The Value And Reality Of Implementing Better Project Management
By T Rudkins
It has now well been accepted that the implementation of project management practices adds value to any organization. One recent study showed a 28% ROI1 from project management initiatives in IT organizations. However, what is the reality in developing and following such practices? Are the returns on investment so easily shown? What are the key steps or processes for these returns to actually occur? Experience and examples from the field, points to the following critical steps in becoming a better project management organization.
Set clear goals and establish benchmarks. This allows the organization to prove the value of the PM investment as well as change practices to achieve higher returns. If your organization is lacking hard, historical numbers on projects there are other tools that can be used. Customer satisfaction forms can be used for evaluating success on previous projects and can be continued for all future projects. Even if project baselines are missing (most likely), it is usually possible to find out when previous projects were expected to start and finish and when they actually did – on a monthly or quarterly time frame. Select a sample size, record the accuracy of the initial estimates and move on. You will have more accurate measures later in the process.
Don’t start until you have strong, committed sponsors. In the case of one government department, the primary sponsor was transferred shortly after the initial training program. The new regime had their own ideas and despite pleas from the workers, the entire program was dropped. The sponsor in a pharmaceutical firm not only did the presentation at the kick-off meeting, she sat in on many of the trainings and demanded that all tools and techniques be used by staff This forced people to accept the new processes and once over that mental hurdle, quickly began to like and appreciate the processes. Without sponsor commitment there is little chance for success.
Don’t promise too much, too early. Putting in some basic processes and templates will often show early, positive, results. However, depending on the organization, it may take longer than you hoped! Even organizations that focus on short projects (1-6 months) tend to take at least a year to see success. Why? People are usually in the process of working on, or finishing up, projects when the new systems come into place. Therefore, it will be difficult for them to make many changes until that work is finished. To keep up enthusiasm, get people who are using the new tools to speak up about their individual successes. In one recent example, a PM implemented shorter, problem solving meetings. His director and team all had positive comments which allowed him to introduce other tools as well!
In summary, it isn’t easy to get organizations to adopt new ways of doing things. However, by setting clear and measurable goals, generating a team of supporters, and not promising the moon, positive change will occur!
Tim has been a Canadian Management Centre faculty member since 2002. He currently delivers our Project Management Skills, IS Project Management, and Technical Project Management seminars.