A variety of studies (Project Management Institute, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Economist Intelligence Unit) show that applying project management practices can help you better design projects to align with overarching strategy, more efficiently use both available expertise and budget during implementation, improve the identification and reduction of risks throughout a project, and improve the on-time delivery of projects. In working with private, public, and non-profit sector clients, we’ve found that often only a handful of practices, complemented by simple tools, can have a large impact on how well you design, plan for, and implement your projects. Read on to learn a bit more about the first five practices that can make a difference in your company.
- Project Charter: Creating a one to two page charter for your projects can help you align expectations around project delivery from the beginning. The charter provides a simple, high-level overview of projects and should include a short overview of the business case, the overall objective of the project, the scope of what is being done, and who will be involved or interested in the project. As a project is implemented, the charter serves as an invaluable reminder of the initial goals and business case, helps you identify when there are impactful changes to the project schedule or scope, and acts as a useful communication tool for external stakeholders and team members implementing the project. I recommend that you collaborate with project sponsors (or champions) to develop charters for specific projects.
- Communications Plan: Effectively communicating with your stakeholders can make the difference between successfully completing a project or failing to deliver what is needed. A communications plan helps you think through how to tailor the messages, vehicle, and frequency of communications with project stakeholders to maximize each communication. These stakeholders may be those who are expected to support the project, those who will use whatever is being developed, or those who your project managers must work with deliver. It helps manage stakeholder expectations by providing the most relevant information when they need it without overwhelming them with information. Nexight’s Vicky Markovitz goes into further detail on how to develop a communications plan.
- Roles & Responsibilities Breakdown: Clearly identifying roles and responsibilities within a project promotes teamwork, aligns team member expectations, eliminates duplication of effort, and reduces misunderstandings between team members and key stakeholders. In particular, a Project RASIC outlines who is responsible, who needs to approve, what support is needed, who needs to be informed, and who needs to provide advice or expertise for a task or deliverable. The RASIC can be scaled up or down for a task, a project, or a broader program. Co-creating a RASIC from the beginning of a project can help all of those who are involved feel informed, empowered, and invested in the project’s success. More information on the RASIC—along with an example of a RASIC template—can be found in Patrick White’s blog post.
- Risk Log: Identifying and avoiding or mitigating risk can go a long way to ensuring your project is delivered on time, within budget, and within scope. A risk log tracks potential future events that may positively or negatively affect a project’s timeline, budget, or scope. Identifying and tracking risks allows project managers to plan for them and identify any actions needed to address them and mitigate the effect they may have on a project. Thinking about risks before you create a schedule can help you create a schedule that incorporates any mitigation plans. It is also helpful to prioritize risks so that a project’s limited resources can be deployed for the risks most likely to have a large effect on the project.
- Project Schedule: A project schedule helps project managers monitor a project’s progress, communicate with stakeholders, and address changes in resources or expectations. A schedule sequences the tasks and specific deliverables for your project, and partnered with your RASIC provides a comprehensive timeline for who and when you’re doing what. I’ve seen project schedules that identify tasks by week and others that track tasks by hour—and both are correct. The beauty of the schedule is that you can tailor it to be as detailed as you need to manage your projects. Work Breakdown Structures are another tool that can help you clearly identify your deliverables and create a project schedule; we’ll be sharing more information on that soon.
Your eyes may not gleam when you think about Project Management best practices, but the benefits you derive from some of these practices help you make the best use of time and improve your ability to successfully complete projects. Nexight employees have over 100 years of combined program and project management experience, including experienced and certified Project Management Professionals. If you’d like to discuss how your organization can improve its project management capabilities, please contact us.