I am often asked, “What is a project? Why is project management important?” The short answer is more profit and fewer headaches.
Imagine that the MoonTrust Company conducted a monthly survey with its customers. The satisfaction rate on customer service had declined over the past year and hit an all time low leading to decreased sales. Senior management has decided to implement a new centralized customer service center (CSC).
Furthermore, let’s imagine two different approaches: one approach for Bill and another for Susan.
Bill is a long-term employee that does not like a disciplined, organized team approach. He gives individuals their marching orders and expects a prompt response. Bill thinks project management is a waste of time. He says, “We don’t need a lot of planning; just make it happen! If we make mistakes, we will correct them along the way.”
Susan takes a decidedly different approach, one that involves cross-functional teamwork, planning, greater communication, and management of risks. Susan collaborates with her team to develop the project plans. Everyone understands their tasks, how their tasks relates to other members’ tasks, and which tasks are critical.
Susan’s team meets at least weekly to discuss progress and to support the team. Susan tracks her project success rate and continually seeks to improve her team’s ability to complete projects faster, better, and cheaper.
Either approach can deliver a new CSC. But which will deliver the CSC in the shortest timeframe, with the highest quality, and the least amount of cost? I’m betting on Susan.
Let’s define the words “temporary” and “unique.”
Projects are temporary; they do not go on for an eternity. Projects have a beginning and an end. In contrast, teams perform operational tasks on a daily basis. Team members scan documents, handle customer calls, and pay invoices. Operational tasks never end.
Another important attribute of projects is they produce something that is unique. The output may be a unique:
Now, let’s define the terms of product, service, and result.
The output of a project may be a product, something that is tangible. Here are some project product examples:
Some projects involve modifying something that already exists. For example, a project team may modify an existing accounts receivable software package. Or a project team may modify or add to an existing building.
What about activities that occur ever year? Can they be considered a project? Yes.
For example, a company may have an annual awards recognition program. Year to year, the program may be similar and yet there are some unique attributes, thus qualifying each year’s awards program as a separate project.
In another example, CPA firms conduct annual audits. The auditors perform similar steps, but the audit will have unique attributes such as:
A service is intangible. Services include items such as customer service, claims service, utility service, audits, and employee assistance programs, to name a few. How can project management be used to develop and implement a service?
The opening illustration is an example. The company wanted to develop and implement a centralized customer service center (CSC). The tasks for this project might include:
A result may be an outcome or document. The CSC Manager may be concerned with employee turnover and wish to document all the business processes. The CSC trainer could use the business process document for training new employees, resulting in a more uniform experience for customers.
How do companies start the journey towards adopting project management? I suggest the following:
Question: In your experience, why do organizations fail to adopt project management?