If you want to know how well your project is performing, then start by benchmarking it against projects that adhere to best practices. This article lists twenty-one different questions you can ask to establish whether or not your project is operating effectively.
1. Do you understand the customer’s requirements?
Make sure you listen to what the customer has to say, and that you fully understand what they are asking for. The requirements should be written down and agreed upon by all involved parties.
2. Do you have the capability to support the customer’s requirements?
Having the capability to deliver what a customer is asking for may mean technological capability, knowledge or specific skills within your team. Check for any shortfall in skills before the work begins.
3. Have you established a high level project strategy?
A high-level strategy outlines the main goals of the project and the approach that will be taken to achieve those goals. You must spend time thinking about your overall strategy before delving into the detail of the project.
4. Do you have a business case for the project?
A business case outlines the benefits of running a particular project. For the majority of projects, these benefits are financial. To proceed with a project you must first have a clear understanding of what you will gain from it.
5. Do you have a strategy for managing your suppliers?
Suppliers’ delivery dates can be critical for a project. You must actively manage any key suppliers on a project to ensure they deliver in a timely manner, and that their goods or services are up to the right standards.
6. Have you created a risk register?
Risk management is one of the most important features of any successful project. To control every risk on your project, it is important that you keep a list of them and update that list regularly. This is commonly referred to as the risk register.
7. Is the project cost full understood?
To have any chance of managing a project budget, you need to take the time to estimate all of your potential project cost. Make sure you get quotes from every supplier, including any hidden costs that may not be mentioned in the price, for example shipping costs.
8. Do you have a project plan?
Even a small project needs to have a written project plan. A project plan will help you keep control of what is going on, and it will enable you to check whether every task has the right amount of money, time and people.
9. Does the project plan cover resource management too?
Resource management is a plan outlining how you intend to distribute your resources to get your project done. It can help you check for any shortfall in personnel, and it can also help you manage the costs of a project.
10. Do you understand the scope of the project?
If a project has a clear scope, it is easier to keep the team focused. A project with a vague scope can be problematic because things can quickly get out of control if the customer requests numerous project changes once work has begun.
11. Do you have an organizational structure for the project?
A project is like any other workplace activity; it operates at its best when everyone in the team has clear roles and responsibilities. The easiest way to achieve this is to create an organizational chart for the project.
12. Have your internal management team evaluated the project?
All projects need the support of senior business management teams. Ensure you have their agreement by reviewing the project with them before it begins. Only once it has been fully evaluated by the management team you can be sure that the project has the proper authority to proceed.
13. Do you understand who your project stakeholders are?
Project stakeholders are interested parties. These may include suppliers, customers, and internal staff. Stakeholders can be supportive and helpful to a project, but they can also be disruptive. For this reason, it is important to carry out a thorough assessment of your project stakeholders at the start of the project.
14. How will the project be financed?
If financing is ambiguous, this could potentially leave a funding gap half way through a project. To avoid this, ensure all funds have been agreed at the start, including any contingency money that may be required for emergencies.
15. Does the proposed solution to meet the customer’s requirements?
Never start design work without first reading through the customer’s requirements. Doing so would put you at risk of making assumptions that damage the outcome of the project. Always make sure that what you are creating perfectly matches up with what the customer wants. If this isn’t possible, at least get an agreement with the customer about any aspect they need to compromise on.
16. Have all relevant parties agreed the budget?
Having a written budget is only part of the financial role within a project. Any budgetary requirements must be agreed with the person funding the project. This includes any changes to the budget once the project is in progress.
17. Do you have all the resources you need to carry out the project?
A project can suffer if it lacks the resources needed to fulfill all the tasks. Never assume fewer staff members can cover the extra work. Have a clear expectation at the start about how many resources are needed to get the project done in the time frame expected.
18. Have you identified Risk Owners?
If you have identified a risk on your project, then you need to make sure that someone has the responsibility for managing that risk. A Risk Owner is someone who is assigned to a risk. This information should always be kept in the risk register.
19. Do you have clear visibility of what is being spent on the project?
When managing the project budget, always ensure that you are keeping a daily track of what is being spent. It is very easy for a project to overspend, and if this isn’t spotted immediately then it can cause a serious funding problem later on in the project.
20. Are there review points throughout the project?
It is far too easy for a project to gradually fall into difficulty without anyone ever realizing. To avoid this, run reviews at major points during the project. Reviews are sometimes referred to as gates, and their purpose is for the management team responsible for overseeing the project to check how things are going. It is also a good opportunity to check if the project is still going to be a benefit to the organization and to the customer.
21. Is your project documentation up to date?
It is important that you keep a written record of all critical information throughout a project, and that you store this in a way that can be accessed the full project team.
No project is perfect, and when it comes to best practice, you may have a reasonable explanation for taking a few shortcuts. However, by following these twenty-one checks you can see at a glance if your project is being managed competently or whether a lack of any best practice is a cause to sound the alarm.