Now that your project is well scoped (in part 1), and you can define success, it’s time to consider cost efficiency and the timing for major expenses. It’s important to remember that shaping quality at the beginning of a project is cheaper than switching approaches when the initiative is half way through. If you can create the “right product” the first time you can expect better profitability right away. Define your approach and the key steps in the process. You can then continue to refine the design and functionality over time. Project management helps the team move forward on a critical path, defining a project up front that is capable of producing results.
A project creates something that is different from other products or services. The first step to creating high performance in “first time production” is to define the boundaries of the project in terms of what the product will and will not include and what the team will or will not do. This will make it easier for the team to create a high quality product that will be well accepted on a global scale, and keep project costs in check.
After you have defined the boundaries you can use the following strategies to define the work with a clear view of project success and better “end product” definition:
- Define the End Product: Describe key requirements of your product and align those requirements with the company’s strategy to increase revenue or stakeholder approval.
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): Create definitions for work packages, tasks, interim deliverables and dependencies. Putting tasks in the proper sequence will help manage project resources for the duration of product creation.
- Define “Start Gate”/Project Milestones: Create short-term goals in the creation process as benchmarks for long-term development. Complete one, move to the next. You cannot plan your work without proper definitions, or estimate resources without a defined approach and specific tasks.
- Examine Parallel Work Streams: Compare your general work plan to any constraints that company management puts on the project. This will help you to shorten the amount of time it takes to complete product creation, and stay within resource boundaries. The critical path of work is the sequence of important tasks that can’t delay.
- Manage Your Project: Outline possible hang ups and plan for what could go wrong. Take into consideration: Risk, Communication, Human Resources, Quality, and Financial Management (cash, financing). Review the attainability of the overall plan with those resources. Discuss any discrepancies with management and make adjustments.
- Integrate the Product Development Plan: Combine WBS and Project Management tasks to create the Scope of your project. Once you have integrated the plan, create a manageable way of tracking progress.
- Use Months/Years, not Dates: To define how long the project will take, use task duration (effort hours) instead of calendar dates. Don’t add calendar dates until you have an established Start Date for product creation and know the team’s work cycles and can insert company holidays. If some tasks require reviews, add review time into the schedule.
- Remove Individual Worker Level (IWL) Details: Create a team member’s Task Budget by making her/him aware of a task’s estimated time and cost and the expected result without putting specific constraints. This allows for individual work styles to flourish within a project’s Scope.
- Assign Generic Resources to Task: Add hiring tasks early. Allow time to train. Make sure each team member has resources at his/her disposal.
- Arrange Purchases: What is your strategy for procurement of equipment and methods of contract management? It could take time to get necessary capabilities on board. You may be asked to follow set procedures or use pre-qualified vendors.
- Continue Market Research: Keep yourself updated about your team members availability and about the countries where you expect to launch your product. Figures and facts change. Staying updated provides specifics if changes are needed.
- Keep Management Informed: As you plan your project in detail, inform key sponsors and managers how things are progressing, and keep expectations realistic. Projects take more time to do things, since they have not been done before. People in operations jobs will expect you to take no longer than they would take to get a product out. They don’t allow time for issues or surprises.
Engaging your project team in addressing these key points can help you create a high-quality project and better define your product’s requirements. Congratulations! You are now on the verge of creating a product that can be launched on a global scale for your company.
TIP: Defining your end product, your project approach, and your management strategy can help to shape quality as you move forward with the project planning process.
In Part 3, we will look at risk management for our product development project.