Many businesses do not rely on one strategic project, but many parallel initiatives that must combine to meet business objectives. With decentralized and global work forces, projects must coordinate the efforts of multiple cross-functional teams operating in different environments and geographic locations. More often than not, project information needs to be shared and presented to an increasing number of stake-holders, including senior management, clients, suppliers, partners and controlling bodies whose impact can threaten or strengthen the outcome at any moment.
In this dynamic environment, traditional business models stagger, and project-based organizations thrive. With faster response to market demand, better utilization of resources, and improved project control and performance, project-based organizations have the flexibility to maximize their investments in core business projects and leverage evolving technology.
Key Business Drivers For Project-Based Management
Project-based management is not a new concept, nor is it a fad. Project-based management has been used by successful businesses over many decades. The derivation of this philosophy however generally stems from one of several key business drivers – elements of the business so fundamental, they often determine a business’ level of competitiveness and success. These business drivers include:
• Reduced product development time
• Extended product range
• Increased use of multi-functional teams and partnerships
• Creation of global service centers from cross functional teams
• Increased importance of controlling individual activity
• Multi-national approach to development
• Standardization of information technology and project management
• Rapid restructuring of industry sectors through acquisition and joint-ventures
• Restricted government spending
• Management of external resources and contractors
• Ease of access to information and knowledge
These drivers vary from business to business, but the challenge of adapting existing business environments to a project-based model is unique for each situation. Many challenges face organizations embarking on this change – from cultural to technological to organizational. And these changes are often met with inherent resistance from those reluctant or unwilling to change.
To address these challenges, the approach to change must integrate a balanced improvement of both process and organization, and adapt to the culture of each industry and market. To ensure the involvement and adhesion of individuals across the organization, each staff member must be introduced to the fundamentals relating to their involvement in the process, from project leader and team member to individual contributor.
Building The Project-Based Environment
Contrary to some perspectives, building a project- based management environment does not require dedicated, professional project managers as was typical in traditional business models. The reality of today’s matrix-driven environment requires individuals to be both managers and individual contributors on a variety of projects. And often requires a more casual or infrequent use of project management tools. In fact, many of today’s most successful project-based organizations recruit, train and manage staff whose background and experience is not in formal project management. So how does it work?
Establishing a successful project-based model requires an approach designed for each specific organization, however there are a number of critical success factors common to all environments :
1. Align project management to corporate strategy and business objectives
2. Drive the approach from Board level (top down)
3. Involve and educate as many people as possible (bot- tom up)
4. Pay particular attention to the human factors
5. Manage the implementation as a project
6. Ensure effective knowledge transfer to the key players
7. Measure and demonstrate progress
Through an integrated approach, these factors are more predictable and manageable. Like any good project, implementing project-based management is a project unto itself. For many organizations, it is their first implementation of a project using a project-based approach, and becomes a hands-on learning tool for the entire organization.