In order to have any realistic shot at a successful project, (delivered on time and on budget) the overall vision and work effort must first be fully defined --- i.e. broken down into small, manageable and actionable parts. This article provides a practical overview of the definition process, putting "project definition" into context and perspective. Read on for more.
Consider the alternative. Taken as a whole, no project could ever be completed --- the task would just be too massive and undefined. For that reason, projects must be broken down into elements that translate "big picture" needs into actionable components that can be planned and constructed. The process of breaking a project down into manageable components is the most basic element of project management. Every successful project must begin with a clear specification of goals, requirements, deliverables and overall purpose. The reason for this is clear. In order for project work to be realized and meaningful results to be achieved, all stakeholders must be fully aware of what they are working towards, why it matters, and the expected results. This is the process of "project definition".
During the definition stage, projects are “defined” in specific, actionable terms designed to make execution possible and to facilitate informed actions and decision making. Definition is essential to secure stakeholder buy-in and acceptance, to negotiate priorities and to ensure that proper expectations have been set regarding the work effort that lies ahead and the results to be produced.
While it can take over (30+) variables to fully define a project, at a minimum, viable project definitions should incorporate the following elements:
What's the best benchmark and guide for getting your projects properly and fully defined? Aside from having standardized definition guidelines, "past experience" is the best measure available. That's why it's always smart to properly identify and record viable project lessons learned.
Undefined projects are risky projects, and this risk offers little reward. When left undefined, the odds of missed requirements, lost opportunities, ineffective deliverables, unrealistic expectations and unhappy customers increase. Further, improperly defined projects open the door to wasted time, effort and money, and can cost the performing organization hard won credibility. Project definition, in and of itself, will not guarantee success, but it is an essential management step, and can serve as an insurance policy against these types of unforced errors. (Also Read: Analyzing Project Risk)
In order to realize all the expected benefits (and avoid the risks), standardized project definitions, for projects large or small, should adhere to the following five (5) production guidelines:
As you can see, project definition is a complex process. A defined project is a "picture" assembled from multiple puzzle pieces, organized to present a unique image suited to the project at hand. Continue with the suggested content below to learn more.
What is project scope? It's the totality of the purpose, vision, and work effort for a given project. Once it is defined and approved, project scope provides a working "template" by which projects are planned and executed. To achieve successful results, project scope must be clearly stated in specific, measureable terms, ready for stakeholder negotiation, acceptance and approval. Read More
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Strategic "project fast tracking" is a streamlined project management process, specifically used to overcome the most common types of project obstacles, including insufficient time, resource shortages, budgetary deficiencies and stakeholder conflicts.
Get an illustrated view of the fast tracking process in the "Step-by-Step to a Fast Tracked Project" infographic.
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