How SMEs can ensure projects deliver value and ROI
Many research studies have shown that large numbers of projects do not achieve their assigned business goals and the failure rate is significantly higher for SMBs.
‘Projects’ have been around since time immemorial. From the construction of the pyramids to setting up a business, a project is nothing but any unique task or multiple unique tasks logically grouped to be completed on time and within budget. Since ancient times projects have been ‘administered,’ ‘managed’ or ‘led’ to completion on ad hoc principles, however over the past 50 years, a new discipline called ‘Project Management’ has led to a more scientific approach.
Many businesses acknowledge the benefits that project management principles have played in the implementation of significant IT, construction, and infrastructure projects. However, despite these advances, it is estimated that 50% of projects fail to deliver their envisaged business benefits. The failure is significantly higher for SMEs. Studies by the Standish Group, Gartner, Carnegie Mellon University, PMI and others all point out the same reality - projects very often fail, they are late, over-budget, and fail to deliver the product/business benefits they were designed to produce.
The following are a few steps to avoid project failures and get the envisaged business value:
Avoiding Project Failure
1. Clearly defined goals – Project outcomes should be clearly defined.
2. Top Management Support - There should be adequate and visible top management support for the project.
3. Competent project manager - The project manager selected must be required technical and management skills.
4. Competent project team members - Team members must have the required technical skills
5. Adequate resource allocation - Adequate resources should be allocated for the project
6. Adequate communication channels – Appropriate communication channels with stakeholders should exist to convey project status, changes, organizational coordination, and to take timely actions
7. Control Mechanisms - Tools have to be in place to deal with initial plans and schedules
8. Feedback capabilities - All stakeholders provide feedback through formal feedback channels
9. Responsiveness to the client - All potential users of the project should be connected to the project, are consulted and remain involved in acceptance of deliverables
10. Trouble-shooting - Project teams spend adequate time on the problems that have surfaced or are about to surface. They are encouraged to take quick action on problems on their initiative
Assessing Project health and taking appropriate and timely actions
One of the most profound contributions of IBM is the following seven keys to successful project management matrix, that lists steps to assess project health, forecasting success, and recommended action to avoid failure.
Reference – David Sawe, Country General Manager- IBM Tanzania Ltd “MoMoDar Managing egovernanace projects with Seven Keys to Success”; 05 Nov. 2012.
Projects and programs are an integral part of any business or government initiatives. Many research studies have shown that large numbers of projects do not achieve their assigned business goals; they are delayed or are highly over budget or even loose relevance. The failure rate is significantly higher for SMBs; since many of them are yet to adapt to professional project management processes. If appropriate and timely actions are taken, the chances of achieving success increase many times.