Some projects experience some disastrous situations and you wonder, “Can this project be saved?” Maybe not out loud in front of the project client, but you do wonder it. Some can be fixed, some can’t and some take some alternate routes to get back on the road to success. The act of actually throwing in the towel is hopefully one of the last things on your mind. Or at least it should be.
The average project manager and/or strategist is likely going to want to consider all possible angles to save the project. It’s painful, but often with careful planning and creative thinking you can get back on the road to project completion – but you may need some negotiation and cooperation with and from your project customer to get there.
I’d like to propose these five possible actions to take to get through whatever is troubling the project and to some light at the end of the tunnel. Please consider your own strategies and thoughts on these types of situations and be prepared to share and discuss…
1) Keep on track and practice best practices.
This often isn’t an option, but the first course I like to take is to gather the team and the customer together and see if we can get through the issue or issues without affecting the current schedule. Sometimes just focusing on what got us into trouble in the first place and improving performance and stay focused on project management best practices can resolve the issue and get the project back on track. If not, move on to more strategies.
2) Procrastinate a fix.
This can take some negotiation skills, but if it’s not a showstopper for the entire project or for key functionality that must be rolled out first, then postponing addressing the issue may be an option. You might risk customer confidence because knowing the issue is still lingering can be a frustration factor for the customer, but if they understand the value in moving forward, they should comply.
3) On board more resources.
This is dangerous because it may or may not solve the problem but it definitely will impact the budget – sometimes severely. But if the issue or issues are critical to the project, you may have no choice. I’ve had to go this route – to an extreme – on two projects. While I was able to get them rolled out, which was an absolute must – they weren’t really deemed successful because we went so far over budget by adding staff and spending considerable time doing break/fix testing. But it did work, and we implemented the solutions relatively on time.
4) Offer something different.
Again, this will require negotiation skills, but if something can’t be worked into the solution – like a specific functionality or a report that the customer is asking for – then offering a relatively comparable substitution may be in order. I did this once with a client who needed a particular software module to offer a specific notification path when users were reserving conference rooms. They’re preference wasn’t possible given the technology being used and the legacy technology in place at the customer’s site, but a workaround was acceptable after some give and take negotiations.
5) Minimize the effort.
When all else fails, there may be a need to negotiate a reduction in scope. If it can’t be fixed or worked around, it just may not be possible to move forward with the project as currently scoped. Reducing or changing scope – thus requiring one or more change orders – is definitely a possibility. It may mean less revenue and possibly less profit for the delivery organization – so your senior leadership may push back. But it may be the only alternative to a completely failed or canceled project.
Summary / call for input
You’re focusing on successful delivery of a final solution. On time, on budget, high customer satisfaction. It doesn’t seem to be happening…too many issues, a huge roadblock you can’t get through, etc. What do you do? What have you done in the past? What are your strategies for fighting through the issues or somehow getting to the end successfully?
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