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The importance of project management

The importance of project management

Within the boundaries of programme-focused delivery, the importance of project management cannot be overlooked, this is the discipline that creates new capabilities that enable the achievement of the desired outcomes. Unfortunately in many New Zealand businesses, integrated project culture is not the norm. I have seen many instances where individuals with little or no formal project management expertise have been expected to manage projects simply because they are subject matter experts, with little consideration given to the constraints on their line position and business-as-usual workload.

The alternative is hiring in the expertise; but good project managers come at a price, and many companies often dilute their effectiveness by expecting them to manage multiple projects in an effort to reduce costs.

Both scenarios inevitably threaten the success of larger projects. More often than not, these projects end up being poorly managed, resulting in budget blowouts, time over-runs, conflicts, scope creep and, in many cases, cancellation.

As effective and skilled project management expertise is a significant part of the formula for successful delivery of benefits, it makes sense to assign suitably skilled individuals to the role of project manager. This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring expensive people for every project. A far better alternative in the long run would be a commitment to establishing a formal project management training programme within your business. This would enable you to up-skill people before they take on this important role, and to continue to mentor them as they manage their project through to delivery.

Business ownership

Benefits cannot be delivered without change, and change cannot be sustained without benefits. In a climate of intense change within organisations, people are becoming change-fatigued. This situation is not likely to diminish — in fact, the pressure to increase value to stakeholders suggests that change is on the increase.

Change cannot be effected or sustained unless the business itself commits to visibility and persistence in the pursuit of the agreed benefits, actively engaging and encouraging those whose lives will be changed by the programme.

The end result of any programme can be significantly jeopardised at the outset by a lack of business ownership. All too often, sponsors appear to be invisible, steering groups don’t understand their purpose, and programme and project teams don’t receive the direction, guidance and support they need from the business to effect the change that is required to get the benefits.

Now, more than ever, business sponsorship and support must be active, strong and accountable, from concept until delivery of the benefits. Business sponsors must be trained, ready, willing and able to accept accountability for the delivery of benefits. Steering groups, programme managers and others within a programme’s governance structures must clearly understand their roles and be willing to do whatever is necessary to assist the sponsor in the creation of sustainable change. Strong business ownership also provides project teams with the clear direction, guidance and support they need to deliver on expectations.

Summary

Benefits realisation is an ongoing process of envisioning results, implementing, checking intermediate results and adjusting to make sure you achieve your target. It is a process that must be managed, just like any other business process.

This is a unique and timely approach that enables our businesses to not only survive the current pressures, but to grow and thrive. Benefits realisation offers you the opportunity to:

* Gain a better, shared understanding of the potential benefits of an investment and how to get there.

* Achieve measurable value from each and every project by getting it right first time.

* Ensure your projects are managed well and delivered on time, on budget and within scope.

* Ensure change is achievable, sustainable and measurable.

* Maximise the value of your portfolio.

* Ensure the business is doing the right things for the right reasons.

Sheryl Gavin is an independent business consultant specialising in benefits realisation, with more than 13 years’ experience as an IT project manager and management consultant. She is uniquely experienced in the implementation and application of benefits realisation, with Auckland City Council among her recent clients. She can be contacted at sgavin@xtra.co.nz. Phone 021 979 633.

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