Remarkably, many process improvement initiatives fail due to lack of direction. Often, this occurs when the various stakeholders do not agree on project objectives.
Projects lack specific goals when difficult compromises are necessary and project leaders delay painful discussions rather than tackling them up front. In the meantime, the project team may be pursuing too many features or neglecting important functionality. The further into the project time line that changes in project scope occur, the more drastic the impact to cost and schedule.
Successful project leaders facilitate agreement on objectives and success metrics early. To enable all parties to negotiate win-win solutions they do not hesitate to involve other managers that are skilled in conflict resolution.
It is critical that project success metrics are measurable. This will focus both stakeholders and project team members on key results throughout the planning and execution phases.
During the project definition phase, iron out which features and benefits will be included during early stages of the project. If necessary, offer additional features and benefits in phase 2, 3, etc..
If Department A wants a specific feature, but no other constituencies require it, is Department A willing to help underwrite a portion of the development costs? Presenting cost-benefit choices such as this to stakeholders will facilitate prioritization.
This is one of a series of posts on project management for finance professionals. The series features practical project management advice and tips for driving process change using technology. The series is archived here.