What Does Successful Project Delivery Look Like?
Professional services success is measured by a number of factors in addition to just the bottom line. On time completion date, higher close rates, customer satisfaction and improved profitability are all performance indicators that fuel growth. Each project completed broadens a team’s skill set and an organization’s capabilities. Each lesson learned helps produce more accurate and competitive proposals in the future. Each happy client validates the value in the service being offered.
While there are various metrics that guide a professional services organization, successful project delivery should be the primary goal for your team. Read on as we explain why delivery is most important and discuss practical steps to ensure delivery success.
Project Delivery Success Begins With Sales
Project delivery success comes from a combination of the right talent, right projects, and the right measures. The best projects are the ones that can balance utilization, profitability and other key metrics – powering client relationships and driving organizational growth.
While most services organizations have a dedicated project delivery team, the start of a successful project is actually rooted in the sales organization. Sales reps with reliable and real-time visibility into historical project data can easily define clear goals, in turn drafting proposals that win business. Reps should be equipped with confidence around resource availability upfront, and a clear understanding of where in the project they can trim some fat in order to win the deal. A well-oiled sales process, complete with accurate project estimates, gives the delivery team a better shot at starting the project off on the right foot. The goals are then shifted to a delivery lifecycle that meets the time, budget and scope expectations set by sales.
Establish Project Management Delivery Goals
To complete projects that satisfy both customers and the business, it’s important to establish and communicate your goals upfront. Clearly specified and closely aligned goals and objectives create a vision for the project that everyone can adopt. A north star goal that all services teams should chase is for projects to be completed at high quality, on budget, on time — every time.
Delivering project-based services that exceed client expectations is complex, demanding, and high stakes. Projects often change course mid-stream and unforeseen challenges go unnoticed. For this reason, delivery goals should be fluid, empowering team members to speak up if goals need to be adjusted. As Projector’s VP of Product insists in his piece on collaboration in project delivery, an agile attitude is what will ultimately drive delivery success. Teams that aim for progress over perfection will feel confident in seeking opportunities for steady improvement throughout the project delivery lifecycle.
Clear goals communicate the importance of the project to the larger organization and will help with project portfolio management and resource prioritization. Syncing individual project goals with company strategy is key to building scalable project delivery.
Carefully Manage Your Project Delivery Plan and Scope
According to A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), produced by the Project Management Institute (PMI), “Project scope is the work required to output a project’s deliverable.” An optimized, thoughtfully developed scope can be the difference between a successful project and one that flops. Scope creep, which occurs when project changes aren’t carefully managed, can quickly derail a project. Tasks should be delegated as efficiently as possible, and formal scope statement will help managers ensure that their team is staying on track with the boundaries of a project. A scope statement is the cornerstone for project managers. It lists out the goals, deliverables, milestones, tasks, key requirements, deadlines, and costs for a project.
While a project scope lays the foundation for successful delivery, it’s crucial to develop a project delivery plan to identify and address any signs of scope creep. The interdependencies between different factors within a project scope are bigger than meets the eye. As project dependencies and scope creep interfere, ramifications between project cost management and resource tracking can become an issue. Getting ahead of these interdependencies is what will drive success in a project
Predictive Analytics and Budgeting for Project Delivery
Most PSOs have some method of forecasting their work, but visibility and accuracy typically decline further ahead into the future. Predictive analytics enable organizations to monitor their forecasts in tandem with their historical performance, analyze variance and variation, and refine predictions on a consistent basis. This means leaders can understand in advance if they have the teams and capabilities required to take on another project, or if their pipeline is oversold. Better planning leads to better project management delivery and a more satisfying customer experience.
Project management forecasting software provides the ability to reduce project-based uncertainties. This insight provides managers with the ability to better manage their budget and project plan, and helps them to align their work with the overall performance goals of the organization. Project profitability software empowers services teams to leverage predictive analytics to calculate a budget’s estimate-at-completion, in addition to actuals-to-date. These early indicators for project performance inform project cost estimation and budgeting for the remainder of the client contract. As a result, services teams have an improved ability to impact the success of present and future projects. Project managers have the ability to predict the final outcome of a project by forecasting workstream and resourcing needs along with the foreseeable incurred costs. An on-time, under-budget project leads to happy clients.
To succeed in professional services, the bottom line is you have to have to know how to deliver profitable projects. Check out our blog post on the topic to learn how you can get a grip on project profitability.
