Is it possible for your project dashboard to give you green indicators when in fact, the reality is that they should be red?

Traditional project dashboards often report leading indicators for budget, schedule, risk, change, and – in some cases – scope and benefits. These are all valid measures, however in our experience, the lead indicators for success (or failure) often come from deeper level metrics.

Over the years, Quay has been engaged with many challenging project environments and we are often brought into help recover projects that have either started to fail or to identify why they’ve failed. During the recovery or review process, we often discover issues with obvious ‘red’ indicators have become obscured by a green status at a higher-level.

Our experience has shown that there are critical key characteristics and structures that leads to project success or failure. As we have diagnosed the key indicators of success, we’ve developed a framework that, when applied, leads to successful outcomes.

This month, we explore these approaches within the context of Workforce Management projects. Whilst WFM projects are not unique in nature, they are inherently complex and illustrate the benefit that running a regular diagnostic can provide.

Developing A Success Framework

Quay’s project diagnostic has its foundations in the principles of the P3M3 framework, which was developed by the Office of Government Commerce in the UK. It was designed to help public sector organisations improve their efficiency, gain better value for money from procurements, and deliver improved success from programs and projects.

The P3M3 framework aims to provide an assessment and measurement score for the portfolio, program, and project-related activities within process areas that contribute to achieving a successful outcome. What this means is that ‘green’ really means green.

As we saw projects fail and succeed, the depth of our project diagnostic knowledge and project delivery experience helped use to evolve the underlying P3M3 framework into a modified version by including informed weightings relevant to the weight each success factor bears on overall outcomes.

Whilst the framework can be applied to any project, it is not a one-size-fits-all. Instead, weightings shift depending upon the domain and, in some instances, the sub-processes that need more attention than higher level indicators.

Let’s explore how tailoring the project diagnostic tool and applying it to a WFM project can illustrate its value.

Utilising Diagnostics Effectively in Complex Projects

Workforce Management (WFM) is an umbrella term to describe the processes an organisation uses to make sure its ‘supply’ (read: Human Resources) is sufficient to meet the demands of delivering products and services to its customers. Core processes within WFM include rostering and scheduling; time and attendance; and Award interpretation. There are significant efficiencies and insights that can be gained for a business that undertakes automation and integration of these core processes and it is very often the starting point for transformation.

However, WFM projects often fail, as do many organisational transformation projects. It begs the question: Does the traditional project dashboard provide sufficient insight and warning about problems early enough?

For example, a traditional project report often reports standard leading indicators, such as budget, schedule, risk, and change, sometimes including scope and benefits. These are all valid and important indicators for success or failure of WFM projects. However, we often see that it is in the deeper level indicators where problems arise, for example in Business Process Alignment, Business Readiness, and Data and Information Integration.

So why would a project dashboard report have all indicators as green when in fact the reality is that some may be red?

A Deeper Dive: The Unidentified Threats

Let’s craft a traditional project report for a project that is:

  • 4 months since inception
  • According to its plan, it is on time, on budget,
  • Delivered change management and communication strategies and a high-level design and at this stage no significant untreated Risks or Issues identified.
  • Status: All Green!

If we look deeper into the project and start to assess the extent to which business processes vary across the organisation, the change impact the target solution might have on them, the ability and willingness of the organisation to accept change, and the lifecycle of all key data and information elements needed for the solution, we may find that each of these are significant and pose a real threat to success.

Unidentified threats that may not have been picked up at the higher level project status report, and thus would be going unreported, might include:

  • For process and alignment – Significant different process practices across departments (for valid reasons), upstream and down-stream dependencies to existing solutions and practices (beyond WFM)
  • For business readiness – A steadfast resistance and reluctance to change due to the personal impacts the changes may bring 
  • For data – Quality, integration, timeliness, ownership and management

To be successful, ‘early and focused identification’ on each of these areas deeper in the project where issues may already be present will significantly increase the likelihood of the project delivering its outcomes. In the above example the standard high level project diagnostic was not equipped to call out these challenges.

This does not mean the traditional project indicators of scope, time, and cost go away, however. The purpose of deeper project diagnostics is to make sure it is fit for purpose and takes into account the nuanced nature of all types of projects. This more targeted approach to project reporting will go a long way to ensuring your project managers do not become colour blind.

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Want to talk to us about setting your project for success or implementing better project diagnostics? Contact us here or call 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...