Apr 122016
 
project fundamentals

Some project managers just seem to have what it takes to be successful at what they do, effectively and efficiently delivering projects over and over again. Yet other project managers seem to struggle to achieve the same success. Of course, the type of project you are involved in has an impact as does the particular business area or industry. An industry which is constantly at the cutting edge of technology may reasonably expect to have less project success stories than an industry that tends to embark on predictable projects of a type they have completed many times before.  So we know the type of industry makes a contribution to the likelihood of success or failure but the skill, experience, behaviours and training of the project manager also have an effect. But is it possible to train anyone to become a successful project manager or are certain necessary attributes simply innate and cannot be taught?

What skills are required for a project manager to be truly effect in the role? What behaviours and attitudes do the most successful PMs have that set them apart from those who are less successful? It is, of course, a mixture of training, their experience, and their natural skills but in what proportions? Can good training make up for a lack of experience and natural skills – can training, in fact, effect a change in natural behaviours and attitudes?

With a range of professional training courses and accreditation available from the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification for novice project managers through to the highest level of PM accreditation the APM Registered Project Professional (APM RPP) there is no shortage of training available that seeks to do more than just teach project management techniques and tools. These training course also seek to change behaviours and attitudes and teach new “soft skills” such as people management and communication skills and are delivered in an engaging, practical way using a range of training materials such as podcasts and animated videos such as the one below.

 

 

Some of these soft skills come naturally to certain people who instinctively understand how to motivate a project team and how to develop a good working relationship by communicating openly and on a personal level. It may not be possible to completely change someone’s innate personality but the right training and role models in the workplace can help develop traits in a PM to make them much more effective at managing projects and the people involved on the projects.

The most successful project managers are good at:

  • planning and managing a project
  • monitoring and controlling risk and change
  • staying focused on the project goals
  • understanding the detailed tasks required

They are also natural optimists with great communication skills who are able to motivate a team to ensure the project is delivered at the right cost, within deadline and that it actually delivers on the anticipated business benefits.

In summary, a project manager requires time to develop experience, along with technical competence in PM techniques and tools; and soft project management skills such as confidence, optimism, motivational abilities and effective communication. Some project managers may start their career already with these soft skills but good project management training will help those less fortunate to learn how to develop these soft skills.

Oct 172013
 
project fundamentals

There are few career paths with more stability than that of a project manager. In the opinion of many top employers, project management skills even trump tech skills when it comes to the ability to place individuals as well as the longevity of employment. Technological skills can quickly become obsolete, but project management skills are evergreen – best practices may change but the fundamentals of project management remain the same. There is also a defined training a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) route for professional project managers right from the basic levels such as the APM Project Fundamentals qualification right up to highly advanced accreditation such as the APM Registered Project Professional APM RPP. The ability to manage to completion a series of complex, inter-dependent tasks will always be an employable skill.

Below are the basics of project management.

1 – Organization and multitasking

In order to be an effective project manager, you must learn how to lead many tasks at once. You should be a big picture thinker who understands how the smaller compartmentalized parts of a project fit together. People are much more likely to become energized when they understand exactly why they are doing what they are doing.

2 – Leadership skills

Believe it or not, leadership can be learned: Project managers are not born; they are made.

Team members are always looking for a leader; this is the nature of groups. As project manager, you are helping to take the load of leadership off of the more technically minded individuals in a project. They will look to you for the complete picture.

3 – Communication skills

In order to create synergy between employees of different disciplines, you must be able to speak the language of everyone who is involved with a project. Although everyone may be speaking English, the marketing department speaks in an entirely different lingo from the IT department. Left to their own devices, they will misunderstand each other at every turn, cutting down on the efficiency of the project.

4 – Learn when to negotiate

There are times to negotiate and times not to. Project managers must understand when to stand firm and when to give a little.

5 – Details, details, details

Although a project manager will be a big picture thinker, he or she must also be well in tune with the details of a project from all angles. Part of being able to communicate with employees from all departments is having a basic knowledge of their disciplines. The best way to learn this is to become as intimately involved as possible in the details of each department.

