How to turn ideas into successful projects

Published: Fri Sep 08 2023

Blog posted by: Pedro Bertacchini - Senior Project Manager, September 2023.

Projects usually come from the need to solve a problem, fulfil a demand or simply innovate.

It starts with an idea or concept to address a project mandate. But throughout the project cycle - due to internal and external factors - it is not unusual for the initial concept to either change or even fail. So, what are the main tools and approaches available to deliver a successful idea:

1. Do your homework and prepare

At the start of a project, very little or nothing is known about what and how to achieve it. Usually project mandates come to us at high speed and with disproportionate urgency which puts a lot of pressure on the team: not always the best starting point. Taking the time to do a feasibility study is crucial to avoid mistakes in the future and to a better picture of the work to be done.

It is important to highlight that, in some instances, we might not have in-house knowledge or bandwidth to execute the project. In those cases it is important to seek qualified people to at least do the feasibility study and break down what is needed to deliver the idea. A good solution is contracting temporary subject matter experts with previous experience of the theme.

Additionally, investing in a solid business case proves to be very beneficial in the long term as a well-documented project tends to facilitate the stakeholders' understanding of the goals, quality reviews and helps learn lessons for future endeavours.

2. Communicate Effectively

This is my all-time favourite: communication, or the lack of it, is the biggest “villain” in projects. An ineffective communication plan - whether caused by different communication styles, remote or overseas teams, excessive number of stakeholders or poorly defined objectives - can easily jeopardize your project health.

Communication must be sufficient, regular and focused; conveying sufficient information on a regular basis to the relevant stakeholder. A great PRINCE2 tool to manage communication is the Communication Management Approach which sets the guidelines on how communication in the project will happen. This document will also highlight an important aspect of communication: roles and responsibilities. In other words, who communicates what to whom within the team. This is crucial for a healthy communication flow as you avoid noise and misinterpretation.

Another recurring issue we might face is the lack of delegated authority. A good example of this is having multiple meetings with different stakeholders to talk about the same subject in order to make a decision. Usually, project teams combine a diverse set of colleagues, some junior and some more senior, but the decision maker is most likely not involved in the day-to-day work.

A good solution is using the PRINCE2 principle of Manage by Exception, which means setting levels of tolerance - generally covering time, quality, cost, risk, benefit and scope - to manage the project. In this way you create an effective mechanism to facilitate decision making without involving senior management in smaller issues.

3. Ensure you are still doing the right thing

Keeping track of progress and reflecting on the next steps are important exercises in the project life cycle. Ask yourself: Is this still relevant? Are the upcoming changes a threat or a complement to our project's success?

Continued business justification is what supports the work being done now and in the long term: if we pursue an idea which is doomed to be irrelevant in the near future, or the costs exceeds the benefits, it is time to pull the plug on your project.

Checkpoints, quality control, risk assessments and day-to-day reporting are some of the tools that can support stakeholders to answer these questions. Another point to note is that we might sometimes have to slightly alter our end product to keep the project relevant. In that case a change request can be submitted to evaluate whether the new path is appropriate or not.

Company: AXELOS

Visit website »