Proactively assess project health to avoid surprises
The project you sponsor seemed to be in good shape. At all the steering committee meetings the scope, schedule, and budget were reported as “green.” Issues and risks were under control. And then, with the go-live date approaching, the story shifts dramatically. Now there isn’t enough time or money left to achieve the original plan. Issues are piling up. You are left wondering; how could this have happened?
Even if you don’t fear such a dramatic change in project status, you should be assured that your projects are well-run and on track to deliver value and that opportunities for improvement are not overlooked. Enter the Project Health Check.
Trust but verify
A health check is an analysis of an active project, comparing it against proven methodologies and extensive delivery experience to highlight where things are going well and to develop actionable recommendations for areas requiring improvement. Reviewing project documentation and interviewing project team members are the primary methods of triangulating the “project truths” that feed into the analysis.
Independence is required
Independence doesn’t mandate help from outside your organization. It means that the individual or team conducting the health check cannot be involved in the active project. While consultants are an option, perhaps there are senior project managers in a different part of your organization who can report findings directly to you. The team members you select need to be impartial and they need to have experience delivering projects of similar scope and complexity upon which to base their recommendations.
You want a plan, not a report card
Knowing that some project elements are on the “honour roll” while others are failing doesn’t address the key question of “So what?” Expect the team performing the health check to turn findings into recommendations and then prioritize those recommendations into an actionable plan – What should you do immediately? What actions are next in priority?
Don’t wait until the end
Health checks should be performed at key decision points throughout a project, particularly for large initiatives. It is much better to uncover issues at the end of the planning phase than to find them half-way through the build when the cost of potential rework will be far more significant.
Just like software projects always require quality assurance of the solution to ensure that it meets requirements and works as intended, health checks of project delivery provide sponsors with assurances that the investment they are making will deliver the benefits they are expecting. Without such assurance, bad surprises may be waiting to happen.
If you find yourself in a “project rescue” situation, check out Rescuing a Troubled Project: Where to Start?