6 – Becoming a timely problem solver

Not only does a project manager have to solve problems, but he or she has to solve problems within the time schedule that the project allows for. Because the project manager will usually be the one who sets up the flowchart for the project, he or she will certainly be the most knowledgeable when it comes to the timeframe in which certain bottlenecks must be taken care of.

7 – Tech skills

A project manager must be ready to fill in for any department, kind of like an understudy. This means learning basic technical skills.

If being a project manager sounds like the career for you, then you owe it to yourself to consider the courses that are offered by Parallel Project Training. Parallel Project Training can give you the skill set that you will need to leverage your way into the company of your choice. People with the organizational and technical skills that you will have upon graduation are in short order and high demand by the best businesses in the world, and you will have the tools that you need to thrive within that environment.

The Parallel Project Training program is an APM accredited project management training company which keeps up with the latest skill sets and technologies that are relevant to employers in the modern business landscape.

Jul 102013
 

Being a business leader you will not always have the possibility to manage particular tasks on your own if you are already managing other projects. In cases like this you will need to employ a project manager to implement project management planning control for your needs. Not every one of your workers possess the individuality or even abilities to handle projects, so when you select someone to guide your projects you must measure the person’s previous results with business along with his/her pros and cons.

A great project manager can clearly perceive exactly what your targets include for the project and additionally possess sharp suggestions for just how this may be accomplished to meet your goals. For instance, if you have a broadcast station and need your project manager to locate additional minority-owned businesses to promote during your broadcast, the team would formulate successful strategies that will achieve this goal. The project manager will most likely go to the companies and organize conferences to find out if those companies’ services complement the requirements of the station’s listeners.Through project management courses such as project management planning courses you will understand ideas on how to outline a project and minimize it towards a range of workable goals, how determine and achieve these objectives and the way to handle connections, legal aspects, funds as well as obstacles. These types of skills are anticipated of project managers, however,each individual may benefit from the actual fundamentals of arranging time and strategies effectively. These are generally also crucial tools for everyone considering starting up or presently operating his or her own business.

Ideal PMs have vital thinking abilities and strong social skills. When a project manager must reach a significant conclusion concerning a project,they will give thought towards the impact the choice is going to have regarding triumph for the company. They’ll additionally look for pointers from their group, given that it demonstrates that they are modest enough to acquire assistance if needed. Effective PMs can give optimistic judgments at the appropriate period to keep everyone on a single page.

It is also essential that project managers comprehend the individuality, pros and cons regarding the team members. When you’ve got a group user who is not really assertive when interviewing clients, delegate them a task that can position them behind the scenes concerning the presentation of the project. In the event you realized that a particular team member offers a powerful understanding of collectibles and your undertaking handles the preparation of a workshop on antiques, inquire him or her to provide a speech about this topic.

Any individual of the team can continue with the culmination of the task available but making certain every component of the project is accomplished at just the right time and that every detail coincides with the subsequent level could increase efficiency quite a bit. An effective team is really a joyful and inspired team.

A poorly managed project can still achieve finalization but unidentified elements like sickness within the team, unpunctual client modifications or monetary changes can throw a currently disarranged task into confusion. A most harmful case scenario will be the total crash and failing regarding the project. By using project management courses, a group leader can easily anticipate and prevent possible pitfalls and make certain a protected network of assistance is in position if the unforeseen occur.

Solving problems is a vital element of being employed as a PM and in addition to determining what’s wrong, there are different ways a beneficial project manager remedies issues. You will need to get every one of the facts about the problem and you will have to browse over the data completely prior to determining ideas on how to resolve the issue. Finally, a great project manager will certainly comprehend the company’s objectives as well as work tirelessly to achieve them.

Feb 142013
 
APMP

The APMP exam is one of the more beneficial exams that you can take for a career in project management. It is also among the most rigorous and so you will want to study for it. By preparing for this exam you will increase your chances of passing and doing well on it. However you will need to not only prepare for it but also take it in order pass it. When taking this exam you will benefit by going with a certain approach to this exam and this will allow you to succeed. Among the things you will want to do when taking this exam include reading the questions carefully, answering them in the proper manner, following the instructions, answering questions completely and double checking your answers. With this approach you will be sure to get the most out of your experience and get a credential that can advance your career.

