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Predicting Project Success – Art or Science?

The raw data around a project or programme of work can tell us a lot. Factual measures such as the hours worked, work units completed or earned value achieved give a measure of progress towards goals. What the raw data can't show, however, is how well or how easily the project delivery teams are working. Is the measured rate of progress being achieved in a sustainable fashion, or are your people working in “hero mode” – struggling against difficult circumstances or problems to deliver? A lot of research in the past few years has focused on reliable, repeatable methods and measures for predicting project success based on human and environmental factors. Key predictors of future performance include: Prevention of rework – rework, whether required because of defects or changes in specification, accounts for approximately 40% of project costs. The amount of rework required is an early indicator of whether or not the project is delivering the right outcomes at the right time. Clarity of Task Assignments – if the project team members don't have clear and specific assignments, together with the tools, skills and resources to deliver on them, the likelihood of project success drops dramatically Process adherence – if your organisations processes are not being followed this tells you that one of two things is occurring. If processes are simply not being followed, there is an increased risk that important steps will be missed, leading to failure or rework at some future point in time. However, a lack of adherence to process may also mean that the process itself is flawed and needs revision to better reflect the needs of the organisation. In either case, failure to have effective, repeatable processes in place make it much harder for team members to deliver on time, to specification and with measurable/demonstrable compliance with specifications and quality goals. Senior Management Commitment – commitment from senior managers and other stakeholders is an important indicator of project alignment to business needs and goals. If a project can't demonstrate committed support from stakeholders then questions need to be asked about the need for it at all. Effort and resources committed to projects without a clear business need and alignment with business goals result in less available resources to assign to projects which do have a clear value to the business. Whether you're using insight from the raw data from project work, discussing work load with your staff, or a mix of both, the key predictors above may help make smarter decisions before engaging in potential risks. Determining project success isn't a simple matter, but mixing the science of predictive analytics alongside the “art” of project management can make all the difference in your team's next effort.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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