What Makes a Project Successful?
This answer is subjective to each project manager, and generally, consists of:
- On-time delivery.
- On-budget delivery.
My answer to this question does not contain “quality,” instead, I use “customer satisfaction” in my concept of three key project success determiners because the customer needs to be satisfied with the end product no matter what.
Considering Project Success when it is 40% Complete
Let’s look at project success and failure at the mid-stream of the project rather than at completion. Questions to ask yourself are:
- Is the customer happy?
- Are we delivering on time?
- Is the budget healthy?
- What are our failure points so far?
When the project is still midway, recognizing issues and making proactive, strategic decisions may let us correct whatever is going wrong.
Three Causes of Project Failure
There are usually three causes of project failures to examine which should still be in the project manager’s realm of control to take action on and hopefully ‘right the ship,’ so to speak:
- An out-of-control budget. (Covered in Part 1)
- An ever-growing issues list. (Covered in Part 2)
- A disengaged customer or project resources. (Covered in Part 2)
An Out-of-Control Budget.
This can be both an impossible thing to fix and an easy one to prevent, depending on the project.
But seriously, if your budget is overrun by 50%, then it’s not likely you’re going to ever see the light at the end of the budget tunnel. But if it’s in a more manageable position of say, 10-20% over, then there definitely are a couple of things you can do to correct the situation.
- First, manage the budget closely on a weekly basis.
Make a new forecast of the budget every single week. Each week, update the estimate with actuals and share it with your team so that everyone knows exactly where the budget stands at all times.A project team that knows you’re closely watching the project budget will sometimes even accidentally help you ‘fix’ the situation. At the end of the week, employees need to put their work hours somewhere. If your team members know you’re watching hours and expenses closely, then they aren’t going to put their ‘grey’ hours (those hours we know we worked, but aren’t sure what we worked on) to your project – they’ll charge them to another project they are working on.
- Secondly, pay extreme attention to scope management.
You can’t do it alone – engage your team as well.On a project where your top developers are working closely with the customer, it can become easier for them to gold plate their work or say ‘yes’ to small enhancements along the way. That gold plating or those ‘little’ enhancements add up over time and soon you have many hours of unplanned – and non-budgeted – work expended.
Educate your team on the change order process and make sure they are on the lookout for requested work that is beyond the agreed upon scope. When those issues arise, they’ll know to bring them to you – with an estimate – that you can then turn into a change order to present to the customer so they can pay for that work.
To Be Continued…