Planning a project is a opportunity to look forward to what we expect to deliver, working out the list of activities that move us from where we are to where we want to be, and marking the major stages of achievement along the way.
Think for a moment about a very simple model of what we are working towards. In order to implement process A, we need delivery framework B to connect system C to information source D, then we provide training E to customers F. Doesn’t that sum it up in a nutshell?
But hang on, how come we are even doing this in the first place? What was it that justified our very existence as a project? Well, chances are that someone pitched a business case to some executive sponsors and showed how a short term investment would bring long term benefits, either by increasing revenues, or as so often with major operations by reducing costs.
So that gives the even simpler model where we need to spend X in order to remove cost-base Y before we can realise benefit Z.
So surely these fundamental commercial events deserve a clear mention in our plans? Yes, I know that day to day we add value with rich information, precise actions and deep relationships, but at the end of the day business is about income and outgoings, and broadening the gap between the two. After all, the beating heart of every modern organisation is an organ that allows money to flow in and pumps it out again.
So let’s for a moment consider the larger commercial aspects of what we are doing. We know that implementing certain parts of our project depend upon spending money with suppliers. We also know that we cannot realise the benefit until we have put certain predecessors into place, or more often until we can tear down the costly old systems once we are sure our shiny new systems have successfully made them redundant.
I’m not saying that the commercially sensitive details such as dollar values should be publicly displayed in the plan, however the milestone dates really should. Any decision that affects these dates, and therefore the delivery of benefits and hence the business case that caused us to be here in the first place, should consider its true, wider impact. And if all the decisions are not in place to raise purchase orders at the appropriate time then how can you expect the rest of your supply chain to deliver whatever you were hoping for.
Seeing the clear list of dependant activities that stand between us and our project’s true business goal (+£ > -£), is the only way that everyone contributing to our project can stay objectively and pragmatically focussed on the big picture we are really trying to achieve. And considering the number of parties involved in many of today’s projects, we cannot be realistic about the time that will pass until we have properly planned the cash that must flow to make it happen.
I think that these twin truths make a very clear case for making red letter days out of our monetary milestones. Can you see yours standing out clearly in your plan?