A classic situation: various projects are running in a company in different areas, which present entirely different findings to the management on apparently the same topics. The consequence: there is a great deal of confusion.
There is obviously a planning deficit underlying the “classic” situation described here. It shows that well-functioning project management is indispensable for the success of a company/corporation. This applies both to the inter-departmental coordination of various projects, as the above example shows, and to the individual projects in themselves. Project management should perform three main roles: quality assurance, control of budget and time and coordination at the highest level.
- Especially with big projects, the specifications may not have been fixed definitively when the project begins or they change as a result of external influences while the project is running. As a result, the project is working with a moving target.
- Cost estimates are often perceived as absolute figures once they have been communicated and are thus taken out of context. Additional costs resulting from a change in the scope of the project are therefore perceived to be isolated cost increases.
- In projects that are defined as strategic, failure is ruled out from the start, with the result that they continue running for too long even if they are objectively unsuccessful. Smaller projects, on the other hand, could be successful with a little extra expenditure in many cases.
- Inefficient organizational and communications structures mean that risks are identified too late and therefore counter-measures are instigated too slowly, if at all.
- A lack of transparency about the current status of the project at any given time, including the risks and problems, means that the management does not have an adequate basis for making informed decisions.
- A high proportion of external staff in the key positions in the project brings with it the danger of losing relevant knowledge from the company once the project is over.
- “Due diligence” at the outset: many projects are based on other projects – it is advisable here to check the appropriateness of the planning for the previous projects once again. An agile project methodology may help to deal with ongoing changes to specifications or changes at short notice.
- Transparent communication of the link between costs and project results and of all relevant changes with their respective effects avoids misunderstandings.
- Milestones: in the detailed planning, the milestones of the projects should be closely linked with the milestones of associated projects. This task requires a high degree of coordination between the individual project managers. Understanding the interdependencies between projects at an early stage is an essential step.
- Risks and counter-measures: there should be a “running list” of risks and counter-measures: initial project risks will be known at the outset; experience indicates that others will be added during the project.
- Dealing with external consultants: consultants are usually essential – whether it’s to stimulate ideas or as additional, highly qualified employees. The role should be clearly defined on both sides. In the first case, it should be ascertained whether the consultants’ ideas actually come from outside or, for example, from internal “hidden champions” – in the long term, it should be considered how this potential can be exploited. In the second case, there should be transparency about who does what – that prevents an insidious “cession of operational business” including a concentration of expertise outside the company.
- Interim controlling: in the event of delays or budgets being exceeded, a justification is required as a matter of principle, together with an estimate of the remaining work (possibly with several scenarios).
- Regular and transparent communication of the project status and results which does not conceal problems or risks avoids surprises and allows for strategic portfolio management.
- The choice of an appropriate project methodology avoids frustration among employees and ensures the success of the project.
- Optimized resource management ensures the sustainability of project success by making the project results available to the company in the long term.