The definition of success depends on the nature and purpose of the project.  It could be timelines, or cost or quality or compliance and so on.  Project managers must understand the factors that determine project success and plan accordingly.

Why are some projects focused on delivery against timelines?

Consider launching a mobile app for New Year.

Would it make sense if the app were to be launched after the new year?

Absolutely not!  You may launch the app, but there would not be any takers!

So, how should the project manager and your team approach such projects?

  1. Understand the project scope clearly.

When working on timeline-focused projects, the team should be aware of the project scope.  If the team lacks scope clarity, you can expect many scope changes during the project.  The result – additional work, incremental effort, and naturally missed timelines.

  1. Create a well-designed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Can you imagine planning and executing a project based on a scope document that is 10 pages long?

You could…but the experience would be hair-splitting!

Using a WBS forces the team to think about the project scope in a structured manner.  Further it enables the team to break the overall project scope into smaller components.  Such an exercise later allows for easier estimation of task timelines.  Estimating an activity of constructing a house becomes easy when we break it down to components such as walls, roofing, flooring, painting, etc.

  1. Estimation

Estimation is the critical dimension of delivering projects against stiff timelines.  While there is no ‘one-way’ of estimation, there are few aspects that are a ‘must.’

Since it is the team that must execute the work, involve the team in the estimation process.  As a project manager, you could always seek clarifications and question the rationale (assumptions and parameters considered) behind their estimates.

It is recommended to choose a three-point-estimate rather than a single-point estimate.  A three-point-estimate considers best case, worst case, and realistic scenarios while estimating.

  1. The schedule.

Get the schedule ready after incorporating task relationships, lags, leads, and constraints.  Review the critical path to understand the project timeline.  A good project scheduling software such as TouchBase makes this process feel like a breeze.

  1. Baseline and track.

Review the estimates and seek approval to baseline the project.  Tracking the project progress is vital to know if the project is on schedule or not.  A great scheduling software comes to your rescue.

If you follow the above steps, your chances of delivering the project to deadlines is higher.  If there are scope changes from the customer, ensure to revise the baseline and let the team now focus on the revised baseline.

Let us now shift our focus to project costs.

Managing project costs depends again on estimation and tracking.  However, this job has been made easy through our WBS and schedule preparation.  You now need to estimate the resources for each of the deliverables/activities.  The resources could be people, materials, machinery, and other overheads.

Cost estimation done on Spreadsheets is no less than a nightmare.  Software such as TouchBase Financials integrate resources and costs along with scheduling to provide a swift estimation.  You may need to be aware of the different types of costs such as direct, indirect, fixed, variable, and others.  Depending on the nature of the cost, the team may influence some costs while not much in others.  For example, rent for your office premise is not something that the team could influence.

Tracking costs is the vital element to ensure that the project is within budget.   Using sophisticated tools makes this process a seamless one.  They also offer excellent reports to track timelines and costs.  With analytics included tools such as TouchBase offer alerts and notifications on future events such as an upcoming milestone, or a schedule risk, a cost risk, and so on.

Today’s project managers must have a strong foundation of project management principles and be savvy with latest technology.  Together, project management could be a great orchestra!

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