Getting projects and products right the first time


Brad Egeland

February 3, 2016

Ever notice how those child safety caps cease being child proof about halfway through the life cycle of the product and just become regular caps. Don’t the manufacturers care about potential lawsuits? How many product developers does it take to make a child safety cap that will function for an entire month?

As a project manager, it’s amazing to me when I see products like that fail so easily – especially when they may present a safety concern. How much of an engineering feat does it really take? What about our projects? How would or how are project managers perceived with such failures on their projects? It is not enough to just expect high performance and output on projects and from project teams. I propose, and I personally have worked with organizations to implement, levels of standards to hold projects to with the project management infrastructure or project management office (PMO).

Too much subjectivity can go into the determination of project success and project failure, so making it as clear cut as possible is the only way you can go when trying to set such standards. Now, understand, you can never truly take all subjectivity out of these determinations no matter how hard you try. But if you set up a reasonable enough set of policies with the understanding that they may be subject to change or tweaking or interpretation along the way, that should work…or at least get you started on some sort of measurable path to project quality. Quality of output delivered to the customer is the ultimate goal, right? Quality and timeliness. Here’s my thoughts on the policy and process.

What is project success? It usually boils down to the Big Three…at least for me and for most of the organizations I have worked with or in. So here is what an organization would need to focus on. How that is done is going to vary from organization to organization and from industry to industry so really, this is a yardstick for the organization itself…and for their own PMO, not for the project management world as a whole. No Project Management Institute (PMI) process here…just your own organization figuring out how to set standards to measure past, present and future success against and to continually work to raise the level of quality project management output all the time. Consider how to measure the following:

On time delivery. Period. Was the project delivered on time? Understanding that the end date target often changes over the life of the project due to many things – the most common of which are change orders. So, what started out as the target final date is likely not the date everyone is shooting for as the project nears go-live.

On budget delivery. Ditto. The original budget likely has changed over time as well. And again, this is usually due to project change orders and usually those are customer initiated change orders…hopefully. But still, as the project is being rolled out and the final numbers are coming in, there should be a way to compare the finals to the proposed – or what the finals should have been – in terms of not only revenue, but also in terms of cost and profit margin.

Customer satisfaction. This one can really only be gauged by checking in with the project customer. In fact, their opinion may need to weigh in on the on time delivery success and the on budget delivery success in the case of some projects. But overall customer satisfaction is, in my opinion, a huge determiner of project success. After all, it was the customer’s project and their satisfaction level is what we should be concerned about the most. Plus it’s the best indicator as to whether or not this project is going to lead to more projects and revenue from this same project customer…and that is almost always the goal. So, survey the customer post-project. Did they see it as a success. Why or why not?

Summary / call for input

We are too often going about our daily project management lives managing one, two or maybe even five projects at a time. We succeed at times, and fail at times. Sometimes our project clients are happy with the outcome and sometimes they aren’t and we don’t even really realize it.

I led – as a project manager – and eight-month, $400,000 customized software implementation project that went fairly well considering the number of change orders required and the lack of customer knowledge or understanding of the software being implemented. After I had left that delivery organization that I was working for as the project manager for that project, I contacted the customer…as a consultant…to see if they needed any assistance with configuration or customized reporting. Only then did I find out that the client company – a major international airline – never fully implemented the solution and were not even using it yet…more than a year after go-live. No one at my former parent company knew this or even cared to follow-up.

Ideally, some sort of yardsticks should be in place to hold project teams accountable for the success and failings of the projects they manage and work on. What are your thoughts…any ideas on how we measure project success and failures? How we develop measurements for current and future projects to be reported against?

This article was written by Brad Egeland from CIO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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