February 7, 2013

How To Deliver Your Project On Time and Within Budget

Post by: Brian Laehn

Brian Laehn is a Business Architect at Core BTS and has 20+ years of experience as a Senior Business Analyst, Scrum Manager, Project Manager and Agile Team Lead.

(Updated 10/20/17)

Approximately two-thirds of all projects fail to meet their objectives, are not delivered on time, or cost more money than the budget planned for. The goal of every successful Project Manager (PM) and project team is to deliver the project on time and within the allocated budget. I recently led a project team as both the PM and Business Analyst (BA) and our team focused on what we needed to do to be in the one-third of all projects that met the business objectives and delivered on time and within budget.

5 Project Success Factors

As I reflect on the success of our project, I determined that there were five project success factors that should be applied to any project that will increase the chances of delivering it on time and within budget. This blog post will discuss each of these five project success factors, and I will give a specific example of how we applied those success factors to our project which helped us to deliver the project on time and within budget.

Success Factor #1: Insist on Excellent Communication Among All Project Team Stakeholders

The PM must make sure there is frequent and open communication among all project stakeholders. All stakeholders should be informed of the project schedule and be aware of when tasks need to be completed to meet the project implementation date. All too often project team members do not realize how many hours or what sort of budget is allocated to their projects. If team members do not realize this, then how can they be held accountable to get everything done in the allocated time and budget? The PM must encourage all stakeholders to be accountable for communicating well with each other and completing the project tasks within the budget and allocated project hours. The BA also must communicate well and become the bridge between IT and the business to ensure that all requirements are documented and validated.

How we applied Success Factor #1 to our project

As the PM, I made sure that all stakeholders were aware of the project timeline and the number of hours allocated that would keep us within the budget. I also played the role of BA on this project, and I was the communication bridge between the business and IT. 

I met with the business as well as the software developers, and everyone was made aware of the project plan and how long each task was estimated to take. All project team members were on the same page with the project plan and assumed responsibility for their roles on the project. I find that when the project team members know the timeline goals and budget we have to work with, they make sure to do everything they can to communicate and complete the project on time and within budget.

Success Factor #2: Elicit, Analyze, Represent, and Validate Excellent Requirements Frequently with Stakeholders

 A successful project starts with gathering quality, clear, concise, consistent, and unambiguous business requirements. The project team’s BA must elicit, analyze, and represent excellent requirements. If you clearly define what is needed up front, you will have less rework later, and it will allow your project to be completed in a cost effective manner and delivered on time. The BA must meet with the project team and stakeholders and validate the requirements and obtain sign off on them. The stakeholders should be involved with validating requirements frequently through the project lifecycle.

How we applied Success Factor #2 to our project

I played a dual PM and BA role on this project so one of my main tasks was meeting with all stakeholders to elicit the requirements through several sessions. After I analyzed the requirements and documented them in a formal requirements document, I validated the requirements through meetings with stakeholders and obtained their sign off.

Success Factor #3: Manage the Defined Project Plan Tasks and Project Team on a Frequent Basis

The PM should define the project plan and divide up the project tasks to members of the team. The PM should meet frequently with every member of the team to make sure team members do not have any blockers getting in their way of completing their tasks. This technique allows for issues to be brought up, discussed, and addressed in a timely manner. It will keep your project going in the green and keep the team on task. Break the project plan down into smaller more manageable tasks, and set small milestone goals. When you hit the milestones, it shows progress being made towards the end goal of the completed project.

By delegating tasks and responsibilities to all members of the project team and following up as to the status of these tasks on a frequent basis, you will catch the important issues sooner in the project. The longer you wait to discover project issues, the longer it will take to fix those issues, and it could cause your project to be delivered late.

How we applied Success Factor #3 to our project

As PM I took the responsibility on a daily basis to make sure our project was operating smoothly and that all issues discovered were addressed in a timely manner. One technique I have found that works well is to quickly touch base, even for five minutes, with all project team members. I encourage the frequent involvement of team members to communicate issues as they arise, to come up with a plan to solve the issue, and to resolve it in a timely manner. During our project we discovered several issues that would have turned into larger issues if we didn’t deal with them when they arose. Touching base with the project team on a daily basis encourages excellent communication and a team environment of being proactive in solving problems early instead of fixing problems later in the project cycle.

By managing the project plan tasks on a daily basis, I was also aware of what tasks were being completed early, which ones were more difficult and taking longer to finish, and I made sure that team members always had something to work on. Team members helped each other out when needed to finish tasks in a timely manner that allowed us to deliver the project on time and within budget.

Success Factor #4: Perform Disciplined Change Management

The scope of the project must be well-defined and managed by the PM. A great PM must be proactive and address issues as they arise during the requirements gathering and also encourage the team to bring up and discuss issues when they arise and implement a plan to resolve them quickly. Make sure to only promise to deliver what is needed and don’t gold plate the system with changes or features out of the project scope. Performing disciplined change management helps to complete a project on time and within budget.

How we applied Success Factor #4 to our project

As the PM I created the project plan after we had identified all tasks that needed to be completed to deliver our project. Our team had excellent communication and we identified issues as they came up and quickly resolved them. We were careful to not add to the scope of the project, and at times we had to meet with the business to push back on requests to add new features after we identified what we agreed to deliver during the project. The project team managed the changes that came up and made sure to handle them in a way that would not affect the timeline or budget.

Success Factor #5: Define a Structured Testing and Defect Fix Plan

A thorough test plan should be created that will validate all the requirements. The testing team needs to be made aware of the process of what needs to be done when they encounter a defect during testing. The defects need to be fixed and retested in a timely manner. The PM should have a meeting with all stakeholders involved in testing and everyone should be aware of when their testing needs to be completed. Developers need to have time reserved to assist with fixing the defects. A central location should be used to log the issues and to close out issues when they are resolved. All tests should be set up so that they either pass or fail. Testing should be thought of and planned for early on in the project and all stakeholders should be aware of when they will need to assist with the testing.

How we applied Success Factor #5 to our project

I decided to create the test plan along with help of one of the project team members that had some experience with creating test plans. We defined a structured test plan with tests that would have to either pass or fail. We set up meetings with the stakeholders, and they were made aware of the timeframe that testing would occur well in advance to when testing began. We used SharePoint to create a defect issue list which helped to log and manage the defect fix process. We developed a plan for fixing the defects as they came up during testing. Overall, our testing was well managed, and we successfully were able to test and fix all defects discovered within the allocated testing time and budget.

You Can Deliver Your Next Project on Time and Within Budget

Every PM and project team is capable of delivering projects on time and within budget when they apply the 5 project success factors discussed in this blog post. Project managers should manage the communication among all project team stakeholders. BAs should elicit, analyze, represent, and validate all project requirements frequently with the stakeholders. The team should perform disciplined change management and define a structured testing and defect fix plan. Finally, the PM should manage the defined project plan tasks and project team on a frequent basis. Try applying these project success factors to your next project, and your project can also be in the one-third category of all projects that succeed and are delivered on time and within budget.

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