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Setting the Foundation for Project Success: A Project Manager's Short Guide

Embarking on the journey of project management is akin to orchestrating the opening act of a grand performance, where success hinges upon the art of laying the initial groundwork. As a project manager, your pivotal role in this nascent phase sets the stage for what lies ahead.


In this blog post, we'll navigate through the crucial steps that empower project managers to kickstart projects with finesse, from unveiling the intricacies of stakeholder engagement and mobilization to crafting the blueprint of a project charter, and from envisioning the precision of SMART goals to skillfully navigating the seas of feasibility.


This guide encapsulates the essence of project initiation, where strategic choices intertwine with adept tools, fostering a culture of clarity, collaboration, and achievement that resonates throughout the project's lifecycle. So, let the curtains rise on your project management masterpiece, as the spotlight awaits the symphony of success to unfold.


A person controlling the orchestra


Content of the article



Key Components of project initiation


  • Goals - The goal is what you have been asked to do and what you are trying to achieve

  • Scope - This is the process to define the work that needs to happen to complete the project

  • Deliverables - Products and services that you will create for your customer, client, or project sponsor

  • Success criteria - The standard by which you measure how successful a project was in reaching its goals

  • Stakeholders - They are people who both have an interest in and are affected by, the completion and success of a project.

  • Resources

    • Budget

    • People

    • Materials


Intangible Benefits

  • Customer satisfaction - Will the project increase customer retention, causing them to spend more on the company’s products or services?

  • Employee satisfaction - Is the project likely to improve employee morale, reducing turnover?

  • Employee productivity - Will the project reduce employees’ overtime hours, saving the company money?

  • Brand perception - Is the project likely to improve the company’s brand perception and recognition, attracting more customers or providing a competitive advantage?


A sheet contaning financial graphs


Cost Benefit Analysis


The process of adding up the expected value of a project - the benefits - and comparing them to the dollar costs is a cost-benefit analysis. When you’re pursuing a project, the benefits should outweigh the costs.


What are the Benefits?

  • What value will this project create?

  • How much money could this project save our organization?

  • How much money will it bring in from existing customers?

  • How much time will be saved?

  • How will the user experience be improved?

What are the Costs?

  • How much time will people have to spend on this project?

  • What will be the one-time costs?

  • Are there any ongoing costs?

  • What about long-term costs?


The process of calculating costs and benefits is also called calculating return on investment, or ROI. One common ROI formula is


(G-C)/C = ROI

In this formula, G represents the financial gains you expect from the project, and C represents the upfront and ongoing costs of your investment in the project.



Project Charter


A document that clearly defines the project and its goals, and outlines what is needed to accomplish them



A diagram representing project charter



SMART Goals


SMART goals help you see the full scope of a goal, determine its feasibility, and clearly define project success in concrete terms. The goal needs to align with the organization’s other goals, priorities, and values. Everyone involved should feel like the goal is worth supporting.


The SMART method stands for -

  • S - Specific

    • What do I want to accomplish?

    • Why is this a goal?

    • Who is involved?

    • Where should the goal be delivered?

  • M - Measurable

    • How much?

    • How many?

    • When will I know it's accomplished?

      • Metrics - What you use to measure something

      • Points of reference

  • A - Attainable

    • Can it reasonably be reached?

    • How can it be accomplished?

  • R - Relevant

    • does the goal make sense?

    • Is the goal worthwhile

    • Is it the right time

  • T - Time Bound - Has a deadline Or Clear time frame


OKRs


OKR is an acronym for objectives and key results. Objectives define what needs to be achieved and describe a desired outcome. Key results define how the project team knows whether or not they have met their objective.


A baseball ground

Objectives

  • Defines what needs to be achieved

  • Describes a desired outcome

Key Results

  • The measurable outcomes that objectively define when the objective has been met

Company-wide OKRs are used to set an ultimate goal for an entire organization, whole team, or department. Project-level OKRs describe the focused results each group will need to achieve in order to support the organization.


Project objectives should be

  • Aspirational

  • Aligned with organizational goals

  • Action-oriented

  • Concrete

  • Significant

Consider the vision you and your stakeholders have for your project and determine what you want the project team to accomplish in 3–6 months.


Add 2–3 key results for each objective. Key results should be time-bound. They can be used to indicate the amount of progress to achieve within a shorter period or to define whether you’ve met your objective at the end of the project. They should also challenge you and your team to stretch yourselves to achieve more.


Project Scope


The scope provides the boundaries for your project. You define the scope to help identify necessary resources, resource costs, and a schedule for the project.


