Projects come in all shapes and sizes, and being able identify when something that you are working on is actually a project is extremely important. Far too frequently projects have failed due to the fact that when they started, they were not viewed as projects. It could be an individual or a small group in the process of creating a mini-application or ‘prototype’ that then gains attention or traction from management. There is a strong temptation in this case to continue to build off what has already been created, as going back is seen as a waste of time. This is very dangerous. Planning is vital, and generally individuals do not properly plan out their own test cases. Much of the existing development could potentially be reused, but only if it is deemed in the long-term interest of the project’s success.
This method of development is sometimes seen as organic, as though it has grown dynamically out of the business, a beacon of innovation and foresight. It is true that it can foster innovation, but these initiatives can quickly turn into research projects if not properly controlled. A strict set of requirements, deadlines and scope need to be identified to ensure that what is being developed is in fact what the business actually needs.
So how do we know whether a small initiative is going to grow into a full-blown project? I would suggest that the key aspects of what you are working on are closely monitored. Below I have outlined some key areas to be aware of.
Budget: If a significant percentage of your budget is being used on a particular task, then it could be elevated to project status. Also if you foresee an increase in capital expenditure, then this will need to be managed.
Time: Are you using up an ever-increasing amount of people’s time? This is very similar to budget, as budget can often be measured in FTE. Remember that the least number of people you need to run a project is two, as one person should be directing, while the other manages the delivery of the project. One person can never properly manage/direct himself effectively.
Impact: Does this task require input from other departments? If so, then you will most likely need buy-in from senior management to drive the initiative transversally across different departments. This will require investment in ‘political capital’ to ensure success of the initiative.
Risk: If at any point you feel that what you are working on now involves an elevated level of risk that requires some form of management. Ask yourself, if we were to stop this task, would it affect our day-to-day operations?
Prepared by M. E.