It all starts with expectations
Project success depends on meeting the expectations of those involved. This simple sentence raises several underlying questions: Who will be affected by the project? What are their true expectations? Can we meet these expectations? What are the risks of not getting it right or the opportunities to improve other elements that add value to the project?
It’s all about identifying and understanding stakeholder expectations and being able to meet them.
Four key success factors
At project startup, it’s important to check who in the organization will be affected by the project. For example, when automating an assembly line, management and operators will be directly impacted, as will many other teams, like Human Resources, Finance, Sales, Procurement, consultants, maintenance, etc. The first success factor: identifying all stakeholders. Other stakeholders could also be added during the project, depending on how it evolves or any changes that are made. Stakeholders must be reconfirmed during the project.
The real expectations of each of these groups must be clearly identified and their feasibility confirmed. For unrealistic expectations, intermediate solutions must be suggested, and a proper understanding of expectations must be confirmed with stakeholders, where necessary. The second success factor: understanding stakeholder expectations.
Risks associated with not meeting these expectations and the opportunities to improve the product must also be identified. A mitigation or action plan will be developed for each of these risks or improvement opportunities. For example, if there is no budget contingency for the project, the plan could be to identify from the outset the parts of the project that are not required for deployment and postpone their implementation to free up contingencies in the initial project. On the other hand, project implementation could eventually lead to producing useful management reports, excluded from the initial project. The action plan for this improvement opportunity will be to list the data required for these reports, so they are available at the end of the project. The third success factor: establishing risks and opportunities and implementing their mitigation plan.
This must be a continuous process throughout the project. A stakeholder communication plan must be established to support this process: identify new stakeholders, understand expectations, confirm the probability of previously identified risks and improvement opportunities, target new risks, establish mitigation plans and execute them. The fourth success factor: implementing a communication plan.
This method is also a first step in the change management process: by involving stakeholders and managing their expectations, we promote the acceptability of change, thereby making it easier to integrate it into the organization.
Project success depends on whether stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome, even if the indicators are not all positive, as long as there are no issues for the stakeholders. Going back to the first example, if the initial budget was significantly exceeded by adding value to the project, without the stakeholders seeing it as an issue, then the project can be considered a success.