Wanted: dedicated project manager

It is very likely that you don’t always pay special attention to your projects being in control, well managed and bringing you the much sought-after business benefits. You even might take it for granted that “someone” or “something” guides the project without knowledge on who this person / thing explicitly is. Sadly, however the lack of proper project management manifests itself after problems first start to occur. In the worst case e.g. in the miracle world of ICT the project is even continued still after its relevance for business has become obsolete and a corrective course should have taken many months – and hundreds of man hours – ago.

Research shows that a substantial share of ICT projects still end up in failure. For instance, according to the Finnish ICT Barometer 2012*) over 2/3 of the respondents estimated the ICT projects being over budget, behind schedule and not even delivering the intended business benefits.  The results are not exceptional – from elsewhere around the world similar results can be found**).

So how to manage projects better and ensure they bring you with the expected benefits? Is the solution to be found from the agile methods or other project management fads? Or can the lack of a proper project management tool even be the reason behind the harsh reality?

At Bilot we feel that the method is not to blame and the lack of a project management tool is rather an excuse than a real reason for non-successful projects. This is simply because project management isn’t rocket science. E.g. the method needs to not only be selected right, but moreover, understood correctly – and project management software is based on logic which any knowledgeable project manager needs first to understand before starting to use (like dependencies in scheduling).

This is not to say the project management profession is an easy one.  The key is to understand that successful projects don’t come in in time, on schedule and with the strived business benefits by themselves; rather with the help of a dedicated and professional person –the project manager – they at least have better odds to be successful. To sum up a few basic tips to getting and keeping your project on track towards success, remember the following:

  1. Assign a project manager. Ensure his/her dedication and professionalism; make sure he/she has an enough understanding of the content as well, in addition to administrative and people skills.
  2. Ensure your project has an owner. The owner should be the person responsible who can make decisions on the project and who finally is served with the benefits the project – if successful – brings.
  3. Ensure your project has a goal. This goal should be set by the project owner and understood in a similar manner throughout the – possibly cross-organizational – implementing team. This goal is the main thread of the whole project against which the project outcomes are evaluated to.
  4. Ensure you have a plan.  The plan should base on realistic estimates of schedule, costs and scope. A good tip is to check the facts with the implementing team first.  E.g. work rarely implemented by two different individuals is done on the same pace though the price would be the same for the task completion.
  5. Ensure follow-up. Changes in organizations, business and working relations are everyday challenges that most projects need to be balanced with. However effective partner-counter partner relations in both project administration and actual implementation are the key through which challenges can be dealt with. So be alert and communicate properly, check the changes and possible risks posed – and prepare in advance a plan B.

But – before getting ahead of yourself – remember that a lot is already done if you first find a dedicated project manager for the job – who also is knowledgeable of the points 2-5.

*) IT-barometri 2012, Tietotekniikan liitto ry

**) See e.g. Gartner 2012 June, research ID:G00231952

Blog by Leena Pettersson. Leena is a senior consultant at Business Solutions Consulting at Bilot with a background in SAP EPM area solutions. She has successfully run several projects as a project manager and possesses experience in both system and business consulting.

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