Project Management

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from RebelsGuideToPM.com.

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How to keep a business case up to date

More schedule tasks to do before you baseline

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Date

How to keep a business case up to date

You’ll see that at various points in the project management lifecycle you are supposed to review the business case and check it is still fit for purpose, but what does that actually mean? What are you looking for?

I’m not sure that continuing commercial justification of a project sits solely on the project manager’s shoulders, but you can do a first pass review and raise any concerns with the sponsor. After all, power sits with them to make changes to the project or cancel it, should it no longer be fit for purpose and likely to achieve its goals.

Here’s what to look for when you do a business case review to check if the project is still viable.

business case review

Strategic alignment

Hopefully your strategy doesn’t change that often, but if you’re managing a multi-year project or program, or you’ve just had some strategic change at the top, it’s worth checking to see that your project still aligns with the organisation’s goals.

Affordability

Can you still afford to do the project? In other words, have costs spiralled due to unforeseen issues, scope changes, requests from the client that have to be included because the contract was so vague they are saying you have to pay for it (of course, that never happens…) and so on.

The challenge with assessing for affordability is that it then opens up a conversation about sunk cost. If you’re three weeks off finishing the project, it may well be worth the cost uplift to get you across the line. If you’ve got two years still to go, not so much.

Riskiness

Look at whether the riskiness of the project has changed. Hopefully as you know more, risk levels have decreased. But a portfolio manager would probably want to assess the risk of this project along with the risk of the portfolio overall, and if the whole portfolio risk profile has changed, there are some conversations to have.

Look at whether your risk budget or contingency time in the schedule is adequate to cover the risk. If not, if you added more, would that make the project unviable?

Achievability

Consider whether you can still complete the work. Achievability might be challenged if key resources have left, deadlines have changed, a supplier has gone bust, or there are plans for a merger. Anything might affect your ability to achieve the plan as it is today.

If you can’t achieve the baselined plan, would a replan mean other criteria for viability are not met? For example, you could achieve the plan with more time and more money, but that would mean the project would not be a cost-effective initiative.

Benefits

Check that you are still going to get the benefits, or enough of the benefits to make it worthwhile from a cost/benefit analysis. If the project ticks all the other boxes, it might not tick the box for benefits. For example, a delay in the schedule may push back realisation of the benefits to a point that undermines the business case. Additional resources pushing the price up will eat into benefits. Perhaps the project no longer represents value for money.

Carry out these checks at key governance points and gate reviews. Highlight where there are issues to resolve, and come up with a plan if you can. Then discuss that with key stakeholders, the client and sponsor, and see if you can resolve any business case challenges without having an impact on viability of the project. Ultimately, if the business case is no longer viable, the decision is around cancelling the project – and that’s a tough conversation for everyone.

However, if the business case no longer stacks up, cancelling could be the best thing to do.

Posted on: April 15, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Stakeholders: how to improve engagement

Every stakeholder on your project is going to come to the work with a different level of engagement. That level of engagement is going to depend on lots of things, like:

  • How busy they are
  • What other projects they are working on and the priorities of those projects
  • Their level of understanding for the project’s goals and objectives
  • What is expected of them (and whether they perceive those tasks to be easy, hard, pointless or worth their time).

Often stakeholders don’t exhibit the levels of engagement that we might feel we need from them to get the best results for the project. Here are some thoughts and simple ideas for how to move people into a place where they are prepared to engage a bit more with the project.

stakeholder analysis

Blocker to indifferent

Projects struggle when the wrong stakeholders are blocking the change. In fact, when any stakeholder is resistant to change, that can cause problems.

Blockers are possibly people who don’t see the problem that the project is trying to fix. They might be keen to defend the status quo, whatever that is.

Talk to them about why they appear to be resistant, or what they are worried might happen as part of this project. Try to share the reasons for the project and the ‘why’ behind the change, even if it doesn’t directly affect their team. They might be more open to engaging with the project if they know the reasons driving the change.

There are various things to try here, but it starts with trying to understand their position and probably ends with escalating to their line manager or your project sponsor.

Indifferent to keen

These are stakeholders who are a bit ‘meh’ about the project and you’d like them to be supportive.

Indifferent stakeholders may think the project isn’t relevant to them. Perhaps they don’t see the point of it. The project just doesn’t seem important. You can see this in their reaction to the work, their slow response in getting back to your messages and calls, and their general attitude to the project.

There is also a chance that you’ve asked them to be involved and haven’t been clear enough with the ask. Talk to them about their priorities and those of their team. Share the successes and if necessary, try to get some of their time ringfenced to complete their project work.

Keen to champion

Supportive stakeholders are keen about the project, but they wouldn’t necessarily be a champion – those super proactive stakeholders who really understand and make progress on the work. Some of your stakeholders probably need to be in the ‘champion’ category.

Think about how you best use their time so they don’t sit in meetings and hear updates that they already know about. Ask for some small commitments and see how they get on completing those before you ask for larger tasks.

Not everyone needs to be a champion

You don’t need everyone to be a champion. Some stakeholders are probably OK to simply be indifferent: as long as they aren’t resisting the change that could be good enough.

The idea of looking at stakeholders in this way and seeing where they are on a scale is to understand better about the kinds of engagement – and specifically the time commitment – required for each stakeholder or group. Those that have the furthest to go on the scale are going to need more time and more focused action to move them into the zone where you want them to be.

Does anyone have an example of a stakeholder who has moved into the ‘more engaged’ category that they’d be prepared to share in the comments? I’d love to hear your stories of successful stakeholder engagement 😊

Posted on: January 29, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)
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