Defining the scope before a project starts helps mitigate the risk of significant changes later on. Taking the time to ask questions and ensure that you understand the scope of the project will help reduce expenses, rework, frustration, and confusion.


Make sure you understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how as it applies to the scope.


A person raising his hand to ask questions

Questions on -

  • Stakeholders

  • Goals

  • Deliverables

  • Resources

  • Budget

  • Schedule

  • Flexibility


In-Scope


Tasks that are included in the project plan and contribute to the project's goal.


Out-of-Scope


Tasks that are not included in the project plan and don't contribute to the project's goal.


Scope Creep


Scope creep includes changes, growth, and uncontrolled factors that affect a project's scope at any point after the project begins. Scope creep is a common problem, and it's not always easy to control.


Sources of scope creep

  • Internal

    • Product improvements

    • Processes changes

  • External

    • Customer requests

    • Environment shifts

    • Changes in technology

The solution to external scope creep

  • Make project plans visible

  • Get clarity on project requirements

  • Set ground rules & expectations for stakeholder involvement

  • Create a plan for dealing with out-of-scope requests

  • Put your agreements and plans in writing


Soil broken due to less water

Following the strategies discussed here can help you proactively manage scope creep before it creeps into your project!

  • Define your project’s requirements.

  • Set a clear project schedule.

  • Determine what is out of scope.

  • Provide alternatives

  • Set up a change control process

  • Learn how to say no

  • Collect costs for out-of-scope work


Triple constraint model


When using the triple constraint model, the three restrictions are

  • Scope - Scope includes the clearly defined and mapped-out boundaries of a project.

  • Time - Time refers to the project schedule and deadlines.

  • Cost - Cost includes the budget, resources, and people who will work on the project.


triple constraint model diagram

Launch & Landing


While the launch is when you complete your project, the landing is once you determine it works and you satisfy your success criteria.


In project management, a project “launching” means you have delivered the final results of the project to the client or user. You can’t solely base project success on when the client accepts the project, though. Your work on a project won’t be complete until you “land” it by thoroughly measuring the results.


This is when the success criteria and the metrics you defined initially when setting SMART goals will come in handy.


Success Criteria

  • Tells you whether or not the project is successful

  • Specific details of project goals, deliverables, requirements, and expectations

  • The standard by which the project will be judged once it's delivered to the stakeholders

Determining project success

  • Identify the measurable aspects of your project

  • Get clarity from the stakeholders on the project requirements and expectations


Adoption refers to how the customer uses the product without any issues. Engagement refers to how often customer interaction happens over time.

The success criteria should be clearly agreed upon at the beginning of the project. The stakeholders and customers ultimately judge if the team meets the success criteria.


Include the methods for how success will be measured, how often its measured, and who is responsible for measuring it. Defining your success criteria will create greater alignment within the team and give everybody better visibility into how to achieve success.


We can also determine the success of a project by the quality of the product, the ability to fulfill your customers' needs, and the need to meet the expectations of your stakeholders.


A man enjoying success at reaching the peak

To measure the success of a product, consider including these metrics on your checklist:

  • Track if you implemented the product’s priority requirements

  • Track and assess the product’s number of technical issues or defects

  • Measure the percentage of features you delivered or released at the end of the project



Measure the fulfillment of strategic goals via user or customer metrics. Metrics to consider include:

  • Evaluating user engagement with the product

  • Measuring stakeholder and customer satisfaction via surveys

  • Tracking user adoption of the product by using sales data


Setting OKRs is a technique that can help project teams define, communicate, and measure shared success criteria.

Communicating and tracking OKRs

  • Share your OKRs with your team

  • Assign owners.


A measuring tape hanging


Measuring progress


1. Determine how you will score your OKRs


Percentage, score 1-5 or 10, score 0 to 1.


2. Set your scoring expectations


With Google’s 0.0–1.0 scale, the expectation is to set ambitious OKRs and aim to achieve an average of at least 0.6 to 0.7 across all OKRs. For OKRs graded according to the percentage achieved, the sweet spot is somewhere in the 60–70% range. Scoring lower may mean the team is not achieving what it could be. Scoring higher may mean the aspirational goals are not being set high enough.


3. Schedule checkpoints


It’s important to regularly communicate the status of project OKRs with your team and senior managers. For example, it can be helpful to have monthly check-ins on the progress of OKRs to give both individuals and your team a sense of where they are. Typically, at the end of the quarter, you’ll grade each of your OKRs to evaluate how well the team did to achieve its goals.


That's the end of it.

For further read on the project management article, a brief note on understanding project management can be read here.


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