8 essential ingredients for project success

Experts in project management discuss the steps necessary for completing projects on time and on budget – and what good PMs do when projects threaten to go off track.

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6. Project details, team members and clients are kept up to date. “It’s a fallacy to think that project planning happens only at the start of the project. In reality a project is a dynamic, living thing that is constantly changing,” explains Liz Pearce, CEO, LiquidPlanner, a provider of project management software. “Agile project managers do iterative planning and daily stand-ups with their team to keep team communication strong while also staying on top of issues, roadblocks, changes or risks that might send the project off track.”

“A project manager needs to ensure that there is transparency within the team and [with] stakeholders throughout the duration of the project,” adds Jose D. Canelos, project manager, program management, Centric Digital, which helps businesses with user experience and operational processes. “A common issue in projects is [team] members not receiving all the details. By ensuring transparency,” that is, by making sure all team members are kept up to date, not only do you build “trust within the team, which helps projects more than people think, but in the event of an issue, everyone can take action to ensure the project continues down the successful track.”

“Maintaining positive, frequent communication with clients is [also] paramount to a project’s success,” says Ortiz. “At the onset of every project, one of the first points discussed is preferred mode and frequency of communication. “Some clients prefer daily status calls; other prefer weekly. Some prefer dashboard reports; others prefer portfolio. We are completely adaptable and flexible to their needs,” she says. In addition, “our client management team has regularly scheduled conversations with their counterparts to get a sense of overall relationship health and to ensure all expectations are being met, and in most cases, exceeded. We [also] hold recurring ‘State of the State’ presentations with clients to ensure they are abreast of overall industry trends and as they relate to the current engagement.”

7. Team members are empowered to make decisions. “A primary project manager is required for direction and accountability, but the roles of decision maker, organizer and communicator need to be embodied by every team member,” says Ray Grainger, CEO, Mavenlink, a provider of project management software. “To be effective, empower each member of the team to make strategic decisions. This allows the project as a whole to be more nimble, and to make many necessary pivots that will ensure the overall success.”

8. Problems are faced and fixed head-on (not shoved under the carpet or ignored). “As with life in general, project management can be messy,” says Roy. “While it’s true that some days you want to stick your head in the sand and pretend that last meeting – the one where the client changed the project scope after 6 months of work – never took place, it’s best to deal with issues ASAP,” she states. “Some issues may require the project manager to use their influence in order to solve a problem or get a decision made. In most cases, action taken sooner is better for the overall success of the project.”

“When projects go off the rails, the first step is to accept responsibility and forget about blame,” says Jeremy Sewell, principal collaborator at Firefield, which offers software consulting, design and development services. “You can go back and evaluate what went wrong later.” The important thing is to “get a clear picture of where you are versus where you need to be and identify what decisions need to be made and by whom to get there.

“You or your client will likely be faced with a choice: extend the time and budget needed or change the scope of the project,” he explains. “Make sure this choice is clearly articulated. Once the choice is made, set clear and incremental goals for all members of your team. Don't dwell on what went wrong, but instead set a clear plan for what happens now.”

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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