Trying to win over executive management on the added value of project management is a daunting task, for which there is no simple solution. The best you can do is to present the executives with a project management plan that is modeled on your organization’s needs. Here is an overview of how to create the plan, along with details on each value area—complete with a corresponding value statement that can be tailored to your individual needs.

Start here and work your way down to the details
The place to start with “selling” project management to your executives is to see what type of pain your organization is facing today in terms of its projects’ weaknesses. Once you’ve determined the weak spots, then look at the various components of project management and see how they would have a positive impact in these areas. Ultimately, you aren’t going to be able to sell project management using hard metrics. Implementing project management is a culture-change initiative, and, for the most part, all initiatives of this type are going to have to rely on some soft numbers. Make sure that you cover the direct benefits to projects in terms of cost, deadlines, and quality. Also make sure that you tie the project benefit to the overall ability of the organization to achieve its business goals today, to better meet business challenges tomorrow, and to drive the business toward its future vision.

To help you begin to develop this plan, here are some specific value areas of project management, each of which you will want to include in your case for instituting solid project management processes.

A broader view

Be sure to check out my last column, in which I offered a broader view of how to convince executives of the value of project management in an organization. I also examined the general logic behind the value proposition for project management.

Better estimating, planning, and project definition
How many times have you heard about or been involved in a project that failed miserably? Or perhaps you’ve been involved with projects that were just not as successful as they could have been. Did you ever spend time looking back to see what caused the project to go off course? If you did, chances are that you recognized the need for better planning.

Project management focuses first on planning the work. This is a vital discipline that allows the project team and the client to have common perceptions of what the project is going to deliver, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work, and how the work will be done. This includes:

  • Understanding and gaining agreement on project objectives, deliverables, scope, risk, cost, approach, and so on.
  • Determining if the original business case is still valid. For instance, a project that requires 10,000 effort hours might seem to make good business sense at first. But if the planning process determines that the effort is really 20,000 hours, the project may no longer be worthwhile.
  • Making sure the resources you need are available when you need them.
  • Providing a high-level baseline, from which progress can be compared and measured.
  • Working with your client ahead of time on the processes used to manage the project.

Value statement: Utilizing a common definition and planning process sets common expectations and makes sure that only the right work gets done. It can also result in the cancellation of a project without a viable business case.

Reuse of processes and templates
I think people intuitively understand that it is faster and cheaper to reuse something that already exists, rather than build something similar from scratch. If your organization creates a set of project management processes and templates that are used consistently from project to project, each instance represents a savings of time that would have otherwise been spent on building the processes from scratch.

Value statement: Utilizing common project management processes and templates will result in cost and time savings associated with having to otherwise develop them from scratch on each project.

Proactive project management processes
People who complain that project management is a lot of “overhead’” forget the point. Your project is going to face issues and risks. The key in resolving these issues and risks is whether you will proactively resolve them or figure them out as you go. For example, are you going to be forced to deal with misunderstandings caused by lack of project information, or will you simply communicate proactively from the start?

The characteristics of the project are not going to change, whether you use a formal project management process or not. What changes is how the events are dealt with when the project is in progress. Are they dealt with haphazardly and reactively, or proactively with a smoothly running process?

Value statement: Having proactive and consistent processes in place will ultimately help projects run faster, cheaper, and at a higher quality level.

More effective communication
Properly communicating on a project is a critical success factor for managing the expectations of the client and the stakeholders. If these people are not kept well informed of the project’s progress, there is a much greater chance of problems and difficulties occurring due to differing levels of expectations. In fact, in many cases where conflicts arise, it is not because of the actual problem, but because the client or manager was surprised.

Value statement: Proactive communication allows you to better manage expectations and avoid misunderstandings and conflict, and provides better information for decision making.

Building a higher quality product the first time
Quality management is about putting processes in place to ensure that your work is of high quality the first time through. By practicing some simple quality management processes, you can deliver a higher level of quality and avoid the expense and time of having to fix things after the fact. Many project teams think they are in great shape until they get toward the end and start seeing problems in their deliverables. Then they realize that they have a lot of rework to do, and suddenly the schedule is shot.

Value statement: Quality management helps you build your deliverables correctly the first time and saves costs overall by discovering problems as early in the project as possible.

Other value points
There are other aspects of project management that provide value, including managing scope more effectively, defining and collecting metrics, managing work plans proactively, and so on. However, the points above give you a sense for how the value argument would be framed. Work all of these and more into your custom-made project management plan, and you will have a much easier time winning your executive management to the advantages of project management.