Setting Clear Objectives

In the previous example, the objectives in the goal statement have certain characteristics that make it clear. Most objectives teil\/hat. The best ones also imply why. Good project objectives are:

® Focused on deliverables, not just processes: The customer ultimately cares about the final end product (timesheet system), not the processes needed to get to the end product (SPMP, SRS, etc.).

® Measurable and testable ($, %, Mkt. Share, Dates): There is something quantifiable to measure and test, usually quality-related ("successful" implies that acceptance criteria are defined).

® Action-oriented: The goal implies actions to achieve (the verbsbulld and deploy complement the noun system).

® Conversational: The goal could be recited and explained in a few seconds (the elevator ride).

® Doable (within your authority): The goal is reasonable and does not imply trying to solve world hunger (many accounting applications like this have been done before).

® Communicated: The team knows it, and it is published in the project charter (it's also the elevator speech). Setting clear objectives goes a long way toward starting a successful software projeJ^

When objectives have been set, measurable subobjectives for some or all may be defined so that cost and performance may be tracked. Rather than the "big bang" approach of having one or just a few objectives, it is good project practice to set up a number of smaller measurement posts along the way. Many small milestones are better than one big one at the end of the project. The team should have a part in establishing their own objectives and subobjectives. A useful technique for defining clear objectives is the S.M.A.R.T. method. S.M.A.R.T. is comprised of the initials for: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

For any objective, determine the specific results and performance targets necessary to meet expectations. Are the objectives specific? Do you and your sponsor/customer both agree on the results needed for each of your project's objectives? Are the objectives measurable? How will you know that you are achieving results? What does "meet expectations" mean to you and your customer for each of the objectives? Are the objectives achievable and attainable? Why or why not? What support would you need to attain them? Are the objectives realistic and relevant? Do they address the customer's requirements and real needs? Do they align with the key success factors for the organization, the business goals, and the strategies? Are your objectives time-bound? Are there specific dates by which the objectives should be achieved? Is there a clearly understood reason for each of the dates? What is the driver behind the dates (e.g., your customer's customer needs the product then)?

The following is an example of a (relatively) short-duration objective that is part of a larger quality systems improvement project in a large multinational corporation. Note that it is specific and measurable, achievable for the average corporate quality department, both realistic and relevant to the department and corporation long-term goals, and time-bound (in this case, a specific due date, not a specific duration, as in "within six months from project start").

Benchmark two other companies' automated line-manufacturing processes according to ISO 9000 standards. Complete the project by the end of the third quarter at a maximum budget of $30,000.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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.

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