The first thing you will need to do when taking the APMP exam is to read questions carefully. During the exam the questions will be quite technical so it will help to read them over in detail and do your best to interpret them properly. By reading the questions carefully you will have a good chance at answering them properly and allowing yourself to perform better on this exam. Reading the question carefully will be one way to get the most out of your time taking the exam.

You will want to answer the questions in the proper manner as another way to take the exam. This is either writing down information or simply filling in a circle to represent a correct answer. If the exam is multiple choice and they want you to simply circle the letter that represents your answer then to that By answering questions in the proper manner you will have the means to get through the exam with ease.

As well as answering questions properly you will want to answer them completely as well. This means that you will need to put down an answer that is complete and thorough. This way you will make sure that you give an answer that exam administrators will understand and give you credit for. It is important to answer questions completely so that you improve your chances of better performance on the exam. By answering the questions completely you will have a better chance at getting more points on the exam and increase your chances of passing as well.

The next thing you will want to do when taking this exam is to follow the instructions for each part of it. This means that you will need to read over the instructions and make sure that you know how they want you to answer questions. Following the instructions will enable you to take the exam properly and enable you to get credit for the answers you put down. By following the instructions you will have an easier time getting through this exam and increasing your chances of success.

Lastly it will be very important to double check your answers. This is simply the process of going over your answers and making sure that they make sense and that you are satisfied with them. This is a very important exam and you want to make sure you do your absolute best. Double checking your answers gives you the ability to see if you made any errors and correct them if necessary. By going over and double checking your answers you will help improve your performance on the exam and also your chances of passing it.

This project management exam is one of the more demanding exams around when it comes to getting credentials for the information technology sector. By passing it you will have the ability to earn more money and get more out of your career. While this exam may be demanding you can still do well on it as long as you go with the right approach. Taking certain steps such as reading over questions carefully, double checking your answers, and following instructions will allow you to improve your chances of doing well on the exam and eventually passing it. Once you pass this exam you will then have a very good credential to help you with your career in information technology project management.

For more advice on taking the APMP exam visit parallel project training APMP courses page

Feb 152012
 
project management fundamentals

Most medium and large organisations will have become used to projects of one sort or another being part of their daily business. Many of those organisations have also developed a commitment to improving the success rate of their projects because they have experienced first hand what happens when an individual is assigned to managing projects with no prior training and, worse, when there are no formal processes or controls in place – and it isn’t success. Large organisations tend to have an understanding of the benefits of some rigour within the project management process through trial and error. They recognise that allowing a member of staff to “drift” into project management does not always deliver the best outcome. For these reasons they support a formal framework for managing projects which might be an internationally recognised methodology such as PRINCE2, APM or PMP, or an internal approach developed over some years and tailored to a company’s specific needs.

They also support the training and development of project managers and those involved in projects in other ways such as a team member or project support staff. Those new to project management are likely to be encouraged to attend introductory training courses such as the APM Project Fundamentals whilst more experienced project managers will be supported during Continuing Professional development (CPD) and advanced accreditations such as the APM RPP (Registered Project Professional).

Of course, project vary enormously in their size and complexity even within the same organisation but are still fundamentally about managing a series of tasks, the people and other resources required with the aim of delivering an end-result that provides a substantial business benefit to the company – a benefit that would, or should, have been defined at the outset of the project.

Unfortunately, the ideal of project management frequently does not live up to the realities – particularly in complex projects – and projects are becoming more complex as technology improves at such a rapid rate. There are great success stories but also many less-than-successful projects – let’s not call them failures because failing projects often end up being altered in some way so that they can be considered “successful”.

