Continuously increasing profits is one of the key objectives of any business. While many might turn to increasing marketing expenditure or pushing sales to make this happen, the successful business will be the one that focuses on employing effective organisation-wide project management techniques to achieve this objective. Having a clear connection between overall strategy and day-to-day operations within clearly defined project plans will ensure time is not wasted, budgets are not exceeded, and quality is delivered - all of which will contribute to a rewarding bottom-line for any business.
The Project Quality Triangle, which includes scope, quality and time, is the cornerstone to any successful project plan. Striking a balance between these three key components is essential in order to properly establish project management techniques in a business.
As a project progresses, it is likely to become more clearly defined i.e. the parties involved will start to develop a better understanding of what is actually required of them and what they can deliver (instead of what was ideally proposed at conception of the project). This means that the project's scope is likely to increase. As such, project management involves anticipating the scope of a project and then being able to stay within its boundaries. In any project plan, room needs to be made for both the desired outcomes and the possible outcomes. It is equally important to bear in mind that although the quality of the outcomes should never be compromised, there may be times when it is necessary to constrain the reach of the project including the amount of resources that can be used and how long it will take to finish. Provision should be made for these things when defining the expected scope of a project.
Where a project is limited by budget, the project manager needs to find a way to ensure that the work is done as efficiently as possible. This usually involves carrying out cost estimation beforehand and being able to clearly identify how big (scope) - and therefore how costly - the project will be. Relying on a fixed price before a project begins can present difficulties at a later stage, which is why most project managers often have to work with what they have at the time. It is therefore important to be able to draw from past experiences when forecasting how much a project is likely to cost.
Time is money. Ensuring a project does not exceed deadline is an important outcome of effective project management. One technique that can be used is contingency time planning. With knowledge of the scope of the project, and a good understanding of the workings of the organisation (including concurrent projects), the project manager will be able to determine how much time can realistically be allocated. Furthermore, to avoid having to ask for extensions and inadvertently having to pay more money, the project manager has to make efficient use of available resources by ensuring that the most competent and most productive workers are hired as part of the project team. Sub-dividing a project into key phases and assigning different aspects to reliable resources is one effective technique to keeping a project on track.
To learn more about effective project management techniques, consider the online University of Cape Town Advanced Project Management short course