Every project should have four essential goals:
- To realize the stated outcome.
- To deliver the required outputs.
- To remain within budget.
- To deliver on time.
How well a project meets these goals depends on how well it’s managed. A 2020 survey found that companies with mature project management capabilities met their goals 77% of the time.
Outcomes are not outputs. They identify why a project exists. Without knowing the why, it is difficult to ensure outputs support the stated goal. For example, an organization starts a project to create a new website. The website is an output, but it’s not the outcome. The goal is to deliver a new website that increases site traffic by 20% within six months of launch. Many projects fail because they are focused on outputs rather than outcomes.
Project management ensures that goals are defined before the project begins. It identifies the scope of the project even if it goes beyond the delivery of the outputs. A project isn’t complete until the outcome is realized. In the website example, project management would continue to monitor site traffic for at least six months to determine if the outcome was achieved.
Outputs are how outcomes are realized. For the website example, outputs are the features and functions that will drive traffic to the site. Knowing the goal makes it easier to determine what outputs to choose. Sure, a 3D video would make a big splash as a home page, but will it increase the load time? On average, people wait less than three seconds to see if a site loads before moving on. If the video increases the load time, it could drive traffic away from the site. Identifying clear milestones keeps the project focused on meeting its goals and eliminates tasks that detract from its outcome.
Project management looks at every output through the outcome lens. If the output doesn’t support the outcome, it doesn’t belong on the project’s task list. Effective project management identifies outputs and assigns priorities to all deliverables to ensure that the critical outputs are not lost as the project evolves.
Stay on Budget
Budget overruns do not have to be the norm when it comes to projects. Statistically, 85% of all projects experience some form of overrun. One of the top reasons a project goes over budget is an inexperienced project leader. Managers trained in project management know to expect the unexpected and include contingency dollars for unplanned events.
In fact, poor planning contributes to most budget overruns. Effective project management means examining every phase of a project to determine realistic costs. Underestimating project costs may result in overruns, but it can also produce poor-quality outputs. To stay within budget, projects may use lower-quality materials. In the case of the website, less robust methods may be applied, resulting in poor site performance.
Remain on Schedule
There is one element that projects cannot control, and that is time. It marches on at the same speed day in and day out. Although projects can adjust resources to maximize time, they cannot change a project’s initial deadline. Projects fail to meet project schedules for a myriad of reasons. Some are beyond a project’s control, such as natural disasters, unexpected disruptions, and economic factors. However, many projects fail to deliver on time because they were not well-planned and did not manage resources effectively.
Effective project management analyzes a project scope; then, it factors in contingencies to ensure projects are completed on time. For example, people become ill or have a personal emergency. Reduced labor means slower production unless plans are in place to compensate. The same applies to materials or other resources. Project management ensures that alternative supply chains are available if delivery delays occur.
Before starting your next project, contact us to discuss how our experienced project management team can help realize your outcome while remaining on budget and on schedule.