Synergy in Project Management

Synergy in Project Management

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Project management synergy beyond traditional processes

Abstract

Project Management - The term that dictates the future of a project. A successful project owes all its credits to the Project Management and the evidence is obvious when the service (result of the project) meets all its expectations. Yet we have witnessed several projects failing even after having a plan in place, following the plan and meeting all the requirements. Why have these projects failed and what more is critical to the success of the project? All projects are conceived with a vision to satisfy certain needs of the business. Hence the beneficiary of these needs become key stakeholders. Appropriate participation of this key stakeholder in steering the project insures the success of the project. Also businesses are impacted by competition and changing market place resulting in skewed expectation management. Managing expectations enhances the success of the project immensely. Now, goal of the project plays a pivotal role and hence respecting it, is an important task, in project management. Governance in projects plays this role in guaranteeing the projects success. This is what I call Project Management Synergy beyond traditional processes.

Introduction

The connotation that has always been associated with Project Management is more like "€˜an inward focused activity". An assignment given by the customer has to be delivered in time and within cost constraints by working out permutations and combinations of resources across the phases of the project lifecycle. The execution has almost become a mechanical process of following and adhering to a set of predefined rules. What is missed out in the process is the main objective for which the project was conceived, the need, the business requirement.

Business Improvement Architect's annual research of project managers at ProjectWorld 2005 in Toronto, Canada indicated that ‘Training of Project Sponsors' fifty-eight percent (58%) as something that would benefit them most to improve their ability to manage a project. As well they said they would benefit from 'Communication Skills' (42%) and ‘Leadership Skills' (36%). These knowledge areas have increased in importance over previous years. (Figure 1)

Migrating from Crisis to Controlled environment is the need of this Era and it can be achieved by Synergistic Project Management. Several research studies indicate that organizations are in a crisis with respect to how projects are managed. The key factors contributing to this crisis that need to be managed is discussed in this paper.

Figure 1
* Source © Business Improvement Architects

Stakeholders Participation

Right from the initiation stage, a legal contract dominates the relationship between the customer and the vendor based on the terms and conditions.

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The customer has to pay for the service and the vendor has to implement a solution within a defined time frame based on the scope (requirements gathered). The fact that is overlooked here is whose work is under consideration â€" customer's or the vendor's?

For the customer, it is a business solution that is going to satisfy a particular business need. It is an investment for them and that is the reason they calculate the return on investment in the first place. Will it be fair on their part to take ownership of the work only on delivery? If yes then the success of the project is determined only by the customer and the vendor has limited role in the project success. It is a build-to-order service a customer buys to cater to the specific business logic that is required to either sustain or to get a competitive advantage in the market. The customer, hence, forms a primary stakeholder for the project undertaken. Their involvement in the complete process of development and implementation carries immense value. The good and bad of the project are directly going to affect their business.

The vendor, on the other hand, cannot really work with the inward focused Project Management techniques. They need to understand the business domain and the compatibility of the solution in the domain. The way a project is executed remains secondary to the primary purpose of meeting the customer's business needs.

These two stakeholders should not be treated as two separate entities for the purpose of the project. In fact, they should come together in the form of a consortium to address and target the business need. A healthy stakeholder participation would mean customer being aware of the project issues and constraints and vendor being aware of the market forces of demand and supply amidst which the customer is running the business.

Processes, tools and techniques for implementing "Stakeholder Participation” in projects is the immediate requirement of project management community. Some of the key processes are:

• Defining integrated project teams
• Business oriented unified and measurable goals
• Resolving conflicts/ hurdles
• Realignment of goals based on implementation constraints / market dynamics
• Techniques for working together productively

Expectation Management

Expectations are difficult to control and impossible to turn off. But by understanding the vital role they play, one can do a better job of managing them, and in the process, dramatically improve the quality, impact and effectiveness of the services.

The key to successful project management is to anticipate the needs and problems of customers and to set realistic expectations through customer education and communication strategies. When it is not possible to give the customer what they would like, it is still possible for a customer to feel that he or she has been heard and has been treated fairly. A number of techniques convey concern--calling customers and telling them the company understands; giving the customer the best explanation they can; and being open and honest with customers concerning laws and policies of the organization. Being professional and considerate of customers enhances their view of the organization--even when the customer may be disappointed with the outcome.

In summary Success of Project = Actual Performance / Expectations. The lesser the expectation the better is the success probability of the project.

Processes, tools and techniques for implementing "Expectation Management” in projects is the immediate requirement of project management community. Some of the key processes are:

• Customer education
• Understanding what customers want
• Know how to say No
• Avoiding conflicting interpretations

Governance

The most misused or misunderstood term in projects is governance. Though this factor can make or break the success of a project, managers seldom use this effectively. Primary role of governance is to define and own processes such that the customer goal is always respected. Even though the goal is to be respected the key constraints such as cost, schedule and scope must also be monitored and controlled by the role of governance. Last but not the least, governance must ensure appropriate and adequate communication in the project towards roles & responsibilities, key stakeholder buy-in, perception management and general communication. Many project managers do not provide enough information to enough people, along with the lack of an infrastructure or culture for good communication. This fractured governance has compounded project problems leading to failure.

Processes, tools and techniques for implementing "Governance” in projects is the immediate requirement of project management community. Some of the key processes are:

• Establish goals and tracking
• Business outcome based reporting of status
• Unambiguous R&R
• Perception measurement and management

Conclusion

In conclusion the traits of a successful project manager using synergistic project management are:
âˆ' Delivering projects without losing focus on customer goals
âˆ' Being conscientious in observing the happenings in the customers' environment and their own
âˆ' Skilled at managing both customer expectations and perceptions.
âˆ' Teams brings collective strength â€" bonding and thriving
âˆ' Networking to understand the environment. Using networking skills to build these relationships
âˆ' Being realistic and paraphrasing positively
âˆ' Taking control. Not simply expecting or waiting for things to happen, because it probably won't

References

1. Articles from Business Improvement Architects
2. Service Management By James A.Fitzsimons & Mona J. Fitzsimons
3. Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm By Valarie A. Zeithaml, Mary Jo Bitner, Dwayne D. Gremler
4. Top 10 Project Management Challenges by P. W. Ford
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