Process/toolset risks within the project cycle

Process/toolset risks within the project cycle

In my last insight I reflected on how an organisation’s management of projects can increase risks. A second area where an organisation often introduces risk is the use of different processes and/or toolsets in different phases of a project. Both result in the “saw tooth” risk profile in the diagram.

This can be further exacerbated when some project management functions are undertaken by external consultants. For example in the risk management space:

  • Risk identification workshops using a facilitator’s own processes/toolsets. How is such a diverse approach going to help with consistency and ongoing management?
  • Estimators who develop an estimate and provide this in a pdf report. How can such reports help with the ongoing management of risks or contingency? At best they will require double entry into a different management system and at worst will be ignored by downstream managers who will do their own thing/start again.
  • Estimators who independently provide an assessment of contingency. As with risk identification – values need to be assessed in a workshop if they are to be reliable.

Unfortunately, the above are only examples – there are many more. The only consistent aspect is that they waste people’s time. The upside is that process and toolset risks can be completely eliminated by management.

What management (particularly PMOs) need to do is ensure that whatever processes and toolsets are used they:

  • Are appropriate for any project type
  • Enable data to be easily updated/amended so that as new information is available risk data is kept current.
  • Enable contingency to be easily assessed and updated (by the project management team).
  • Enable governance to be readily undertaken (gatekeeping during planning and forecasting v plan reporting during implementation).

Similarly, external resources (eg workshop facilitators, or external estimators) should be required to use the same process and toolsets so that the organisation really derives the benefits and time savings of an integrated approach.

So where to start? A first step to appreciating the extent of waste is to identify what is currently produced during planning and asking those downstream whether it makes their life easier. Be prepared for some interesting (confronting!) discussions. Follow this with some research as to what processes/toolsets are available. Pilot these and obtain feedback/buy in from project management teams over the whole cycle prior to making an organisation wide commitment.

Rest assured the time and cost savings (not to mention the elimination of process/toolset risk) will easily exceed the effort.

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