Without a doubt, the most common reason that projects fail is because of poor scope definition. By that I mean that the expectations of the stakeholders, and especially the client or sponsor, are different from the expectations of the project team. This is a most difficult problem, but it is critical to the success of the project that it is overcome. There are many reasons why a project fails, and understanding them will give us insights as to how to avoid them.
The relationship between the project team and the customer has to reverse itself at the time of scope definition. Up to this point the customer's main contact has been someone from a sales organization. During this part of the project the salesperson has been trying to convince the customer that the project is a good project to do. Sometimes the salesperson becomes overly enthusiastic about the project and intentionally or unintentionally leads the customer to believe that everything imaginable is actually going to be produced by the project. This is rarely the case.
When the project team is formed and begins to hold meetings with the customer to develop the scope of the project, the customer already has the notion that the project is already defined. As a result the customer views the whole process of scope definition as a waste of time. In fact the customer may actually resist the scope definition process because of reluctance to commit to defining the project.
It becomes very difficult for the project team to convince the customer that both the project team and the customer have the same goal for the project, that is, that the goal of the project is to give the customer something that is useful and something that does what is wanted in the first place. There is no point in having an adversarial relationship between the customer and the project team. Both want the project to succeed, and both want the project to be useful and serve the purpose for which it was intended.
The project team needs to understand the customer as well. The team should not be frustrated if the customer seems to know less about the project than the project team. After all, the reason that the project team is doing the project is that they are expert at accomplishing the project. The customer is not expert in doing the project. That is why the project team was formed in the first place.
Sometimes extraordinary means must be used to develop the scope of the project. It may be necessary for one or more project team members to work in the customer's area for a period of time and become trained in the work that the project is supposed to enhance. This is a good technique when the customer is not willing or able to cooperate in devoting the necessary time and manpower to working with the project team. The project team member simply becomes a surrogate customer and learns enough about the customer's operation to speak for the customer.
Of course it is much more desirable to have the customers themselves play this role. The customer should be represented in the project team, as should all of the project stakeholders. The greater the involvement and the greater the level of communications that you have with all of the stakeholders, the sounder the project will be. This will start with the definition of the scope of the project.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.