By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
The changing nature of work, fuelled by advancing technology, globalisation and worldwide lockdowns, means that good project management is more important than ever. As the number of business teams working remotely increases, the ways in which we engage workers and develop our processes are crucial. But what is project management, beyond ‘getting something done’?
In my view, project management is based on using particular tools and skills to deliver an end result, whether this is a building, an IT process, a response to a tender, a business expansion or an audit. Each needs a plan and each plan has milestones, or key stages, that need managing. Project management differs from routine operational management because there is always a goal and a conclusion.
Project management is too often seen as an ‘extra’, yet it is fundamental to business success. Indeed, good project management – or lack of it – usually defines success or failure. A wide skillset, effective leadership techniques and a collaborative mindset are essential.
FROM AGILE TO CRITICAL PATHS
Project management goes beyond simply making a list and getting everything done. There is a wide range of tried and tested project management methodologies. Some are more suited to specific industries than others, so it is important to identify the right one for your needs, and to match the techniques to the scale of your challenge. Here are a few that provide a lot of food for thought.
Agile project management is an approach defined as iterative (rather than linear) because it has a more flexible approach to breaking down projects and processes into small sections, or iterations. Various techniques are utilised within the Agile approach, to meet specific challenges. For example, Scrum is an Agile technique, where a small team led by a Scrum master works to remove obstacles to business projects or activity. Work is undertaken in short bursts – or sprints – with the team meeting daily to discuss tasks and iron out any problems. Typical business users of Scrum include the financial sector, product development, construction, consulting, marketing and disrupters (for example, Airbnb, and Uber).
PRINCE2 AND SIX SIGMA
A traditional heavyweight in the project management arena, Projects in Controlled Environments – PRINCE – is a process-based technique where project performance is subject to continual checks, with more resources committed as the project progresses. Another well-known tool is the data driven and procedure-based Six Sigma framework. This is largely focused on customer needs and is widely used across different industries. As Six Sigma works to streamline and sustain business processes, it is popular in manufacturing and financial services.
CRITICAL PATH ANALYSIS
The Critical Path Analysis (CPA) method is based on mapping all possible paths to a solution, the tasks needed to complete each, and where these are dependent on other activities. This helps determine the shortest possible completion time for a project and which tasks can be delayed without impacting the outcome. CPA has a broad application sector-wise, from aerospace to professional services to software development.
THE RIGHT APPROACH FOR YOU
Not all project management techniques will work for every organisation. How we approach projects must be determined by things like objectives, budget, company culture and stakeholder attitude.
In our global professional services industry, the need to work across borders or collaborate with colleagues in different time zones is also a major consideration. I am always reassured to see how effectively UHY member firms, for example, collaborate wherever they are in the world. Working Together for the benefit of clients is one of the four pillars of our network strategy – and good project management is often key to this.
I believe that project-based ways of progressing wide-ranging business developments are unlikely to change anytime soon. As working environments continue to evolve, budgets become leaner and timescales squeezed, the demand for good project management skills will only increase, and may prove the difference between success and failure.
Project board – Jason Goodman on Unsplash
Project notes – iStock.com/akinbostanci
Collaboration – UHY International