Long-term projects require a different kind of approach to management. The wise project manager will approach such work with a different set of tools, techniques and competencies in order to gain the desired results.
There are several key differences between long term and short-term projects. Firstly, the longer lead times with a long-term project mean that complacency can set in and milestones can be left to lag if not tightly managed. It can be difficult to maintain energy, focus and support for the project at both team and senior stakeholder levels when other, more pressing, short-term projects and issues are on the agenda. Additionally, there can be issues with changing milestones and a shifting set of goalposts in the wider business context, budget tweaks, changes to delivery staff and other difficult factors to manage.
To keep a tight grip on things, good project managers will invest in high-quality project management software, which can also be accessed remotely or on the go via digital project management apps. There are various benefits to using this type of technology. Firstly, they allow tasks to be assigned to staff quickly and easily whilst allowing everyone on the team to see who is doing what. Secondly, they allow easy reporting, so that the project manager and any designated support staff can instantly see what stage activities are at, how much budget has been spent, where milestones are on track or in danger of being missed and where there are any risks that need addressing. The software can be optimised to flag up impending failures to hit a milestone or to flag up any risks of non-delivery. This will allow the manager time and provide the necessary information to make a decision around a mitigating action. Visit milestonesa.co.za to find out more.
Regular project management meetings are also an important way of keeping everyone on track. They should have a defined agenda and attendee list. A record of minutes and actions will also be a good way of ensuring progress, with a commitment to providing a progress update to the project sponsor and appropriate board as required. Good managers will also work hard to ensure that the team are kept motivated and energised by providing regular praise, updates, feedback and development opportunities. Time spent bringing the team together in a single physical location is also valuable, particularly if individuals are otherwise geographically dispersed. This fosters commitment to delivery. After all, projects are delivered by people, and those who feel personally accountable to their team mates will tend to go the extra mile for them.
Contingency planning also becomes more important with a long-term project, as underpinning factors or resources can change. For example, the business might change around the project and have new objectives which tweak the aims and objectives. The project team might see a change in personnel, or the budget might change. It’s vital to have contingency planning and a process that determines who is involved in decision-making about changes.
Regular reporting and communication to wider stakeholders ensures that the project remains high on the business agenda and isn’t side-lined. A good project manager will ensure that his project is on a board or departmental agenda and provide regular updates tailored to each stakeholder group.
Quality Management Systems
It goes without saying too that a long-term project, especially a high-profile one or a project with a significant budget attached, should be managed using recognised quality project management systems such as PRINCE. This ensures that the project is managed in a recognised fashion using processes and systems that are compliant within the modern business environment and which focus on quality and timely delivery.