But all organisations want to improve the genuine success rate of their projects, which is why more and more of them are investing in the training and recognition of their project managers. Well-trained project managers with globally recognised qualifications are more motivated to succeed and build their careers. But recognition of professionalism is not just about training and qualifications – it is also about continuous professional development and the ability to demonstrate the skills necessary to competently manage complex projects.

With the introduction of advanced professional credentials such as the Registered Project Professional (RPP) credential from the Association for Project Management (APM) there is now recognition available for experienced project managers on a par with the well-established professions such as accountancy and law. By defining strict criteria concerning previous project management experience, the APM RPP is an indication that a project manager is a highly competent manager able to deliver complex projects using the appropriate processes and tools.

Just as chartered status in traditional professions gives a client confidence in the abilities of the professional so registered status in the modern profession of project management instils the same confidence in clients and employers. With the APM RPP effectively a step towards the project management profession gaining chartered status it will cement project management as a recognised profession and do much to negate the effects of the well-publicised and high-profile failures that have occurred in recent projects.

And maybe one day the project management profession will be as highly-regarded as law or accountancy and be just as attractive a career path.

 

Jan 122012
 

Many people believe that for a project manager to be successful, they need to have not only good project management skills and experience but also previous experience of the business area or industry in which they are working. This view is probably so widespread because they have often, in the past, simply progressed from one role within an organisation into a project management role in the same company. Their previous experience is often seen as a bonus and they are just thrown in at the deep end of project management and have to quickly get up to speed with a relevant training course, or worse, no training at all.

But do project managers who have reached their current role in this way have any greater success than a formally trained professional? Or do they find it difficult to remove themselves from viewing the project at a detailed level because they understand the business in-depth but are then prevented from seeing the project from a wider perspective. It can actually be a disadvantage to get too involved in the detail of individual tasks and activities.

A professional project manager will have been trained in a wide range of skills that are transferable across businesses and will have built up enough practical experience to be able to gather the right amount of information about the business in order to understand the needs of the client. After all you wouldn’t expect other professionals such as lawyers or accountants to know everything about your business – they just need to understand enough to do their job properly.

It could be argued that there are some industries where detailed knowledge of that industry is a pre-requisite for a project manager and that may be the case in certain technical areas such as IT but it is not the case for the vast majority of projects being undertaken across a wide range of businesses. An understanding of building and motivating a team, planning and managing tasks, risk and change, and having the skills to interface effectively with a range of employees from senior managers and stakeholders right down to the most junior team member are far more important skills for a project manager to have.

So if you want to develop your career fully and have the confidence and freedom to move into new business areas, organisations or even industries then concentrate on developing your project management skills and don’t worry too much about your business or industry knowledge.

Ensure you have the confidence and ability to talk with business heads about defining the goals and objectives of a project, determining the expected benefits and the impact on the status quo, and where the project sits in terms of overall priority within the business. Assist with documenting the detailed business requirements and clearly describing the project by being an effective interface between the business heads and users and the project team who will deliver the end-product.

Then increase yours and the project team’s chance of success by ensuring you document who owns the project, who the stakeholders are and what criteria will define its success. And also ensure you establish a proper communication strategy and that you understand the reporting requirements.

Then you can actually get started with planning and running the project, assessing and managing the risks and establishing a solid change management process.

And, before you start, don’t forget to ensure that enough budget, time and people have been allocated so that the project is at least feasible at the outset.

When you consider all these project management skills that are required you wonder how a project manager would actually find the time to get closely involved with the detail of the tasks – even if he/she did have the relevant business knowledge. Far better to focus on developing yourself as a project professional and gaining transferable qualifications such as one of the APMP accreditations or a PMP Certification.

Nov 142011
 

All professionals who wish to be successful, in whatever field, needs to continually aim to improve their skills. As project management is becoming recognised more and more as a profession, project managers need to ensure they have the appropriate training to develop their careers and that they keep their skills relevant and up-to-date. That is just as true for new project managers taking the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification as it is for highly experienced project managers seeking to gain the prestigious APM RPP accreditation. Continuous professional development (CPD) has always been a recognised part of the career path of those in the well-established professions such as accountancy and law and is now being incorporated into training courses for project managers.

