that they are carried out. The quality of the whole project is then measured, understood, and if necessary, can be corrected and lessons learned documented for future projects.

Katharine Thornber, p3m globalKatharine Thornber is a Project Management Consultant for PM-Partners. Her track record has allowed Katharine to develop particular expertise in matters related to product management, project management, programme management and engineering. Katharine is PRINCE2 certified and has worked previously in the telecommunications industry. For more on her blog posts and other posts from the P3M Blog, be sure to connect with our group on LinkedIn.