If you’re a project management professional, you’ve probably encountered projects where the objectives were fuzzy, expectations were constantly moving targets, or you didn’t feel that the needs of end users weren’t being completely met. Or maybe as a business manager you’ve watched a project go over budget, finish late, or fail to meet expectations because people weren’t clear on what they were trying to accomplish. Before you begin any project, you should first be sure that it’s well defined.
Is Your Project Well Defined? Video
Consider some of the areas that are often neglected in poorly defined projects.
1.User needs and management expectations frequently don’t match. If there are discrepancies between what your project is aiming for and what your end users expect, you can be sure it will cause problems later.
2.Your project’s objectives should be clear, concise, and measurable. Scope creep often occurs when objectives are ambiguous or open-ended.
3.Planning a workable, thorough project schedule is almost impossible when other project factors are still vague, and shifting deadlines will usually result in extra time and cost to compensate for schedule delays.
4.A project budget that’s incomplete or unapproved is almost guaranteed to leave you asking for more money later. As a project manager, this will probably reflect badly on you and your team.
The expected impact to users is unknown, hasn’t been thoroughly investigated, or has been unrealistically mitigated. Activities such as system cutovers, relocations, and the installation of new equipment often cause slowdowns that should be incorporated in your overall project plan.
Now that you know some of the pitfalls of the poorly-defined project, what can you expect when a project is clearly defined?
1.Your project team, end users, and stakeholders will all have a common vision of what your project will accomplish.
2.The timeframe for each step of your project will be clear, and each person on your project team will know exactly what they should be working on, and when.
3.All expenditures associated with your project will have been accurately planned, and the final budget will cover your project’s needs.
Employees whose work environment is affected during the project will understand what the expected impacts will be, when they’ll occur, how long they’ll last, and what help is available to allow them to continue doing their jobs.
What steps can you take if you’ve been tasked with a project that lacks definition?
1.First, work with your stakeholders to understand their expectations and gather their support. Talk about what your project is meant to accomplish, what the timeframe is, and which resources have been or still need to be approved to support your project’s needs. Remember that you’ll need a realistic schedule, adequate funding, and enough skilled people to successfully complete your project.
2.Next, communicate with your end users to be sure that their needs are accurately reflected in your project’s objectives. Any discrepancies between management and on-the-ground employees need to be ironed out before you begin. Also, consider what type of support may be needed by end users throughout your project, as well as once the project is finished. Consider if project management training will be needed on new equipment or software; what workarounds are available for materials or services that are temporarily out of commission; and if employees’ work location, access, or hours will be affected while your project is underway.