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Running your business as a project

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Aldo van Tonder, chief marketing officer at Dac Systems, discusses running your business as a project.

Over the last 14 years I have been involved in some way or another with the discipline of project management. One thing I have come to realise is that although a project is sometimes treated as a very complicated “thing”, it is actually not.

There are many definitions associated with the discipline of project management – some accurate, others not. The golden thread linking them all is that there must be a desired outcome, within in a defined budget, delivered by resources – human or otherwise. So here is the big question: isn’t that what you do every day in your business?

There is merit in considering this question within the broader framework of how a modern business is run today. The reality of markets and the required economies of scale is that every venture, no matter what size, has to stick to a formula in terms of supply and demand. There is a high level of flexibility and agility required from any business, that is the nature of operations.

Whatever your business is, most of the time you will have a specific outcome for a desired task or activity that is designed to be delivered by someone. If people are doing this, then typically they will get paid a salary, so there is a cost involved. Most often you would want the activity completed within a timeframe to meet expectations. This is true whether you are working on internal or external activities.

Project management involves several key disciplines including time management, deliverable management, cost management and exceeding expectations in terms of the desired end result. Again, I ask the same question: is this not precisely what we do in our everyday business? We expect project managers to send us fancy progress reports that show graphical indicators of smiley faces or green, yellow, red dots so we can immediately ascertain the status of projects. An EXCO report typically contains the same, and whoever is responsible for a certain area of the business has to report back on exactly the same outcomes.

Consider this a bit more. If I can take operational aspects of the business and “projectise” these, the benefits should be evident fairly quickly. This means that if I use project management principles in operations to projectise the business, I might get better insight into specific delivery, cost and time KPI’s.

This insight is invaluable. The degree and accuracy of this analysis varies depending on the quality of technology available, but also on the approach by management and willingness to embrace solutions that can tap into the dynamics of analytics and business intelligence.

I believe that organisations should consider this approach by applying the said project management principles and even consider adding a project automation tool to the mix. I believe an organisation will benefit to the same extent, if not more, than a project office. That is quite a statement, but in my experience this argument holds true. The very best project management approaches start with intent and are rolled out through a proactive approach to methodology and automation.

This is actually very easy to achieve. By creating multiple project types and allowing the execution of these to be formally tracked through whatever methodology might be applicable, you will not only be able to ensure proper governance and control – but also benefit from witnessing, in realtime, effort and cost accrual to date with expenditure forecast and effort to completion.

Taking some of the other elements of the discipline of project management into account, such as risk and issue management, resource management and the new age collaboration, you could potentially acquire a very realistic view of what is actually going on in the business.

The biggest benefit will be consistent reporting across almost any endeavour in the business. Imaging acquiring the same view a customer would have of the project being orchestrated – only that now you have this view for all aspects of the business.

The biggest threat to this theory lies in an age-old question: what came first, methodology or technology? Don’t get bogged down with this. Consider both facets together and save substantially by employing both tech sales and smart consultants. I have written in detail about these theories previously and this information is freely available on blogs or through pod casts.

I have been fortunate to have been involved in a couple of companies throughout my career where these principles have been applied. The phenomenal success of these companies speaks to real life examples which underpin the practical sense behind these theories.