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December 19th, 2013

10 Tips for a Successful Project

We’ve all been involved in projects that didn’t go according to plan. The war stories on this topic are numerous, but there’s no reason to think that’s how all projects are run. You can avoid another plan gone wrong and improve satisfaction for all those involved with just a few key strategies in mind. Here’s our “top ten” list for project success:

  1. Define project scope clearly at the start. There will always be a long wish list of outcomes, features, and competing priorities. Agreeing on what’s in and what’s out is critical to creating a realistic schedule and budget, and keeping the project on track. Setting expectations early with sponsors and stakeholders also provides a framework for decision making when unexpected changes and new requests come up during implementation.

  2. Choose your staff or consultants for their talent and experience. Projects that lack resources with the right skills are challenged from the start. Planning and process cannot compensate for an execution team that lacks the talent and experience to be successful. Understanding the skill sets required of resources on the project is vital to picking the best personnel.

  3. Invest in experienced project managers. A project can quickly get out of control without a savvy project manager leading the charge. The project manager’s job is not just to organize the team and schedule, but to also demonstrate the finesse necessary to manage sponsors and stakeholders. He or she is overseeing all aspects of an engagement, including delivery, budget, resource allocation, reporting, risk mitigation, and communication, so cross-functional knowledge, domain experience, and soft skills are essential to the role.

  4. Follow a standard, repeatable project management process. Tasks can be lost without a standard approach. Adopting and applying a project management methodology will provide efficiency and ensure all activities involved in project execution are included. If you are working with a vendor to accomplish the project, be sure they have a tried and true approach that will be leveraged for your project.

  5. Identify dependencies early. Many times, projects are started before all requirements are known or before vendor decisions have been made. Likewise, diverse systems often need to be tied together to complete a feature, which involves work from multiple teams. These dependencies create a need for tight planning and coordination across work streams to account for them in scheduling and understand key milestone dates across groups.

  6. Track project scope changes and follow a change management process. This step depends on having clearly defined the scope at the start of the project, so that it’s more obvious when an exception arises. For changes, the individual requesting the scope revision needs to defend the business case, and the project manager needs to assess impact to budget and schedule. All change requests should be reviewed by the project owner to determine if the impact will be accepted.

  7. Plan for the worst. Things will go wrong, it happens to the best of us; however, performing a risk assessment to identify potential problems that could stall or derail a project before it starts can help to prevent some of those problems from occurring. Then you can plan ways to mitigate those risks so that they are less likely to have significant impact or materialize at all.

  8. Stay in constant communication. Effective communication between the client stakeholders and implementation team will help everyone understand progress and issues with the project. Define the expectations for communicating status, risks, successes and challenges, required decisions, and dependencies at the outset. Also provide stakeholders with a high-level overview of the entire project, from design to rollout, including details about when interaction with subject matter experts will be required.

  9. Don’t ignore problems. Get them on the table quickly with proposed solutions, when possible, and have a thoughtful discussion to come to consensus on a plan to move forward.

  10. Account for changes to business process. New technologies may provide numerous benefits, but they also can cause existing business processes to become outdated. Identifying stakeholders who will be affected, defining changes to processes and workflows, and building training and documentation updates into the project can help smooth the transition.
Tags: checklist

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