From the moment an idea arrives in the project pipeline, you can take steps to ensure that it’s dealt with in a way that gives it every chance of turning into a successful project, delivering all the expected benefits, later down the line.
An important part of any PMO activity is selecting the right projects. Once you’ve done that, you can give those projects a head start by ensuring they are set up for success. If a project is started in the right way, it has more chance of giving you what you want. Here are 5 benefits of making the time to initiate projects properly.
1. More Effective Use of Portfolio Funding
There’s only so much money your organization has to invest. And one of the key roles for most Project Management Offices is to make sure that the funding is invested equitably and on the projects that are going to deliver the best return for the business.
In other words, you want your limited funding to go on the projects that have a good chance of success, and a good risk/benefit ratio. Across the whole portfolio you can, of course, have a mix of projects with different risk profiles but overall you need to ensure that the portfolio is balanced.
If your project is set up for success, with a structured initiation process, you are more likely to have an approved, solid business case from which to make financial and funding decisions. That leads to better governance around where the money is going.
2. Higher Probability of Project Success
It won’t be news to experienced project managers that project initiation makes a difference to the success of a project. Starting out as you mean to go on, with your governance structures in place, with detailed planning, an assigned team of people and accountability at the right level for the project – this all makes a difference later on.
Start your projects correctly and you’ll find that foundation provides a great place from which to deliver successfully later. And you’ll see fewer projects close down prematurely.
3. Better Benefits Delivery
As well as boosting the likelihood that your project will be successful, you’ll find that across the portfolio you’ll get higher success rates generally: those stretch goals in the business case are more likely to become actual results if you have a strong initiation process for new projects.
Success is never guaranteed on a project as the business environment and other factors change while the project is ongoing. However, a good kick off process normally includes setting up the governance structures that will support successful outcomes.
4. Increased Productivity
When your team knows what to do, they can get on and do it. A good initiation period can give them clarity on what is expected and how they are going to achieve it.
The other thing that project kick off allows for is creating the team. This is really important if you want the individuals to work collectively together in a productive way. It takes a while for a new team to be fully effective. They need to build up trust levels and learn how each other works. They need to spend some time getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team and to create norms for how they are going to get things done together. All of this happens during the project initiation period, so spending time here is also investing in the productivity of your team.
5. Better Management of Risk
It would be great to think that all projects have an equal chance of success but in the business world that is rarely true. Each project comes with unique risks. These have to be addressed and managed as you go through the project. But the most important thing is to identify the risks. Project initiation is where your team will pick up many of the problems that might beset the project so that you can do something about it together.
Risk management is an ongoing activity and your team will be flagging up risks as you go through the project life cycle. However, project initiation is a key time to be setting the culture for risk management. If you gloss over it now, your team won’t feel it is important to spend any time on managing risk later.
The PMO has risk management tools to help project teams at this critical time for projects, so work in partnership to identify risk and to create a governance plan to address problems before they happen.
So why does project initiation have such an impact on project and portfolio success? Isn’t it better to just get started and address these issues later?
No. Project initiation supports project success because when you are forced to think through the project and how to achieve the benefits, you are planning to be successful. You’re creating the environment for success with the people, structures and plans required to hit your targets – and sometimes exceed them.
Project initiation processes also give your PMO time to weed out projects that don’t have a high chance of success and either put plans in place to support them or stop them from starting at all. Initiation includes looking at the business case and making sure it’s achievable. It involves having a critical look at the benefits and scaling them back (or up) as necessary. When you’ve got that level of oversight happening from Day 1, you’re in a far better place to let your project delivery team get on with the work of completing the project.