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There is a certain level of excitement and interest inherent with the beginning of a project; however, they also tend to inspire a certain amount of apprehension and anxiety. Much of this anxiety can be attributed to the uncertainty that accompanies projects, especially those that are complex or large in scale. Standardising new projects on processes that are based on industry and internal best practices not only improves projects performance, but also saves project managers from many of the worst surprises. Of course, every project has variables, but the vast majority of projects also have aspects that are relatively predictable and constant. For example, estimates, costs, resources, and timelines can have baselines built in from the very beginning to further promote efficiency.
Initially, it may take a while to establish a project template but having an enterprise-wide project management process will improve the efficiency of the project by harnessing economies of scale and reducing repetitive work.
So how can you achieve a standardised project template?
Defining the Scope
To improve performance, projects should start with clear definition. Components that are not well defined or not defined at all will need to be identified early giving project managers time to engage with stakeholders and create the required definition. While this is being resolved, the team can progress the defined project components. This is a more efficient use of resources that require ordering or distribution. Technology has also made project definition easier by facilitating access to information and enabling the use of templates that reduce unproductive time. This can include databases or links to information, such as resource cost, vendor contact information, and stakeholder contact information. By utilising a centralised hub for project related data, the time needed for a project's ramp up is significantly reduced.
Timely and Efficient Communication
Today, too many projects have teams working in silos, which results in duplicated effort and a lost opportunity for sharing information. However, when projects all follow the same process flow, there is more open communication within a team. When project elements are clearly defined at the start, team members understand what is expected of them and are more likely to proactively communicate issues as they arise.
Open communication also creates a friendlier environment which, in turn, facilitates a more productive work environment. When team members feel like their concerns are addressed in a timely manner, team confidence and moral is high. Strong communication is key to predictable projects and high performing teams.
Proactive Decision Making
A lack of quality information can stall decision making and impact project timelines. Setting up projects on the same standard process flow allows variable elements to be highlighted early so information gathering can occur to support timely decision making. Informed project managers are less reactionary and more decisive. This significantly increases the performance of a project.
Proactive decision making also includes knowing when corrective action is required. When a team has confidence in a project manager’s ability to remove potential hurdles, these issues are reported more readily. With advance warning the project manager can start remediation early while the team progresses in other areas. Over time, the team may be able to identify problems far enough in advance that resolution is complete before the team has begun work on that particular component.
Finally, projects on the same process flow can share decision making across the business. If a project manager has already found a workable solution to a particular problem, that solution is easy for other project managers to find and apply to similar problems. A significant source of inefficiency is multiple projects taking an individual approach to resolving a universal issue.
Reduced Costs and Reliable Schedules
Setting up projects on a standard process flow makes it easier to establish costs. Over time, costs can be streamlined so that you are spending less money on repeat purchases and resources.
Missed deadlines, and requests for more time on projects can be a serious problem creating a loss of confidence from your clients. Multiple project teams running on one process flow can communicate more effectively, are more decisive in agile situations, and will therefore be more likely to meet the project schedule.
Management Confidence and Trust
Staff turnover can seriously impact the success of a project. A high performing team is able to rely on the project manager to eliminate barriers to completing a project, creating a greater sense of satisfaction at work. As a result, team members are more likely to stay with the organisation. When employees are retained, the company benefits from the retained skills and knowledge and the staff are often promoted. This reduces the time and money needed to train and hire new personnel.
Recruitment processes, staff orientation and training are all timely and expensive exercises that can cripple the budget and schedule of a project. Prevention is the best cure in this situation and the key is a high performing team. To develop a high performing team, project managers need confidence and trust from their teams, and can gain this through a more standard and methodical approach to running a project.
Project standardisation is not about micro managing the project or stifling creativity or project improvement; project standardisation is about ensuring that project processes are streamlined to reduce redundant effort and cost overages.
Take our project maturity self-assessment to see how close you are to a streamlined, predictable process. Once you finish with the assessment, you will receive a tailored report detailing your organisation’s maturity levels in process, human capital, and technology. It will include recommendations that will give you some insights to advance your projects performance for your enterprise.