Select a PSA Tool to Unlock Project Delivery Success
Every project manager has faced the challenge of balancing competing priorities. The many details and tasks of integrated project delivery methods are correlated, so if one aspect of a project starts to slip off-track, a domino effect can happen – and it doesn’t take long for it to get ugly. Organizations with real-time visibility can get ahead of issues before project managers are put in the difficult position of having to cut corners in order to save a project.
Technology leaders agree that lightweight point solutions can’t meet the needs of professional services organizations, especially since organizations need to adapt to sudden spikes in project volume, shifting project priorities, and substantial communications with multiple internal and external parties. A simple conversational and/or project tracking platform will not adequately equip teams to navigate the nuances of complex, time-sensitive deliverables.
Organizations that use PSA software are able to identify these problem areas in projects quickly. They are able to use this service management software to determine the best action to correct a project’s course. Project schedule issues may be solved by bringing in more senior talent, or budget concerns may result in swapping in less costly resources. Regardless of a project manager’s objective, professional services automation solutions will provide a realistic view into the organization’s resource pool. Managers will be able to determine if the proper resource is available within the organization and, more importantly, if pulling them onto a new project will adversely affect other existing work. Understanding where talent shortages exist and how to best leverage their current resource mix is one of the strongest advantages well-run professional service organizations hold.
Combined with the visibility and control that PSA solutions provide, services organizations are able to keep a watchful eye over their entire portfolio and ensure the success of their projects. Services organization that run their businesses with a professional services automation tool are able to achieve a higher level of project insight than those who do not. Project managers understand where each project stands in real-time and have a wealth of tools at their disposal to effect change.
Understand Project Delivery Risk Management
In PMI’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession Survey, 25% of respondents reported that ineffective risk management was the primary cause of failed projects in their organization over the past 12 months. Yes, the mundane administrative effort to keep track of actions, issues, and risks can be a headache. However, contingency planning at the beginning of a project (or even before a project is pitched to a prospect) can save your organization a lot of time in the long run.
Because services projects are inherently people-centric, risk management is uniquely nuanced for PSOs. As a result, it is even more important for project managers of services teams to incorporate contingency planning into their project delivery strategy, understanding that unexpected challenges can (and will) always occur on the road to project delivery.
Ask yourself, what are the potential risks, and how will you deal with them if they occur? Transparency is important, as you’ll want to surface problems early and often while your project is underway.
Keep Your Project Management Delivery KPIs in Check
Management guru Peter Drucker coined the term, “what’s measured is managed.” The devil is in the details, and this rings even truer for project delivery. Your team may have data to tell you how your project is performing at a given time, but are you keeping track of how your personnel are performing (or more importantly, feeling)? Luckily, there are metrics that services organizations can use to fill in the knowledge gaps. KPIs for services organizations should data-driven, straightforward, and easily measurable. A few examples include:
- NPS: The percentage of customers rating their likelihood to recommend a company, a product, or a service to a friend or colleague.
- Planned Value (PV): The authorized budget assigned to work to be accomplished for an activity.
- Earned value (EV): The value of work performed expressed in terms of the approved budget assigned to that work for an activity
- Resource Utilization: A measure, expressed as a percentage, of how much of a project team or individual team member’s time is booked for work or actually spent working
- Project Gross Profit Margin: The percentage of every dollar earned left over after subtracting project cost
Keep a close watch over these project delivery KPIs. You’ll have an easier time monitoring the holistic success of your business – from individual projects to the health and happiness of your most valuable asset: your people.
Define a Philosophy for Your Organization’s Project Delivery
It is a combination of quality work, timely delivery and satisfied clients that defines project success. Projector’s CEO, Denis Whelan, recently interviewed Jim Hennessy, CEO of e4 Services, for our Services Leadership Corner series. When asked what metric matters most for his organization, Hennessy said it best:
Our team at Projector couldn’t agree more. We recommend establishing a high-level set of guiding principles to serve as a roadmap for successful project management delivery. Our own guiding principles are as follows: simplify the complex, automate responsibly, deliver a unified truth, and integrate openly.
In order to achieve great project delivery, you need to operate within the framework of your organization’s delivery philosophy and overarching goals. And guess what? Establishing shared autonomy with a set of guiding principles is a win-win, ultimately leading to improved performance – both individually and for your business as a whole.