 

Project managers are required to fulfil an increasingly expanding and important role as projects become more and more complex with new technologies being developed ever quicker. They are having to find new ways of coping with increasing expectations from both clients and employers.

 

The right type of professional training course can equip a project manager with the skills to deal with these complexities and to plan and manage their projects efficiently, deal with risks and change effectively, and to deal with people at all levels involved in a project.

 

The benefits of professional qualifications and credentials to the individual can be a higher salary, better career prospects and improved job satisfaction so project managers themselves should need little encouragement to attend a training course. But employers also recognise the benefits of having a well-trained and motivated employee who can deliver complex projects successfully so most major organisations offer access to a training program.

 

For those project managers who are self-employed or employed by small companies without a training budget (or, worse, a company without the desire to train its employees) there are plenty of good courses aimed at individuals to help them gain recognised qualifications or credentials independently.

 

One of the unsung benefits of a training course (or at least, traditional classroom-based learning) is learning about the successes and failures of both the trainers and the other delegates. It is highly likely that there will be someone on your course who will have experienced, or is experiencing, the same issues as you. Being able to discuss these issues with others, in the company of a professional trainer, can be a good learning experience in itself.

 

So why is professional training worthwhile?

Planning and Managing

Whatever approach you might take to planning and managing a project will be determined by the type of methodology you have learnt (PMP, PRINCE2, APMP etc.). But what is certain in all projects is that a schedule will need to be planned and managed. Depending on the industry, your approach to the schedule may be that it is flexible, adaptable and likely to change frequently before the project is completed. This particularly true in software development projects. Nevertheless, every project will start with some sort of schedule, and knowledge of the key areas of good project management will enable the well-trained project manager to develop a schedule that takes into account all necessary tasks, their interdependencies, estimations, milestones and resource tracking, whilst also being capable of flexibility, where necessary.

 

Dealing with Risks and Change

Methods can be learnt to better anticipate risks or deal with those risks that could not be predicted. A training course will also promote the importance of a good change management process, how to establish one and how to ensure it is followed so that the management of change requests does not become a full-time job and change requests do not obscure the original purpose of the project.

 

Dealing with People

With the help of training, a project manager can learn team-building skills, including how to develop a motivated, committed team that will work co-operatively. And how to communicate effectively with everyone involved in the project, including the stakeholders. It will give him, or her, the confidence to stick with the plan when the plan is right, change the plan when it is wrong and be prepared to make unpopular decisions when necessary.

 

Finally, training will ensure every project has established and documented the criteria for success, which can be used to confirm that a project has been successfully delivered.

 

These are just some of the reasons why project management training is important, whatever methodology your organisation is committed to: PMP, PRINCE2 or APMP. It will help every project manager to develop fully, to be recognised as a professional and to deliver complex projects successfully.

Sep 302011
 

Perhaps the toughest part of any project is finding and assigning the right project manager. Many organisations promote staff to this role from within the organisation. These people know the company, its ethos and the other staff who are likely to be team members. They are experienced in their current role and looking for a new challenge. What could possibly go wrong? These are the project managers who have acquired this role by default.

 

The reasons for assigning a project manager role to an individual from within an organisation are sound ones – knowledge of the company, its products and people should by no means be underestimated. But whether that person has the necessary skills to lead a project is not always taken into account and there can be just as many problems with promoting internally as in hiring an unknown, but experienced, person from a different organisation who has specifically chosen this profession.

 

In fact, does the person interviewing for the role of project manager even know which attributes to look out for in the potential candidates? The skills and attributes required by a truly competent project manager are wide and varied and go far beyond the qualifications they may possess. The attitude, personality and soft skills of the candidate must also be considered but this is often difficult to assess accurately at interview.

 

So, within an organisation, many project managers still drift into the role or have it thrust upon them because of the growing need within businesses for people to control the work, the budget and the time of the many projects being initiated. These internally promoted project managers tend to come from a purely managerial background or a purely technical background and often lack the skills and competencies required to manage a complex project successfully. So along with the boom in projects has come a boom in the need for training so that these individuals can acquire the necessary skills.

