By Paul Dandurand
CEO & Founder, PieMatrix

Have you ever heard the words, “Get your project on time and on budget or else!”? The pressure is purely on costs. The executives are watching project budget numbers in PPM tools or in spreadsheets.

Now, have you ever heard the words, “The most important thing is getting the end result to be excellent!”? The focus here is more on why we are doing the project in the first place and what the ultimate value it will bring to the project’s end customer.

Most people would say that they have heard the former more often than the latter. Why is that? When we introduce a new reason for a project, it’s not like we say we have a million dollars to spend, so what do we do? Instead we say we need to accomplish x, y, z solutions to help our business. Then we may find we have a million dollar budget cap we need to work with. From there we prioritize based on projects’ business cases and benefits. Once the portfolio is chosen and in execution, we focus on managing the budget (and timeline) more than anything else.

I completely agree that budget and time is crucial—we can’t get money out of thin air if we run short. However, what if our projects are all on time and on budget but the projects’ end result doesn’t meet the customers’ expectations? This led me to think we need to ask project managers and directors what they believe is more important. My gut told me they would argue speed and cost is more crucial than end results.

Well, I was wrong.

The first survey I ran was at IPM Day 2013. I then ran it again at IPM Day 2015. The survey included one simple request:

“Choose which is more important — speed & cost or end results.”

In 2013, we had 30 people answer this one-question survey. In 2015, we received 59 responses. Although the sampling is small (failing to be statistical significant), it’s still interesting to see that ‘End Results’ won in both surveys. It’s also interesting to see how the percentages have slightly moved up with more in favor of End Results. Below are the survey numbers:

2013

  • Speed/Cost = 13%
  • End Results = 87%

2015

  • Speed/Cost = 7%
  • End Results = 93%

Two things to point out. One, is that the majority of managers and directors who responded to the surveys agree that end results are indeed more important than being on time and on budget. Secondly, it looks like there could be a trend where people are more concerned today about end results than a couple years ago. One factor could be a change in the economy (i.e., was cost more pressing two years ago?). A second factor could be that our sampling sizes are not large enough to give a good comparison between the two surveys.

Here’s the graph from our 2015 survey:

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Here’s my takeaway:

If people say that end results are more important, then in practice, why do we hear more about being on time and on budget than we do about getting quality end results as the top focus (which is really why we embark on projects in the first place)?

One theory is that cost and time numbers are easier track than the project’s potential end results. The reason may be that organizations haven’t invested well in quality project management and work execution methodologies that incorporate lessons learned from previous projects. Without a focus on project processes and knowledge sharing, we make the same mistakes or we tend to reinvent the wheel over and over. This means the quality of the outcome of the projects are very hard to predict. Because of this lack of process focus, we find it’s easier to make cost and time the important topic at management meetings.

I have been pushing the idea over the years that enterprises should provide the tools and content to engage people to consistently produce better outcomes. This includes flexible frameworks, the right know-how content, cooperation with sharing (asking for help, giving help), and innovative thinking on how to solve problems and improve the process from lessons learned. I have seen a few of my customers foster executive commitment to make this happen and the results have been very positive. Meetings talk about methods, processes, lessons learned, along with time and budget.

I strongly believe that if we focus on project process improvement and giving people the knowledge and tools for engagement, we will not only see better project end results, but also get projects done on time and on budget.

Look for solutions, such as those we built combining IIL UPMM™ with PieMatrix Pie where combined project management, process methodology, and software to give organizations the ability to drive quality end results while keeping a pulse on budget and time.

How about you? Why do you think we don’t hear enough about end results? Also, do you think we can have both quality end results along with being on time and on budget?

paul-d

 

Paul Dandurand is the founder and CEO of PieMatrix, the maker of Pie, a cloud process and work collaboration platform. Paul enjoys photography, skiing, and staying healthy. He earned a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.