Planning for Project Success
IN MY FIRST ARTICLE I TALKED ABOUT IMPORTANCE OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND THE VARIOUS OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE AVAILABLE FOR THOSE WANTING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT. AND IN THE SECOND THE ARTICLE I EMPHASISED ABOUT HOW TO GO ABOUT SELECTING THE RIGHT PROJECT MANAGEMENT QUALIFICATION. IN THE THIRD ARTICLE I EXPLAINED WHAT CONSTITUTES A PROJECT AND GAVE A VERY SHORT BRIEF ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT. IN THIS ARTICLE I WOULD TALK ABOUT AS TO HOW TO PLAN FOR PROJECT SUCCESS.
BUILDING A BUSINESS CASE FOR YOUR PROJECT
To ensure that a project is a success, there should be a justifiable reason to start it,and this justification should remain valid throughout the life of the project. This justification should be documented and this document shall be the main reference document for all decision making throughout the project – from start to the very end of the project. And, this document is referred to as the Business Case, and it provides justification for undertaking a project or programme. It evaluates the benefit, cost and risk of alternative options and provides a rationale for the preferred solution. The benefits are documented in the Benefits Review Plan, which I will explain a bit more towards the tail end of this article. Although the justification should remain valid, it may change. It is therefore important that the project and evolving justification remain consistent. If for whatever reason, the project can no longer be justified, the project should be stopped. Stopping the project in these circumstances is a positive contribution to an organization as its funds and resources can be reinvested in other more worthwhile projects. Organizations that lack the rigor in developing Business Cases may find that some projects proceed even where there are few real benefits or where a project has only tentative associations with corporate strategy. Business Cases can be broken down into five different and distinct elements:
1. Strategic Case - What will be different from what we are doing now?
2. Economic Case - Why does this financially make sense?
3. Commercial Case - How does this impact our terms and conditions with our client?
4. Financial Case - How do we afford the cost of implementation of this solution?
5. Management Case - How will we implement this solution into operations? All of these aspects are important. However, their size and complexity will vary from project to project depending upon a project’s nature and complexity. Some less complex Business Cases (particularly those not involving significant new spending, new systems, or low cost of implementation) may need little or nothing in the way of a commercial case and require a less complex management case. The cases will be developed as the Business Case progresses. The Business Case is developed over time and generally has three stages; with more detail being provided at each stage.
To get stakeholders or management to approve the project, one will need to build a business case to demonstrate why the project is needed and what the benefits of the project will be when it is finished. The reasons and benefits of the project may seem perfectly obvious to those who are intimately involved with it, but to the stakeholders and other decision makers it may not be so obvious. Oftentimes, they are dealing with a myriad of different business units and objectives and tasks that need to be done. A well-prepared Business Case can help the project standout in the crowded field of everything that is happening in the company and might just be the key to getting approval and finances for the project.
THE BUSINESS CASE IS A LIVING DOCUMENT
A Business Case is a living document that is constantly referenced throughout a program or project of work. It may be necessary to review and update a Business Case based on what is discovered as a program or project progresses over time. For many, the Business Case is indeed something that you do at the beginning of a project in order to secure the approval and then forget about it. If benefits outlined in Business Case are not likely to be realised, the project should be aborted, for the justification for the project is no longer there, in material as to how close to the end of the project life cycle it is. To illustrate the point let’s take an example. Say a project claims to save RM 2.5 million a year and cost just RM 1 million to run., everyone may agree immediately to running it on the grounds that it is justified on cost savings. But, suppose you find part way through that circumstances have changed and the project now costs RM 1.5 million and saves only RM 150,000 a year. If the main interest was savings, then almost certainly, the correct decision is to stop the project. The up-to-date living Business Case provides this essential ongoing management decision. Therefore there are four steps which cover the development of the Business Case, and keeping it up-todate throughout the project lifecycle. These are:
1. Develop the Business Case:
First one would need to gather all the right information upon which decisions can be made.
2. Verify the Business Case:
The Business Case will need to be checked at intervals to ensure that the Business case is still valid and the project is still justified.
3. Maintain the Business Case:
The Business Case will need to be kept up-to-date with the latest information, such as project cost and benefits projections. Therefore, the Business Case should have a Change Log, in which extended objectives, changes in allocation of resources or budget are updated.
4. Confirm the Benefits:
Check to see whether the intended benefits have been (or will be) realised. Confirming benefits will most likely take post project. Benefits are identified and written down at the start of the project in the document The Benefits Review Plan and the Business Case. For each benefit, you must include how the benefit will be measured and when this benefit will be realized. This information is placed in the Benefits Review Plan.
Example of measurable: X% reduction in costs, X% increase in profits
Benefits are usually realized after the project is closed, but some can be realized during the project. The step Confirm the Benefits checks to see if expected benefits have been realized. And this would be a very useful indicator of the project success.
For many, the Business Case is indeed something that you do at the beginning of a project in order to secure the approval and then forget about it.