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Every project has an end, but where are you supposed to start? Project management has varying approaches and often takes on different styles, but the end game is always clear; deliver for your stakeholders.

On a project of any scale, leads often struggle finding a solid corner to start the puzzle. Whether your project is implementing a new CRM or moving your company from on premise to the cloud, these are five things you need to qualify before setting out.

Define Objectives

The absolute first thing that needs to be done before embarking on a successful project is to define what constitutes the project as a success. What do you need to accomplish? Go back to the Statement of Work and find each deliverable listed. The SOW should outline the project objectives, timeframe, scope, assumptions, resources, and anything else measurable about the project. This is your map.

While the SOW outlines the deliverables for the project completion, it is up to you to break these down into the objectives and scope that make up each deliverable. For example, if the objective is to build a customer-facing application, there’s quite a number of steps that go into that. Your team must develop strategy, code the core features, design the UI, craft the UX, fix bugs, and everything in-between before your app is ready to launch and deem the project a success. While the objective is to develop an app, these objectives make up your scope. Clearly listing these will not only help you understand what needs to be done and what ideas need to be expanded upon, but it will also help you develop a clear timeline, which helps your team stay structured and focused. Without defining your objectives it’s easy for important deliverables to fall through the cracks or be forgotten, they let your team know what is expected from everyone and holds team members accountable.

Research and Due Diligence

Due diligence is defined as “reasonable steps taken by a person in order to satisfy a legal requirement;” in other words, cover your bases. Research and understand exactly what requirements your team needs to meet and what they need to avoid to keep your project above board and in compliance.

Additional research may be a good idea when it comes to market opportunities and challenges, what gaps need to be filled and where market share space is scarce. These questions could include (but certainly not limited to):

  1. What are current market trends?
  2. Who is our target audience?
  3. What is your competition doing?
  4. How can you differentiate yourself from your competition?
  5. Is there a challenge your target audience is facing?

You could certainly complete a project without such research, but would it have the same impact? Why build an app when there are already a dozen that solve the exact same problems? You could complete a project and be satisfied, but answering these questions takes your design from good to great. These questions should result in your research team having a report on challenges and how to resolve them.

Plan of Action

Now that you have your objectives and challenges clearly defined, it’s time to create a plan of action. This includes putting together a timeline for each deliverable, finalizing your budget and resource allocation, and of course, identifying your team and their responsibilities.

Having a clearly defined timeline is critical for any project. Not only does it provide your stakeholders with expectations, but it also helps keep your team structured and focused. Estimate how much time is needed to complete each step of your deliverables. It’s also important to set frequent milestones and it is advised to use Agile or Waterfall methodologies to track progress and updates. These project management methodologies are useful to prioritize your team’s task list, anticipate upcoming changes, and make quick fixes based on stakeholder feedback.

The importance of a budget can’t be overstated. The end goal for your project should be to come in at or under budget. Not only is this important to your stakeholders, but it is crucial for your team’s operations. Knowing exactly where you stand in terms of money and resources are a must for any team, without it, there is no project.

Finally, make sure your project team is properly equipped with the right skills and chemistry for success.

Building Your Team

It was mentioned while putting together the plan of action, but building the right team is just as important as anything on this list. You can define perfect objectives, do all of the due diligence possible, and write an immaculate plan of action, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t have the right team.

While the hiring process varies from agency to agency, it almost always comes down to two options: hiring through your HR department, or hiring through outside vendors and using contractors. That’s where consulting firms come into the picture. Consulting firms have established relationships with vetted IT talent. These existing relationships allow firms to know what motivates consultants, what they struggle with, and where they excel, so they know exactly who makes sense for you and your project.

Not only are you getting to speak with the best people, but you cut time down from your interview/hiring process. Instead of looking at 100 resumes for 3 positions, let a consulting firm send you their 10 best consultants. Not only do you see qualified resumes faster, but you know you’re looking at the best talent available. Consulting firms are often critical when it comes to building your team on a budget and timeline.

Contingency Plan

A contingency plan is important. Nobody ever expects their plan A to run into trouble, but life happens, things go wrong. That’s why you think ahead and put together a contingency plan. As James Yorke said, “The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.”

A contingency plan is often used for risk management for events that while they might not happen, would be devastating to the project if they did. A contingency plan would include a plan of action in the case of emergencies such as natural disasters, a server being hacked, a lockdown etc. Having a backup plan in place ensures that your team can return to production as soon as possible. This is why you invest time and effort into developing one. Pray you never have to use it, but sleep well knowing it’s there if need be.

In conclusion, a lot goes into a successful project. So simplify it. Define your objectives, compile research and do your due diligence, build your best team, and take your contingency plan seriously. Easier said than done, we know, but in terms of embarking on a project consider this your roadmap.

About Alderson Loop

Alderson Loop delivers technology and marketing/creative consulting and staff augmentation services. Leveraging similar strategies and best practices from commercial work and customizing it for Government clients, the team is experienced in and prepared to work on technology and creative projects at any scale. Agencies Alderson Loop has supported include CMS, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, HHS, the Maryland Department of Health, and the State of Maryland.

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