 

Project management is still a relatively new profession but increasingly, as in established professions such as law or accountancy, professional credentials are available to provide recognition for stages, achievements and milestones on the project management career path.

 

Many of these relatively recent accreditations recognise (and, indeed, demand) practical experience so they avoid the problems associated with some project management courses where candidates gain a theoretical knowledge of processes and techniques, but lack the practical experience required to fully understand the realities of a real project environment. Because of the considerable effort required to attain these credentials, they are also indicative of a desire to continue within the profession.

 

The personality traits of an individual are those innate characteristics that are difficult to teach and to learn, yet are key factors in the success of a project. Personal values and motivation also contribute to a project’s success or failure.

 

Skills, or competencies, on the other hand can be taught and learned – project management, as with many roles, has a basic set of skills required to perform the role effectively, which include attributes such as:

 

  • ability to lead a team
  • composure
  • motivation
  • conscientiousness
  • management of expectations
  • problem solving

 

 

Many of these attributes only come to the fore when an individual is exposed to an opportunity or experience (such as a formal project management course) that enables them to be learnt. Standard definitions of core competencies are published by organisations such as the PMI and their PMP Certification is widely accepted as recognition of professional competence. For those new to project management the APM Introductory Certificate is a good first place to start your training. So project manager by choice or not – perhaps it is innate attributes and opportunities in training and experience that define success, or not.

 

Jul 262011
 

Everything learned from previous projects, whether they were successes or failures can teach a project manager important lessons. And individual project managers usually do learn from their own previous experiences, but are these “lessons learned” shared with others within the project team or within the same organisation? If they are shared, do other project managers apply the lessons to their own projects?

If lessons were genuinely learned from past projects then the same mistakes would not be repeated on different projects. Projects within an organisation would then be more consistently delivered on time, within budget and to the customer’s complete satisfaction. Since this is not always the case, it would be safe to surmise that lessons are not really being learned from past projects.

Project environments are often challenging with multi-functional teams that are both culturally and geographically diverse. Budgets are usually tightly constrained and the business is evolving while the project is in progress so requirements frequently change mid-project. As a result corporations are not very effective at communicating across teams, and different departments are not well-integrated – with the result that similar mistakes are often repeated.

Yet there is a financial saving to be made in organisations from not repeating mistakes and the technological infrastructure is readily available to assist the transfer of knowledge across teams and departments. So why are lessons not being learned from projects in order to change this state of affairs?

 

Many project teams conduct a “lessons learned” review at the end of the project and even store the information in an accessible database. But the problem arises when other people are not encouraged to use this database and when the information is not used to improve project processes. This can be partly because the issues are not well-categorised so difficult to search and typically the database will, over time, include old and irrelevant information creating the view that the whole database is not very useful.

But building a genuinely useful “lessons learned” database that can be used to continually improve project processes involves just a few simple steps:

Recording Lessons Learned

Record both the problem and the solution as well as important project attributes in a single easily accessible database. This makes it easier to identify recurring issues, to update the data and to maintain the accuracy and relevancy of the data.

Categorisation

Ensure that the data are grouped and searchable by key attributes such as project name, type, size, business area, functional area or any other attributes that have meaning for your organisation.

Communication

Inform all project teams whenever the database is updated with new information and, more importantly, raise awareness whenever the data has resulted in a change to the organisation’s project processes.

Encourage use of the database

Allow free and informal access to the pool of knowledge and permit comments and feedback. Invite suggestions for process improvement based on the lessons learned data.

Data Review

Periodically review the data to remove out-of-date or redundant data to maintain a high level of confidence in the database. It should always be current and accurate.

Continually Improve Processes

Search for problems that exhibit similar patterns and instigate appropriate process changes such as introducing additional tasks and checks or changing the sequence of certain activities or changing optional tasks to mandatory ones.

