Your project management New Year's Resolutions

Here are five project management resolutions that will help you get off to a successful start in 2017.

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Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Eat better? Exercise more? Spend less? Save more?

What about work? Here are five project management resolutions that will help you get off to a successful start in 2017.

1. Resolve to be even more of an IT project management office evangelist

The Project Management Institute's (PMI) Pulse of The Profession report for 2016 was, I think, the most eye-opening ever. For me, one of the standout, take away conclusions is that too many organizations are still engaged in navel-gazing when it comes to the role of the project management office.

When you've nailed the role of your project management office and aligned it with strategic business objectives, IT project successes soar (the PMI reckons by 27 percent) and scope creep reduces significantly (by 42 percent according to the same PMI research).

But executive leaders and project management office leaders do not seem to view strategic organizational success and the benefits that IT project management can deliver to achieve it in the same way. In 2017 this perception gap must be bridged.

Therefore, in 2017 those of us that enjoy the quantifiable, measurable business benefits IT project management delivers to organizations need to shout about it. We cannot rest on our laurels though. To get maximum executive sponsor buy-in, those benefits have to get better and more eye-catching!

With that in mind...

2. Resolve to be better and more eye-catching!

Early in 2017, engaging in a review of your project management capability and the effectiveness of your project management office could pay back big time in terms of successful project outcomes, strategic alignment and executive sponsor buy-in for the rest of the year and beyond.

Often getting a third party to carry out a project management assessment for you can reveal truths that have become hidden from you or that you may, if you’re honest, have chosen to ignore. Having a fresh pair of eyes look at your operation can shine a light on missed opportunities for improvement that can make all the difference.

An independent project management assessment should objectively and forensically unpick your procedures and enhance your project management office's performance, encouraging habitual best practice, better resource management, governance and process.

It can also be quite cathartic on a personal level. 

Individuals in your project management team will usually report feeling better about their personal performance when bad habits are pointed out to them and eradicated. Have you ever stopped to think how much project time is spent dealing with email, for example?

3. Resolve to spend more time managing your project and less time managing your inbox

Here's a few statistics: 28 percent of the working week is apparently spent reading or responding to emails (The McKinsey Global Institute), only 38 percent are relevant (Sanebox) and it takes an average 64 seconds to return to the productivity level you were at before your inbox went ping (Danwood Group).

Despite greater use of instant messaging and social media, almost half of respondents to another poll expected use of emails for work to increase, almost 1 in 5 (19 percent) expected a substantial increase.

One of the most productive CIOs I know treats email like the regular post. She accepts two deliveries a day, one first thing and one just before lunch.

She argues that all emails fall into two categories, they are either of significantly low priority to be able to wait or of significantly high importance that the sender will pick up the phone if they haven't received a reply. She communicated with her team that this would be her policy five years ago and her inbox reduced in size by a third! Ironically less communication led to better communication.

Following on naturally then...

4. Resolve that 2017 will the year of killer communications

Communication has to be the most jigsaw piece in improving project management success. This anecdotal personal observation has been backed up by research by the PMI who believe that 80 percent of projects meet original goals in organizations considered to be highly effective in the art of communication. EIGHTY PERCENT!

Poor communication is a problem in itself but it creates other issues. Consider the top three problems that routinely sink projects as identified by PwC; scope creep, poor estimation and poorly defined goals. What are these if not consequences of poor communication?!

2017 should be the year that we grasp this nettle once and for all.

Sure, projects should be clearly defined and communicated to all stakeholders but that's a project management basic. The change I'd like to see is from the top down. Executive teams should see the PMI Pulse of the Profession 2016 report as a challenge be more connected to the project management teams that deliver their organisation's strategic change initiatives.

At the same time, program management leaders have to be proactive in communicating the benefits of effective project management and the vital role they play in delivering strategic business change. Shout about the successes.

And finally, on that note...

5. Resolve to celebrate the successes more

The business world is moving at a faster pace than ever. Strategic change driven by innovation means that project management teams are under pressure to be increasingly agile when executing projects.

One consequence of this is that teams are not taking time to take breath and high five completion of milestones, meeting of targets along the way or even successful delivery of projects. This is a huge mistake.

As a project manager, if you're not celebrating your successes how can you expect the executive team to?

Crack open the champagne and when the finance director questions the expenses receipt be sure to tell them why.

Wishing you a happy and successful 2017.

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