As reports indicate, there is a need of skilled project management professionals in various industries e.g. refer PMI® report that has predicted nearly 15.7 million NEW project management professionals will be needed by project intensive industries by 2020. As new generation of project managers will take up project management positions, lead projects there are things they need to understand, be aware of.
Of course there are going to be new initiatives, new business opportunities and new projects. Sometimes there will be existing projects need to be take over. Let me share set of questions that practicing project managers should ask while taking up new projects or before leading existing/newer projects.
Call it a checklist of pre-cursory assessment for you as a project manager but you need to ask certain questions right in the beginning and have clear answers for those questions. If you are a project manager, I do not have to emphasize the importance of clarity of expectations, clarity of communication to you.
Where are we in terms of delivering project? And what are we doing with this project?
First step is to understand where does a project stand in terms of delivery. Was it on back-burner or currently in firefighting mode? One also needs to understand what steps have been taken to meet project delivery timeline, cost and quality expectations.
Whom this project is going to help and how?
It is equally important to understand the final beneficiary of the project who is going to benefit from delivery of this project and how much useful it is going to be for them. The focus and sense of bringing delight to end user always prove advantageous for any organization. Knowing end customer and its expectations should remove any gap in understanding or final surprises.
Who are the most important stakeholders for this project - sponsor, end user and influencer?
You also need to know. e.g. Who are the king-makers for this project? Who are going to decide the fate of this project. Has it happened in the past that, even after successful delivery of the project, project sponsors or some senior management has ruled-out deployment/actual usage of the project deliverable? Knowing important stakeholders and understanding their expectations, objections will help project become successful in real sense. And this is really a long-term view to retain, grow business with given customer.
Project sponsor, end user - have they all agreed to project charter, project schedule and deliverable?
As you start looking at project deliverable, one question you should certainly ask yourself and seek answer for is have they all agreed to project charter, project schedule and deliverable? Is there any point of contention or potential disagreement?
You will notice, if there is anything that is not-agreed and yet being expected - you can tactfully convince management and/or sponsor to bring it to agreement or at least make things clear to everyone. Not everyone will like it (that you are revisiting something that was kind-of-agreed in the past and now-raising-objections) but having such clarity always help for both organizations.
Is current project schedule realistic, has it taken into account buffer, possible risks?
Once you have looked at deliverable, you should get a sense of timeline, quality, required resources for the project - and you should be able to assess whether the project delivery schedule is realistic or over-optimistic. Project manager should be able to figure out - what were assumptions made, was enough buffer considered while preparing project delivery timeline and expected quality. A good project manager also keep a tab on risks profile of the project, enlist and review risks highlighted for a given project. For a good project manager, risk management is integral part of project management.
How much leeway or flexibility do I have to change project schedule, resources and budget?
As a project manager get a sense of realistic nature of project delivery timeline, and if project manager’s assessment is - project timeline might need to be tweaked, changed (in smaller way or considerable manner); the question he needs to ask is ‘How much flexibility do I have to change project timeline or resources?’ There may be nothing wrong if project manager would like to manage project in his own way, as long as delivery objectives are met. But if you do not have enough flexibility in such matter, you will have to highlight the same to senior manager about potential problems.
How project team was/is being set up? What skills/Roles do we need? Do we have required skilled people?
Part of the project onboarding/review process should also tell you the team composition. Ideally every project manager likes to have right team composition (I am not using word Perfect Team) for him/her but what a project manager needs to figure out is - what resource skillset and resource roles are required to deliver a given projects and do we have such resources in team.
Do we have star performance and average performers in team?
In my experience, in order project to succeed well, deliver more than expectations - project manager and his/her team makes lot of difference. With a team consisting few star performances and above average performances - provides higher chances of successful delivery. The cohesiveness and going-extra-miles attitude drives ‘Good-To-Great’ difference.
How much important this project is for management, will management support if needed?
Management focus is the background factor that plays vital role. How much priority/importance a given project holds for senior management decides its lifecycle/fate. If management considers given project to be important, it will provide all needed focus, support to make it happen; if not, you may have to struggle to make it success despite little/no management support.
How is project communication happening? Do we use technological platform - like project management software?
The crucial factor in project management is project communication. If you are taking-over this project, you need to know how project timeline, deliverables, expectations are communicated to team. Does your organization or client uses right technological platforms like project management software to manage project timeline, project communication, project resources, project issues, project risks, project financials, etc.
It is important for you to ask RIGHT questions. It is really important to ask these questions RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING. Unless you ask questions, you will not know what is in store for you and you will keep struggling when you will come across surprises. Project Management is definitely about taking a well-defined/clear approach to identify, plan, track and manage deliverable; bringing predictability in your delivery process.