Critical elements for project success

Critical elements for project success

Defining, proposing and implementing a project is always a challenge for any business professional. The anticipated benefits of the project are what excites you - but there are always risks. Some projects do not go to plan and nobody wants to be associated with a failed project - we look at 9 tips to ensure yours is a success!

1/ Establish 'SMART' goals

Not really anything new here, more a reminder as you might be amazed at how many projects do not have defined and communicated goals! A common approach is for the goals to be 'SMART' - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound.

We won't go into too much detail here as information is widely available on this topic from other sources. However, at this point, it is also worth considering each goal will be measured from the outset to ensure any reporting mechanics are not left as an afterthought which might cause issues later.

2/ Ensure you have a comprehensive brief

You need to frame the boundaries of your project or you will never succeed. 'Scope creep' can kill any project and is the undoing of many project managers. You are well-advised to spend a significant amount of time in developing a comprehensive brief (or terms of reference, call it what you will) that includes where the scope of the project stops.

It is really important to define what the project will not do as well as what it will do - to set accurate and realistic expectations. Time spent here considering how the goals are to be achieved and interviewing the relevant members from the departments that are affected will certainly be time well spent.

3/ Get buy-in at all levels

Any project will never succeed unless it has the buy-in from many stakeholder groups across the business. At a 'C' level, yes of course, from a financial perspective, but equally important is the commitment of staff from the relevant departments to dedicate their time to the project. If the project is never within their remit - progress will be difficult, and slow and you will continue chasing and cajoling to no avail.

Your project will also touch many departments, and a key group will be the users. Show them the benefits they will reap once implemented and make them feel involved, a great way to do this is to ask for their views and feedback. One tip is to map out all the different stakeholder groups involved and make sure you have a plan that includes reaching out to all of them.

4/ Agree resources, roles and responsibilities

You need to establish a formal project team so that all the major contributors understand what is expected of them. Roles and responsibilities need to be made clear and the frequency and method of reporting established. Unless the team is fully defined and they understand how they will work together your project has little chance of success.

A great tip often overlooked is to establish set milestones throughout the project. These should be in small increments or 'baby steps'. There is little point in waiting for the final milestone to measure, review and celebrate (or commiserate!), that will simply leave it too late.

Setting smaller milestones provides the chance for regular project performance reviews to ensure progress toward the project goals, but also provides a method to motivate as the team can see the success along the way. This increased  motivation often puts a spring in people's steps - which bodes well for project success!

5/ Appoint a dedicated project lead

Absolutely critical. You really need a dedicated project, program or deployment lead or manager to be all over the project at all times. This individual will be key in managing the resources, and monitoring progress and needs a direct line to the 'C' level sponsor to enable corrective actions to be implemented.

This person will be the eyes and ears of the project, will be able to answer any question at any time from anyone and should consider him/herself to be the proud ambassador of the project.

6/ Measure, measure, measure

The key to success is to have established the goals of the project and measure progress against said  goals. Continual measurement will ensure the project is progressing towards the set goals and any corrective action is identified early. Ensure formal and reported measurement is established (aligned to the 'milestones' above)

7/ Review frequently

Continuous review is the mantra for the project. But to note here, this is not just a review of the project objectives. The best project managers also review each member of the team and how the team dynamic is working, as let's face it, it is people that will make the project a success.

Managing the people on a project team is always a challenge, (especially as team members rarely report into this position) and frequent review of the resource can not only establish if there is enough resource but also the quality and effectiveness of the existing resource and help identify areas where support might be needed. At a wider level, the project brief should also be included for review, where changes can be accommodated, the brief updated and recommunicated back out to the business.

8/ Communicate relentlessly

At 'C' level, across the different departments, across the team, across the users, across the business, the goals, the progress, the benefits and the ROI. Do not underestimate the size of the communication job you have on your hands. If you are in a larger business, it might be worth reaching out to your marketing team for help as effective communication is key to success.

9/ Broadcast the benefits and celebrate!

Don't let all the effort devoted to the project go unnoticed! You and the team have committed many hours and much blood, sweat and tears to this endeavour and let's face it, no one will notice unless you tell them. Acknowledge and celebrate the team's success as a sincere thank you for their hard work.

Be sure to let team members, stakeholders and your 'C' level leadership know about the success and the benefits it is bringing to the wider organisation - it will also help with your internal visibility and help position you for the next big thing!