10 Steps to Keep Projects on Track

November 17, 2014

9:00 am

Given the recurring fact that incomplete projects are the norm rather than the exception, project management success might simply be defined as finishing a project. However, despite the enormous difficulties in projects actually going according to plan, organizations still expect quick, inexpensive, high-quality work. Consequently, the only way to avoid project failures – poor quality projects or abandoned projects—is to use a clear guideline on processes and techniques.

Here, then, are ten simple yet highly-effective ways to ensure high quality project work gets done on schedule and within budget constraints.

1] Define the project on paper. This may sound obvious, but many projects, from IT infrastructure design to construction work, tend to skip the need to document the details of the project. The document that defines the project should spell out objectives, scope, assumptions, risks, approaches, and organizational roles. Additionally, estimates need to be made about initial efforts, fixed and variable costs, and duration. Finally, the document needs to have a signature page for executives, primary stakeholders, or sponsors to approve all the details of the project.

2] Create a work plan. Although the document that defined the project involved some planning elements, it did not include step-by-step instructions, planning horizons, and deadlines for measurable deliverables. Ideally, model the workplan from a similar project. Otherwise, just start from scratch.

3] Define relevant procedures. Here is where all resources are outlined, roles and rules assigned, and decisions made on what technology, equipment, and software applications to use.

4] Monitor the budget. Once work begins, real time costs may be different from projected costs. The best way to handle budget fluctuations is to use the most appropriate software. For instance, if the project is in the construction industry, then construction budgeting software will help the project manager make informed financial decisions by tracking real time expenses against budget constraints on site as the project unfolds.

5] Keep an eye on the schedule. Just as money management can quickly go askew if not carefully tracked, so too can time dissipate in inexplicable ways. Again, software can be very helpful in monitoring this variable; in particular, time-tracking and role-assigning software like that used in the Kanban system.

6] Stay alert for early warning signs. Often small variances can creep into a project and derail it entirely. Usually, these warnings show up before the project crumbles. Warning signs might include too much unscheduled overtime, team spirit beginning to sag, or the quality of work beginning to wane.

7] Keep upper management or sponsors informed. Sometimes drastic changes occur from the intended plan. The courtesy of alerting upper management or sponsors prevents future problems should there later be claims that the completed project did not meet the promised criteria.

8] Safeguard against scope creep. Scope creep is introducing new elements into the project that might overwhelm available resources. Adding a new element, function, or deliverable will push a project beyond its defined scope and cause things to fall apart.

9] Manage risks. While risks may have been defined in both the project documentation and workplan phase, these still have to be continually updated as the project unfolds. Like scope creep, even small, unexpected threats can sabotage a project.

10] Resolve problems quickly. Every single project has problems. However, when they are handled quickly, then they cease to become obstacles to progress.

Summary:
Almost all projects start out with good intentions, motivated workers, and authorized support and approval. Where they go wrong and fail is when plans are vague, progress is not monitored, and unexpected problems are not controlled or resolved. Following these 10 guidelines will ensure that projects are completed with excellent results.

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Santosh Satya is the Head of Content Development for KM Media. His idea focuses on positive stories and viral news. Over the last 5 years he has served in various social media agencies helping various brands to accomplish their goals.

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