 

 

Organisations of all sizes that regularly embark on complex projects have a huge amount of knowledge that is not being fully utilised. But by building, maintaining and using a “lessons learned” database, this information can be disseminated and used to improve project processes and prevent the repeated occurrence of similar mistakes. This “lessons learned” approach is supported by major project management methodologies such as PMP, PRINCE2 and APMP and will ultimately lead to more successful projects, and the consequent financial advantage, for relatively little effort.

 

 

 

 

Jul 112011
 

A detailed project plan with a realistic schedule and well-defined milestones is vital for project success. Preparing the plan is one thing but it is also necessary to follow the plan – assuming that the plan is a good one.

 

The most effective project managers understand the importance of a robust project plan with reasonable estimates for each activity. So a considerable amount of time and effort usually goes into preparing the project plan. It requires enough detail so that every task can be assigned to the right person or team and they understand what is expected of them and when. It details dependencies between tasks so that risks can be thoroughly assessed and is one of the fundamental building blocks of a successful project.

 

But what happens if the plan is fundamentally flawed? Or if requirements change substantially part way through a project and the plan becomes meaningless? In such circumstances it can actually be detrimental to project success to continue to follow the plan. The project manager and the project team need to be flexible and adaptable in their approach to the project plan. Sticking rigidly to what was first specified is simply failing to grasp the realities of most projects.

 

And if it becomes obvious that the plan is flawed, you need to admit this and modify it to correct the errors. It may be a hard thing to admit but blindly following a plan that you know to be flawed will obviously never lead to a good outcome.

 

New or inexperienced project managers may be unprepared for the amount of flexibility required in real-life project plans and how many changes are required to the plan during the course of the project but experienced project managers will know that this is typical of most, if not all, complex projects.

 

Changes within projects can occur for a variety of reasons: essential staff leave, business priorities change, requirements become clearer as the project progresses, the business objective may simply change due to market forces. Changes can be due to internal factors within the organisation or external factors concerning suppliers or providers of outsourced services but whatever the reasons it is through the experience of managing many complex projects that you will learn that change is a normal part of every business and every project.

 

The best project managers employ project plans as a starting point into which will be built more information and details from team members working on individual tasks, from reassessment of the project’s resources as the project progresses and reviews of the business requirements and ultimate objective. It is, therefore, essential that you know how to monitor the status of projects and resources, and how to obtain meaningful feedback from team members and end-users.

 

Anyone involved in a project who believes that a project plan can be put in place at the outset of the project and simply followed through to a successful outcome is either inexperienced or has only ever worked on very simple projects.

 

So it is important to recognise that a failed project is not one that deviates from the project plan or schedule (or even the budget) but one that fails to deliver what the client needs or wants. Altering a plan to deliver what is required is simply one step on the path to delivering a successful project and should always be viewed as such. It is essential that everyone involved in the project is aware from the start that the plan is likely to change over time but it is just as important that the current plan is adhered to. It is a difficult balancing act to convince the stakeholders of the veracity of the plan at the outset whilst preparing them for the fact that it might change. No wonder so many people try to struggle on with an unsuitable plan rather than admit it needs updating but, nevertheless, this is what you must do to be successful.

 

A project plan will only create a problem if the project manager (or anyone else involved in the project) refuses to alter it to take account of changes that happen during the lifetime of the project. When you consider that many projects have a timeframe of several years it is unrealistic to expect the plan to remain unchanged.

All too often, failing projects become an operation to determine why the project is deviating from the plan and how to get it back on track instead of looking at how the objective could still be reached. This may be difficult to do, particularly when the original plan was part of the justification for the project, but it is not impossible if you concentrate on what the original business objective was. In fact many of the formal project methodologies focus on the business objective as the major factor in successful projects.

 

Project managers can often learn from previous projects and prepare for the next project by recording the differences between the expected schedule, budget etc and the actual data. Applying lessons learned to the next project will assist in managing the expectations of all those involved and improve the results of each successive project, which is why the most successful project managers are often the most experienced. But, for the less-experienced, there are project management courses on recognised methodologies such as PRINCE2, PMP Certification, and APM PQ that will teach many of the techniques that experienced project managers have had to learn the hard way.