In today’s competitive environment, Project Managers aren’t just responsible for the traditional tasks – scope, schedule, budget and risk management – throughout the project lifecycle. They are also expected to deliver sustained benefits to their client or organization. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines benefits realization management as “the collective process of identifying benefits at the outset of a project and ensuring, through purposeful actions during implementation, that the benefits are realized and sustained once the project ends.”
As a modern IT Project Manager, you must not only complete projects within schedule and budget, but also deliver solutions that position clients for continued success. Below are some best practices I’ve gathered throughout my career that can help differentiate yourself as a project manager and position your projects for success.
Define and Document Project Team and Stakeholder Roles
At project kickoff, define each project team member, client, stakeholder and business user’s role(s) and responsibilities. Documenting this information creates accountability and helps eliminate confusion as the project progresses. Additionally, it helps provide transparency into individual team member’s tasks and their required level of engagement throughout the project.
Define and Document “Success” with your Stakeholders
At the beginning of every project, I ask the project sponsor and key stakeholders, “what would make this project successful?” Defining success, and determining criteria in which to measure it, will help keep your project on track during implementation. This documentation can be referenced throughout delivery to prioritize critical tasks and prevent scope changes that add little value to the project’s goals.
Ensure Requirements are Understood
According to PMI, 39% of projects failed in 2017 because of poor requirements definition and gathering efforts. It is no secret that requirements are not always clear, but as a Project Manager, it is your job to ensure your team carries out the necessary efforts to elicit clear requirements. Defining acceptance criteria for individual features and requirements is a great way to establish a common understanding amongst your team and stakeholders.
Ensure your Team Understands the Business Value of the Project
Project teams who recognize the business rationale driving projects can distinguish themselves from other teams. For example, if your technical subject matter experts build system architecture and designs with business value in mind, it often leads to more thoughtful and sustainable solutions. Understanding how the solution(s) will help the business also uniquely positions your team to make additional recommendations that further increase value.
Create a Detailed Project Roadmap
According to PMI 26% of projects failed due to inadequate task time estimate. Create a detailed project roadmap with key milestones, deliverables and dependencies. Include technical subject matter experts in the process to help ensure accurate estimates. The roadmap should be shared with the entire team to set a baseline of key delivery milestones and measure progress throughout the project.
Regularly Provide Documentation
Throughout the course of a project – both large and small – decisions are made, things change, risks are introduced and so on. It is essential to track, document and share these items with all stakeholders regularly (I recommend weekly). Be sure to include details such as “why a decision was made” and “who approved the change in scope.” This documentation not only provides cover if anyone questions you down the road, but also helps the group understand potential impacts to schedule and cost throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, it can later be leveraged to determine areas for improvement for future efforts.
Prepare for Things to Go Wrong
Things don’t always go as planned. Create a risk response team who proactively analyzes potential risks and provides mitigations. Being prepared allows you to keep a clear mind and solve problems as opposed to reactive behaviors that often lead to poor decisions.
Nobody is perfect. Solicit feedback throughout the project from your project team and relevant stakeholders so you can improve. Determine key takeaways from each person you speak with that can help you grow as a manager and colleague. Seeking constructive criticism is one of the best ways to develop any skill, so don’t be shy.