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Enterprise Project Performance

Project Planning: Victory Over Cost and Schedule

Imagine you’re the coach of a well-known sports team and it’s the day of the big game. A lot is riding on this – your job and reputation included. You watch from the sidelines as the players run out to the field and take their positions. The game starts!… But as the game progresses, something isn’t right. Your team begins to face certain challenges they aren’t prepared for… As you leverage your timeouts to rehash your game plan, you find it difficult to come up with remedial tactics before players are whisked away to continue the game. Your team continues to suffer due to a lack of direction. Before you know it, it’s too late to turn it around. You’ve lost. 

The dilemma of project planning – why do it?

This dismal scenario represents a constant struggle for many project-focused organizations. In the scenario, the sports team knew how to start the game but as the game progressed, the coach had difficulty altering the game plan to offset challenges the team was facing. The coach also struggled to make changes to the game plan in a timely manner. Likewise, project managers leverage their own game plans, otherwise known as project plans, to keep projects on track. However, as projects begin and challenges inevitably arise, project managers struggle to provide the direction needed to pivot from them in an effective and timely manner. As a result, organizations can experience project overruns, profit loss and damage to their reputation – effectively losing the game. 

But how can project teams account for challenges they aren’t sure will even happen? And when/if something does happen, how can they know in time? These questions signify the dilemma of project planning: Since neither project managers, project planners, estimators, schedulers nor any other project team members can see into the future, they are doomed to create and implement plans that will surely run off the rails. Right? 

Before we answer that, let’s discuss:

What is a project plan? 

As briefly hinted above, a project plan lays out the course of actions needed to successfully complete a project. It truly is your project game plan. The plan addresses how to complete a project in a certain timeframe, usually with defined stages and designated resources. A well-crafted plan ensures the project can be delivered on time and within budget, while also delivering intended business value.

A project plan also sets the benchmarks by which project success will be assessed and defines how the project will be measured, forecasted and corrected to rectify what’s going wrong. To build an effective project plan, project managers must recognize all project requirements and weigh the potential problems that might happen during the execution phase. Considering these potential problems, the project plan must provide a course of action to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Now we’re back to our dilemma – how can a project manager consider all potential problems when they aren’t sure what will happen even after accounting for risks? And when/if something does happen, how can they know in time?

A lack of connectivity 

These questions seem impossible to answer, especially when organizations have grown accustomed to a completely fractured project environment. This fractured environment is substantiated by a belief that the project lifecycle, consisting of the ideation phase, plan phase and execution phase must all exist separately from one another. For example, once project plans are completed and handed over to execute, a wealth of data on the execute side begins to manifest but is not enabled to swim upstream to the project planning team. This is a silent killer for projects as visibility into mission-critical project data is limited. 

Reverting to our sports analogy above – it’s like the coach putting on a blind fold immediately after sending his team to play. The coach hears the crowd’s reactions to plays and players coming in from the sidelines are giving the coach tidbits of information regarding the team’s performance. However, when the team returns for advice in a time of need, the coach is unequipped to deliver needed direction as they aren’t well informed on what’s going on. The coach’s visibility is limited, and their decision-making abilities are paralyzed. 

It’s important to remove the blindfold from planning teams and create a project environment that allows project data to flow automatically throughout the project lifecycle. This enables the data to work cross functionally. As execute data informs project planning efforts, project managers can easily pinpoint fluctuations in that data to quickly identify challenges (I.e. low levels of productivity, weather-related impacts to resources and schedules, unexpected changes in project scope and more), ensuring potential problems are tackled in their infancy. This negates the struggle project managers have faced – not being empowered to account for potential problems and not knowing when they will arise. With this new level of connectivity, project managers are freed from these constraints and can now ensure projects are delivered on time and within budget, while delivering intended business value. 

The feedback loop: delivering modern connectivity 

Enter the feedback loop! The feedback loop is a phrase we’re coining in this blog to reference the next step in improving the connectivity of the modern project portfolio environment. The feedback loop closes the gaps between portfolio planning, portfolio management, project planning and project management. It allows data to swim upstream, from project execution to project planning and all the way back to portfolio planning, not only ensuring enhanced project performance but also greater portfolio success as well. The enhanced level of data connectivity and automation supported by the feedback loop allows data to work cross functionally, informing every facet of the project lifecycle simultaneously. Now you’re playing the game to win! 

The result

When project-focused organizations equip their project teams with the feedback loop, they remove the blindfolds, ensuring greater visibility into project data throughout the digital project environment. Through achieving complete access to near real-time project and portfolio data, project managers, project controllers and other business leaders are empowered to make more informed decisions. As a result, organizations experience: 

  • Enhanced over-all project performance
  • Decreased project cost and schedule overruns
  • Enterprise-wide increases in employee productivity

Ready to craft more informed project plans? 

Are you ready to achieve a better-connected project lifecycle that will drive more strategic project planning efforts? 

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