Project Management Principles
At Mantrax Solutions, our team has over 15 years of hands-on project management experience. Through our collective experience, we have learned that project management can be summarized as the following:
- It’s both an art and science to lead change and implement major initiatives with speed and quality.
- Empowering the project stakeholders and team with plans, resources, and tools required to succeed.
- Developing relationships with all stakeholders to manage project experience, momentum, and risks.
Every project and every organization is different, as a result, at Mantrax we customize a strategy for each project. The following go-to principles have served our team well to ensure projects are set up for success from the start, to help with on-time delivery, and to manage success expectations.
#1 Project Sponsorship
The majority of the time, a project is approved at a high level; however, the devil is in the details. It's important to assess stakeholder buy-in and whether there are any major competing priorities at the start of the project. A project sponsorship assessment will help clarify the leadership's view on the project’s priority relative to other fiscal, department-specific, or company-wide initiatives. The evaluation will also highlight change management areas that require consideration. Some examples of questions to review during project sponsorship assessment:
- Is there a leadership buy-in across business units, departments, or geographical regions?
- Is the project aligned with fiscal objectives, strategic direction, or change management in progress at the company level, or will it be competing for focus, resources, and budget?
- Is the leadership invested in sponsoring the project from start to finish; are there timing challenges?
#2 Success Expectations
Successful implementations typically have four key measures: scope, budget, milestones, and the quality of the deliverables. Taking the time upfront to clearly define each of the key measures should be one of the first major deliverables.
Start by defining the scope with clarity and the appropriate level of detail. It's good practice to engage all leadership level and subject matter expert stakeholders in the initial scope conversations.
Next, overlay the budget, milestones, and the quality of the details of the deliverable to the scope to assess whether all four measures are aligned. The measures alignment conversations will either confirm alignment of expectations or force the team to re-evaluate the scope, budget, milestones, or the quality of the deliverables.
#3 Team Composition
An ideal project team has resources with in-depth industry knowledge, ample capacity, and prior experience as team contributors. However, the practical realities are different due to budget, resource availability, and competing priorities in small, mid-sized, and growing organizations. The best-suited resources that know the ins and outs of the business are often preoccupied with day-to-day operations. As a result, putting the ideal project team together can sometimes pose a challenge.
A good mitigation strategy is to define roles by responsibilities. The time commitments for a core team versus a support team are different, and it's important to distinguish the two when putting together a project plan and soliciting support for the project. Resources that have consultation, decision-making, or subject matter expertise can be engaged effectively without requiring huge upfront time commitments.
When assembling a project team, try to balance the team with individuals who can wear multiple hats and with individuals with specific skill sets. For example, seasoned managers can play various roles from project management to budget administration to delivering tasks. On the other hand, technical software development resources may prefer to focus on application development tasks.
#4 Project Management Tool
The use of centralized project management tools is essential for projects. Today, there are many project tools available. We use whiteboards and excel to more robust tools like Jira, Asana, Slack, Trello, Monday, and BitBucket. Engage your project team to find the best-suited one for your company and invest the time to set up the project right up front.
Being able to delegate tasks through a designated platform can help reduce burnout and improve accountability amongst resources. You can easily find out if there is an uneven distribution of work and identify resources with lower than expected throughputs. Dealing with these promptly can make or break your project. The right tool can also automate essential critical tasks and make it easy to produce ready-to-distribute status reports.
#5 Explore Agile Methodology
The agile methodology leverages the principles of engaging the product owner throughout the process and incrementally delivering a working prototype every two weeks. Switching to agile may require a little patience, but the benefits of agile far outweigh any course correction you may have to do to your current processes. Being agile means less time spent in back-and-forth communications as the daily scrums will touch open all the blockers your team is facing. Most issues are resolved or delegated within 10-15 minutes (the typical duration of a daily scrum), and this benefits your throughput and productivity immensely.
Read the full article on why project teams should embrace Agile methodology and see the advantages it offers over waterfall project methodology.
