What are the keys to consistently successful project delivery for your institution?

The Gartner PPM and IT Governance Summit was held this week in London http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/emea/program-management/ 

Within hours of the event starting tweets were emerging with the latest research and models for project success. For example the Gartner model for the successful Enterprise Project Management Organisation – also at http://www.flickr.com/photos/27772229@N07/8725958414/in/photostream

Gartner Enterprise Project Management Organisation

As ever Gartner provide useful and thought provoking input. But how would these ideas work in your institution?

This got me thinking about keys for project success in our business. Have they been lost behind the metaphorical sofa of academic culture or are there some common ideas we can share?

At the University of Edinburgh we’ve been running our project management organisation for more than 10 years. Over those years not everything has worked but hopefully we’ve learned from our successes (and our failures) and matured a little bit along the way. Here are some of the key things we’ve learned on the journey:

Start small you won’t be able to do crack everything at once – we started with project initiation and definition – prior to that we only really had this (and even then in a very basic way) for our larger projects

Develop a common framework for your projects and project teams – we started with a very basic projects intranet available only to IT staff – and not project stakeholders! It was a start however and allowed us to develop processes for change and issue management, risk, project reporting etc. Today we have a projects web site which is the “gold copy” for all our project information at: https://www.projects.ed.ac.uk/

Measure project costs – both estimates and actuals for all your projects – we developed a project estimation process and introduced time recording for our IT staff very early on. This was challenging culturally but its hard now to imagine delivering projects without the management capabilities and information that this provides.

Don’t neglect your partner relationships – sadly I suspect that we did this. Our initial certainty about the correctness of the approach perhaps made us forget that projects are a people business and relationships matter. Better to avoid this trap than have to recover later.

Tackle project governance – trust goes a long way toward achieving good governance so an ongoing investment in partner relationships will pay off many times over. Ensure that:

  • project sponsors understand their responsibilities and are empowered to discharge these
  • projects teams are supported to deliver – use your more experienced staff in a quality assurance role as senior suppliers
  • you have representative and empowered project boards that meet regularly for all your major projects. An effective project board is a key part of the team and should have have an “access all areas” pass to project information
  • you remember the real end users i.e. the students and staff who will use the deliverables 
  • small projects are not neglected – develop basic quality assurance processes for all projects

Be resilient, remember why we are here, stick at it and enjoy the ride – As President harry S. Truman once said “it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”

Now your secrets may well be different so if you’d like to join the conversation please come along to the Project and Change Management Group at http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg.aspx

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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