Project management. What can you compare it with? Applying the most stereotyped expression – with the ship management. However, this comparison shows the significance of this term most optimistically.
Whatever the type of the company activity, it is not possible to implement any kind of project, if there is no adequate project management. Clearly formulated standards of the project management determine how successfully the projects will be implemented. Whereas successfully implemented projects determine the direction or the course where the company is piloted. If the company has no developed standards of the project management, it is a fair assumption to say that this is the same if the company had no management. The ship would freefloat – where the winds blow, where the streams carry. Maybe one day you get lucky and go in the right direction. And maybe not. And most likely that not. In the long run such drifting in open water is useless.
It must be emphasized that there are different types of business activity – based on implementation of the projects and, for instance, production. It may be said that in the company whose activity is based on the project implementation each project is a separate business. The project is a company within a company.
As I have already mentioned, in order not to allow everything to go with the flow, a lot of issues linked to the management must be anticipated – relations planning, planning of finances and resources – these are the required components of the specific project implementation.
Where to start if the company has not developed project management standards? First of all, the company’s existing projects must be taken into consideration. Usually it is most difficult to identify the projects of the companies whose basic activity is not obviously linked to implementation of a customer’s project. However, these companies also have miscellaneous internal projects, the successful implementation of which is a prerequisite of the company’s successful operation, for instance, the company’s effective performance, the introduction of innovation, development of new products or services, introduction of new IT system support, changes of the company’s processes, structural changes of the company, etc. However, it should be remembered that regardless of the fact whether the company is or not based on the projects implementation, the project management ground rules are one and the same; separate guidelines determining the procedure how the projects are implemented may differ. Consequently – when the company projects have been identified, next step is to understand what is this project’s impact on the core business, how it is linked to the company’s reason for existence, what are the requirements of the project implementation, what are the market requirements, what are the needs of the company’s employees and what are the needs of the company’s management. It is also worth mentioning here that the persons involved in the project by „project management standards” often mean thick files copied by the consultants from the Internet for large sums of money and kind of adjusted to the company needs. Such standards most often do not work and nobody reads them. What really works is the project management guidelines which the employees can play by heart, if awakened at night. Best of all would be if the employees involved in the project management would participate in their development themselves.
Well-developed project management structure with relevant components and highly qualified project managers allows to carry out the company activities more precisely, determine the profitability of each project and to implement each specific project more effectively from the financial point of view. In this way all time planning related to the project implementation is improved, which in its turn means that the company can plan the resources which also have a significant impact on the overall results of its operations. It can be anticipated and forecasted which resources and which expertise will be required, and respectively the appropriate employees management policy can be created. Purchase planning and logistics of each project can be performed which allows to create more effective relationship with the suppliers and ultimately lead to successful cooperation. This enables to assess the risks of each project and develop the plan of their mitigation by getting ready to potentially risky situations. What’s in it for us? Satisfied customer!
Consequently qualitative project management is the key to successful long-term cooperation with the customer, customer satisfaction and accordingly – procurement of the next transactions. Good project management is like a safety cushion creating the customer confidence that the coordinated budget is not overspent, that his project will be implemented within the defined terms, that the risks and risk mitigation possibilities are explored. Stabiliy. Safety. Peace of mind. These are the irreplaceable things assessed by every customer!
Also for the companies where the basis of the activity is not external customers’ projects, the project management is not irrelevant, because it is necessary to think about the prospects of effective internal projects implementation. First of all, it must be mentioned that the problem the companies without determined project management standards often encounter when implementing internal projects is that no one is actually in charge of the project. Who will navigate this ship then? Who is responsible for the final result, who plans the finances, time and resources? Another problem the companies without developed project implementation procedure face, especially when participation in the project implementation is only part of the daily tasks, is the insufficient concentration of the team of the project participants on the objective of the project and its achievement. In this case the involvement of the company management in the determination of the employees working priorities and support in maintaining the focus on the achievement of the project objectives is fundamental. The most accurate explanation why the projects fail is a common problem – lack of responsibility, because this is the consequence of the undetermined role of the project leader and insufficient involvement of the team of the project participants.
We can also see here how important the role of the project leader is. For the management of the internal projects a colleague possessing project manager qualities can be appointed. The word combination „project leader” includes a lot of of traits of character – a very high sense of responsibility, high self-discipline and perfectionism, the ability to act quickly, take decisions independently and undertake the responsibility for them. The project leader must possess logical thinking and precision and must be capable of understanding the customers and the colleagues, because a lot of daily work is associated with time planning and financial issues. He must also possess good argumentation and presentation skills. And – which is important – he must also have leadership abilities, management skills, motivational skills and the ability to captivate. The word leader already speaks to this effect. Project management is not a skill someone is born with. It can be learned. A very good project leader is a highly skilled specialist – he must focus on different areas related to both planning, financing and resources.
There are different options of project manager certification. Like ISO certificate confirms the company’s ability to operate in line with the defined processes or the relevant certificate confirms the electrician’s proficiency to perform electrical works, similarly the project manager can obtain a certificate confirming his knowledge and skills necessary for implementation of the project. There are miscellaneous international institutions which certify and confirm that certain individual possesses all necessary knowledge and skills for the management to be able to trust him to manage projects, being aware of the fact that this will be done at the highest level. This is not irrelevant.
Of course, the company can also exist without strictly determined project guidelines, however, this immediately brings up the question – how successful the company existence will be and how long this company will be competitive? A car can also exist without wheels. Indeed, literally. Stand, but not move forward eventually. If the company has no project management of the adequate quality, one of the essential potential risks, especially if the activity of this company is directly linked to implementation of the project, is the inability to meet the customers’ needs at a sufficiently high level, at the same time effectively implementing its own projects, observing the time-table, the budget plan and so on. The company becomes less competitive.
The results of the project management cannot be merely weighed or measured. It is not possible to say that without the adequate project management the result will be this or that, but we can measure how effectively the projects are implemented, whether they fall into the limits of the budget and time. It is possible and, I would even say, necessary, to conduct customer satisfaction surveys, clarifying the customers’ level of satisfaction with the received services. And this is the time for the golden truth – the more satisfied the customer, the more chances for the future cooperation. The more implemented projects, the more money. The more meaningful work and money, the more satisfied employees. The more satisfied employees, the more work done well. The more work done well, the more satisfied customers. Eventually it results in such an excellent cycle of success.
Miks Sturitis, SIA Citrus Solutions Chairman of the Board, www.citrus.lv