Societal Sustentation 52: Project Management

Good project management is the key to success. After all, without good management, the chances of a project over-running its resource allocation (of time, people, and money), if not failing, increase significantly. So, despite the fact that project management is a sustentation, it can also be a damnation. Especially if you can not manage the project.

One has to remember that project management has evolved over the last six decades or so to manage traditional types of projects that produce structures and goods against well-understood designs and project plans, starting with the need to effectively manage complex engineering projects in areas that include construction, defence, aviation, and shipbuilding.

When project management was being defined, the ENIAC was still in operation, Procurement was placing an order against a printed catalogue, and a company imported a small number of commodities in which they had contacts and expertise. There were no complex software projects, no complex Just-in-Time supply chain projects, and no automated factory mega-projects (which resulted in some of the biggest supply chain failures in history).

Where software development is concerned, there is a rough definition of what is desired, but the beginning and end is a best estimate that is no more accurate than a wild guess in some cases, the resources required (while defined as software architect, developer, network specialist, etc.) are not well understood (as a non-skilled software architect cannot define what makes, or identifies, a good software architect), and the amount of money required is relatively unknown (due to uncertain work effort requirements, unknown support requirements, etc.).

And that’s just software. When it comes to supply chain, the difficulty is intensified. There’s the management of the sourcing, the management of the negotiation and contracting cycle, and the management of the procurement. But before that, there’s identifying the right supplier, which requires detailed understanding of the product technical requirements and the supplier production capabilities. There’s identifying the expected costs, based upon understanding material costs, labour costs, energy costs, tariffs, and overhead. There’s managing the supplier relationship. There’s dealing with disruptions and disasters. And taking corrective actions.
In other words, supply chain projects don’t have well-defined beginnings. Don’t have well-defined endings. Don’t have well-defined workflows. Aren’t limited to a fix set of resources. Don’t always have a well-defined team. And don’t always have a well-known cost (even if there is a target one).

But that doesn’t mean there is no hope. There are steps you can take to maximize project success.

1. Document all the steps.

For example, if it’s a sourcing project, outline a detailed process from needs identification, through sourcing plan, supplier identification, sourcing, contracting, and supplier management. Each of these steps have been done before, and, on a step-by-step basis, the complexity, necessary timeframes, and risks can be fairly well estimated. If the expected time-frame is more time than you have, then you have to either simplify the project, or increase the risk.

2. Crystallize and clarify all the risks — and mitigations.

What are the risks in the project from a supply disruption point of view? Liability point of view? Supplier point of view? Contract point of view? Make sure the risks are clear, the potential repercussions clearer, and the mitigations the organization can, is, and will take perfectly comprehensible.

3. Implement Effective Change Management

Document all the hiccups that occur (for future learning), and when something happens that requires a change in process or timeline, be sure to document it, the change, and work out the updates to the plan. Don’t play it by ear or wing it, because it’s easy to mis a beat against background noise or get caught on a wire. Make the effort to manage the project, and your project management skills will improve.

4. Get Training

There is a very big Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) offered, and certified, through PMI and a lot of organizations that are expert in project management, including a few niche consultancies well versed in best practice in best practice supply chain management in the areas of sourcing, procurement, contract management, etc. Engage one and get the knowledge your organization needs to manage better software projects.

5. Use a Tool

Some modern suites offer integrated supply management project management capability and if your suite, or custom assembled best-of-breed platform doesn’t, there are best of breed providers focussed purely on sourcing and procurement project management, like Per Angusta. Get a solution, and use it.