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Four Action Items to Streamline Project Lifecycles
Throughout history, from construction of the pyramids in ancient Egypt to the modern Cross Rail project in London, project management has served to orchestrate the tasks and resources needed to complete complex projects. While the specifics of each project differ, each adheres to relatively the same lifecycle. Each need to be initialised, planned, executed, and closed. How well you go about each phase can make or break the success of your project. As you consider implementing new software at your firm, adding the following four key action items to your to-do list can help you complete these core stages successfully:
1. Identify success criteria
To ensure a project has a purpose, there needs to be constant reference to why the project is happening. Not only that, at the end of the project, the stakeholders, including those that have a financial interest in the project will want to know that it has delivered what it set out to achieve. As such, SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-constrained) goals should be defined at the beginning of a project to ensure it can be deemed a success at its end.
2. Define the project plan
Listing a project plan as a key tool may seem elementary, however, its guaranteed that there are projects ongoing now that do not have an adequate plan. The primary components of the project plan include: defining overall tasks and resources, specifying the correct methods of estimating time and costs, and then dividing deliverables into smaller accurate work packages by utilising a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) and network diagram. Planning deliverables rather than focusing on tasks is also an important distinction to make when defining the project plan to set a project up for success. These efforts help to ensure creation of the best baseline plan and accurate and beneficial reporting throughout the project timeline.
3. Use a RAID log
Not everything will unfold according to the project plan. Trying to predict and control negative impacts, and envision positive outcomes, is a vital project management task. To assist in this, using a tool like a RAID (risks, actions, issues, and decisions) log is necessary to track relevant information and provide an audit trail. Comprehensive risk management alone can have a significant impact on the smooth and controlled execution of a project. A well-defined RAID log will contribute in quantifying risk and mitigating actions, should a risk become an issue.
4. Establish governance
Decisions based on known and often unknown choices throughout the project lifecycle are inevitable. Robust, succinct, and well-organised governance is a central factor in project success. Having the right individuals and organisations providing oversight helps maintain project momentum. Senior level support helps to ensure that decisions are made in a timely fashion. A steering committee or project board can also provide authority to proceed or not at significant milestones by validating the artefacts of any entry and exit criteria for the various project stages.