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Project Recovery: Getting Your Business Development Projects Back On Track

It's not unusual for a development project in a small or medium sized business to go off the rails a bit.  Major change projects often happen at a time when the business is attempting to transition to a new phase of growth, resources are stretched and skill gaps become evident.

Do you have an internal project that hasn't been achieved within the specified timeframe or budget? Or perhaps it has failed to deliver the business outcomes you wanted. EWO Consultant, Peter Cooper answers frequently asked questions about successful project management and implementation for small business in Australia. Peter can help you get your project back on track by either coaching you through the process or completing the work for you.

Q. What are the projects the most commonly go off the rails, from what you've seen?

A. The implementation of information management systems such as ERP and more complex internet and intranet websites are among the most common examples I see.  These projects often involve an increased number of stakeholders which adds to the complexity of the project.  Someone who has successfully managed projects in the past may find managing the increased number of stakeholders difficult.

Q. Do some projects have an increased risk of failure?

A. Yes.  There are certain features of a project that alert a business owner-operator or manager to the likelihood of failure.  Those features are:

  • More than 2 stakeholders.  Stakeholders may be the people paying for the project, developers, users or beneficiaries.
  • Long timeline and multiple phases.  
  • Project Manager is a 'first timer', i.e. they haven't led a project of this specific type and scale before.
  • Relative importance. Projects that are not considered urgent and mission critical tend to struggle.

Q. If there is 1 thing a manager can do to increase the likelihood of success, what is it?

A. Plan. Spend time thoroughly planning upfront and engage people in that planning process. It will make a tremendous difference to your project success rate.

Q. What sort of planning should be done?

A. Here's the planning activities I tend to focus on. Which ones are actually used is determined by the context, complexity and project type.

  • Business Case: Determine the value of the project to the business and the impact it needs to have.
  • Stakeholder Management Plan: Who needs to be involved when and what's the communication strategy.
  • Risk Analysis: Technical and financial risks, contingency actions and costings
  • Critical Path: What will be the chain of events and timeline.
  • Leadership: Who will be running the project and who will be in a support role. What are the accountabilities?

Q.  So what do I do if I have a project that's gone off track?

A.  Go back to the start.  Which one of the above planning activities wasn't completed thoroughly? Complete that activity. Get the perspective and input of all your stakeholders.  If readers would like tips on how to complete each planning process please feel free to call me on 1300 792 782.

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