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Are your projects on time and on budget?

ardless of size, projects seem to acquire a reputation for poor performance. By following some simple key steps it is possible to control your projects, save money and get the desired outcome on time.

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Regardless of size, projects seem to acquire a reputation for poor performance particularly with respect to costs and completion time. Most causes of such failures are due to poor project management from the day an idea is conceived. By following some simple key steps it is possible to control your projects, save money and get the desired outcome on time. ConceptionPrepare a short business case for the idea, identifying probable costs and viability with expected life for the project outcome (product or process). Identify potential customer(s) and the key stakeholders – the people with an interest in the work of the project and or the results to be achieved. You must work closely with these people to be successful. Define your project Write out the project objectives – the key deliverables you want to achieve with planned dates, the benefits expected, the costs and the skills essential to achieve success. Assess and manage the risks Identify what could go wrong and what you can do to avoid it happening or minimise the impact on the project outcome. Risks that occur become issues to be resolved promptly. Delay the resolution and the project will be delayed. Plan the project Use tried-and-tested techniques to identify all the primary activities of the work and plan the project to develop a realistic time-based schedule. Review the risks again as new ones often appear after planning. Before starting any actual work, review your business case and ask: ‘Is it still valid?'. Update your business case as appropriate and then review your decision to proceed. Up to this point costs have been minimal, but once the go-ahead on project work is given the costs will rise dramatically as people-costs increase. Remember that most of the costs in all projects are the people resources. Execute the project Launch the project work with regular reviews of progress against your plans and schedule. Monitor costs carefully and avoid any over-runs using risk and issue management to minimise delays and overcome technical problems that occur. Monitor all aspects of the work through regular short project team meetings – hold stand-up meetings to keep them short! Manage your stakeholders Numerous surveys have shown that a primary cause of project failure is due to poor stakeholder management. Stakeholders have significant power and influence over your project success. Some may even secretly try to kill the project. Never ignore any stakeholder as all have something useful to offer to your success and it is important to understand the degree of influence of each so you can utilise their strengths to benefit the project. Close the project It is essential to formally close the project, declare completion and the results achieved. Finalise the costs and compare the viability achieved against the business case. Do not allow projects to continue ‘to do a little bit more'. This is the surest way to double your costs with a project that becomes a ‘runaway train'. Project drift is a killer and there have been many examples. Finally declare success to everyone involved even if you did not achieve everything you expected. Next time you will. About the author After a successful project-based career, Trevor L Young spent more than 10 years training project teams and managers at all levels in the techniques of project and programme management. He is the author of several works on project management, including The Handbook of Project Management and Successful Project Management, published by Kogan Page.

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