THE ACADEMY OF BUSINESS STRATEGY
PROJECT MANAGEMENT BLOG
Requirements for Success in Project Management (Part 1)
Okoro Chima Okereke (CBS) PhD MBA BSc
It should be necessary to start this article by defining the terms: project, and project management. For, it is certainly the case that we cannot consider success in project management without the delivery of a successful project. A follow-up to this could be to define what constitutes success in a project and project management respectively. It is also relevant to understand why it is necessary to discuss success in project management. Such a discourse presumes that projects are important in business and industry, and therefore how to manage them to achieve the desired objectives should elicit an investment of resources. Lastly, we shall go on to suggest some essential guidelines for the management of projects, these should serve as requirements for success in project management.
Definitions of project, project management, and success in project management
The definition of a project by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is as follows: “ A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”. There is a second definition which also reflects the realities of business activities. It is: “A project is a time constrained and structured endeavour for translating strategic decisions taken in corporate boardrooms into the creation of a unique product or service to meet defined goals and objectives”. PMI defines project management as: “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to achieve the desired goals and meet project requirements”. It is also described as: “ The processes for achieving set goals or objectives within the constraint of time, budget, and staffing restrictions”.
From the foregoing definitions, it is correct to state that projects are “tools” used to translate or transform corporate strategic decisions into real-life products or services for achieving defined organisational objectives. It is also proper to suggest that project management describes the management processes for initiating, planning and directing the activities and resources necessary to achieve the defined goals or deliverables. This last description touches on the phases of project management which are: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. These phases are the Project Management Life Cycle. They provide structure to project management such that for success in project management, project activities have to be managed through each of these phases. It is logical at this point to define success in project and then in project management. A project is successful if it is completed on time, under budget, and meets the specifications and expectations of the customer. It is not therefore sufficient that it is completed on time and under budget, but it is also necessary that it meets the expectations and desires of the customer who will use the product or services. For example, if the customer is a company, it is important that the project deliverable meets their expectations by its positive contribution to the company’s strategic objectives. If it does not, it will be considered a failure and the company may still have to invest in other projects to achieve their strategic objectives. This is why project management should be important in corporate business management. In the same vein, we submit that success in project management is achieved when it delivers a project on time, under budget and meets the customer expectations. Project management is successful to the extent that it delivers a successful project.
In spite of the practice of project management, failure of projects is such a regular occurrence worldwide that research findings show that about 70% of all projects fail. To support this statement, we cite just two references, from the US and UK respectively. From the US, the Standish Group, a US Global IT project management research and consulting firm, reported that only 29% of all projects are actually delivered on time, within budget, and to specification. It surveyed 400 organizations and found that between 2007 and 2009, 32 % of IT projects were considered successful, having been completed on time, on budget and with the required features and functions. Nearly 24 % IT projects were considered failures, having been cancelled before they were completed, or having been delivered but never used. The rest, 44 %, were considered challenged; that is they were finished late, over budget, or did not comply with specifications. It is also relevant that the PMI reports that the United States spends about $2.3 trillion on projects each year.
From the UK, in May 2007, Mr. Joe Harley, the Chief Information Officer at the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), stated that seven in ten government IT projects failed. He said: “Today, only 30% of government IT projects and programmes are successful.” Continuing, he explained that the “government spends £14 billion per year on IT. It is not sustainable as a government to continue to spend at these levels. We need to up the quality while reducing the spend”. Harley said that the criteria for judging success of a project included whether it was delivered on time, on budget and to the quality promised.
From the examples cited in the foregoing paragraphs, it can be seen that failure of a project is costly and engenders much loss of resources and should be prevented as much as possible. Using the UK example, 70% failure in an investment of £14 billion per year means a loss of £9.8 billion annually. No country can afford to lose this much on just one management function. Also, for a company, 70% loss in investment is a huge waste. Again, such a loss is not sustainable on a continuing basis.
The points discussed in the last paragraph on the magnitude and frequency of losses encountered in project management underscore the necessity for much care in conducting the important function of project management. This provides the basis for presenting our Essential Guidelines for Success in Project Management which is discussed in Part 2 of this article.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Okoro Chima Okereke (CBS) PhD MBA BSc is an approved Certified Business Specialist (CBS) with the Academy of Business Strategy and his specialist subject is project management. He has achieved a PhD and MBA from University of Bradford and a BSc from University of Lagos. He has been employed as Director, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Engineer, Project Engineer, Principal Engineer and Consultant for various companies and has experience within the oil and gas, power generation and steel production industries His clients or employers have included Delta Steel Company, Shell Petroleum Development Company and National Electric Power Authority. He has geographical working experience in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Nigeria. He speaks English, Igbo and French. His service skills incorporate business development, strategy management, training and project management.