#6 Two-Way Communication
When it comes to communicating your project's progress, err on the side of over-communication at the start of the project, and then adjust your cadence as the project progresses. Remember to tailor your communication to your audience. For example, a high-level dashboard showing progress and potential issues that need assistance is often enough for the executive team. In contrast, the delivery team may benefit most from a regular task-by-task review for workstreams. Focus your message on the project's significant issues and high-risk areas.
It is equally important to collect regular feedback from the delivery team and business stakeholders. Utilize survey tools to develop a robust survey that will invite stakeholders to provide constructive feedback with ease. If you’re going the agile route, sprint retrospectives are a must. Collecting transparent input throughout the project and leveraging the feedback to adjust your project delivery is essential.
#7 Adaptability and Contingency
Whether it’s in regard to the budget, resources, or timelines, contingency planning is essential. The goal is to build enough tolerance for effective navigation around unforeseen issues without missing significant milestones.
With all the focus on planning and monitoring, project teams don’t love unexpected situations, however, they do happen. Sometimes the unexpected events are small. Other times, core team members, support resources, vendor/supplier resources, management teams, or organizations may get restructured mid-project. Have a plan ready to absorb the changes efficiently and reorganize quickly with a positive attitude. The effectiveness of any adaptability plan is dependent on the project team’s investment in building relationships with the team and all stakeholders involved from the start of the project.
#8 Budget and Monitor Expenses
The accuracy of project economics is a function of the time invested in upfront planning. A comprehensive budget plan with appropriate contingencies should be one of the first major project deliverables to manage success expectations.
Once a budget is defined and approved, ensure there is a mechanism in place to monitor expenses. Budget with projects involving capital expenditures and engagement with external vendors can easily get off track if not monitored on a weekly or biweekly basis.
#9 Leverage Expertise
Project team members are usually invested in doing well, so they can sometimes view external help as demotivating. At the start of the project, set expectations upfront with the core project team about leveraging external or additional resources to manage unplanned demand or risks that may arise through the project.
If there is a gap identified in the project from a skill set or capacity perspective, the project leader should seek additional assistance from internal or external resources. Integration of new members to a project team can save projects by rapidly adding capacity or much-needed expertise. The challenge is to manage the integration well, in order to maintain equilibrium and improve productivity.
#10 Vendor Management
Projects with large implementations usually involve both the internal company delivery team and external vendors.
Procurement management can be a project on its own. Once you establish the requirement for external support from a skill, capacity, or supply perspective, follow a systematic approach to identify, select, and manage vendor integration
Start by identifying the scope of work the vendor can help with and setting up critical vendor selection criteria. Once the requirements are in place, consider if an RFP process is appropriate for your project to solicit proposals. If it is, use an assessment process to evaluate RFP responses, including interviews with the vendor's customers.
Include your internal team in the selection and assessment projects and develop a plan for successfully integrating the external vendor.
Actively manage external vendors to verify that the project’s scope, communication, team dynamics, budget, and delivery restraints will be met. Establish a procedure for accepting, reviewing, and confirming delivery of work completed by external vendors.
At Mantrax Solutions, we focus on simplifying complex projects by applying fundamental principles and customizing projects to each organization's needs. We place relentless effort on building relationships, so we empower teams and equip them with the tools necessary to succeed.
We have years of experience in delivering successful business initiatives. We have successfully delivered projects in a wide range of functional areas such as corporate strategy, research and development, manufacturing, sales, IT, finance, customer service, and company-wide initiatives. Our project management experience is vast and includes product launches, market research, business development, government funding, analytics strategy, and implementation, organization restructuring and change management, merger integrations, digital transformations, business unit performance optimizations, manufacturing assets, renewable assets optimizations, and ERP implementations.
Let us show you how we can help with your project management requirements and develop solutions tailored to your organization. Contact us today for a free consultation with our business consulting and custom software development team.