Structuring your project
Effective project management involves following a precise methodology that adheres to a set of project phases, with common processes that run across each phase. This mode of thought is particularly good for those interested in turning out flawless project success and completion.
You must first understand that projects are delivered in stages. And what you must do is control each project phase with a defined exit gate. By working in stages, you can make sure that the deliverables at the end of each phase meet their purpose and that your team (or teams) are ready for the next stage.
It’s not really rocket science, but the way it would work is as follows: You must first identify the required deliverables for each phase. At the end of each phase quality control signs off on these. Once the deliverables are approved, the phase is completed and the project team can pass through the “gate” to the next phase.
Keep in mind that the phases listed below are not set in stone. The exact phases, and the order in which they’re completed, may vary from project to project depending on what you need to achieve.
The phases are as follows:
Project strategy and business case.
Development and testing.
Training and business readiness.
Support and benefits realization.
Today we will cover in detail the first three phases above.
Project strategy and business case
In this phase, you define the overall project requirements and will propose the approach or methodology that you want to use to address them.
The gate at the end of this phase is the approval of your project proposal while also showing that you can achieve the project’s goal within the required timelines and budget.
Here, you work with key stakeholders and project team members to complete a detailed Work Breakdown Structure.
Work with appropriate project team members to produce detailed plans at each subsequent phase. This ensures that they have a sense of ownership of these plans.
Identify and recruit project members.
Select third parties to be used in the early project phases.
Put actions in place to secure key resources.
Start the work involved with creating the project’s deliverables, using the project strategy, and business case as your starting point.
Make sure you get input from everyone on the team, not just the person who has ultimate approval power. This helps build business ownership of the project deliverables with every member of the team.
If changes to processes are required, use a Flow Chart to create a detailed map of how things will work. At this stage, you must do everything you can to think through and deal with project hurdles before you start to build project deliverables – problems are almost always easier and cheaper to fix at design stage than they are once the detailed work of implementation has started.
Select team members carefully for the detailed design phase. A good detailed design is more likely to lead to a good project deliverable. If the detailed design is poor, the project deliverables are much less likely to meet requirements!
For projects that have significant technical risks and uncertainties, consider including a feasibility or proof-of-concept phase. This increases your certainty that what you’re planning (probably at great expense) will work, while allowing you to cancel the project at minimum cost if the proof-of-concept fails.
Development and testing
With all of the planning and designing complete, the project team can now start to develop and build the components of the project output.
As part of this phase, you need to test these components thoroughly to confirm that they work as they should.
Training and business readiness
This stage is all about preparing for the project launch or “go live.” Do the following things during this phase:
Put in place ongoing support.
Identify what’s required for the project to be effective from the launch date, and ensure that you adequately address this.
Support and benefits realization
Make sure you provide transitional support to the business after the project is launched, and consider what’s required before your team members are reassigned. Project teams are often assigned to other work too soon after the project has gone “live”, meaning that project benefits are often not fully realized.
Closing a project is not the most exciting part of the project life cycle, but, if you don’t do it properly, you may obstruct the ongoing delivery of benefits to the organization. Make sure you do the following:
Complete and store documentation.
Carry out a Post-Implementation Review, so that you and your colleagues can use the experience you’ve gained in future projects.
Project management is a pain in the rear. Why? Because of the project management BEHIND the project management. Whether it’s maneuvering internal politics or scheduling conflicts, these are nuances that are often not built into a timeline. Anything that makes project management easier and increases productivity is a win in my book. So find out what works for your company and implement it!
Author bio: Sam Zargari is head copywriter at Zed Collective, and has over 15 years in sales and advertising experience.