A conversation with Charlotte Whitelaw
Charlotte Whitelaw has construction in her blood, but her career path wasn't exactly a straight line. From initial studies in psychology to her current role managing complex projects for RPS cli...
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The accuracy and detail of project documentation and the degree to which things are thought through can seriously affect a project’s delivered outcomes. That’s why having good people and a good plan in place are vital for project success.
Quality project management is about having a lot of plates spinning at one time, and making sure each is getting the attention it needs to keep on spinning at the same rate as the others.
There’s a time-honoured concept known as the time-cost-quality triangle which posits a relatively simple but foundational truth: you can do something well, but it probably won’t be fast or cheap. And conversely: you can do something fast and cheap, but it probably won’t be good.
Unfortunately, quality is sometimes sacrificed in the name of a shorter timeframe and a tighter budget. Don’t get me wrong, the answer to this issue is not blowing out your project’s budget or timeframe – it’s making sure that you’ve got good people working on it in the first place.
In my experience, your best bet for ensuring quality outcomes is to rely on experience. If you can staff a project with people who’ve been there, done that, you can use that experience to improve quality. This improves implementation, which improves outcomes in turn.
By spending the money upfront to secure the most experienced and capable personnel available, you can give your project the best chance of balancing, and succeeding on all three fronts.
Clients often think that a project can be pulled together at the last minute, but a good project manager knows that usually won’t be the case. Time is a finite resource, there will always be a deadline, and a project manager worth their salt will have made sure that adequate time has been allocated for each stage of the project.
Some clients will be open to working backward when developing the initial project plan, which will greatly increase the chances of a project’s projected timelines aligning with real-world completion dates.
In the event that this isn’t possible though, all parties must be mindful to not place undue pressure on the design and development phase, as this can result in low-quality documentation and increased cost and time requirements.
The design phase of any project is key. It, more than any other phase, cannot be compressed or accelerated. If you put in the time and effort during the design phase at the start of the project’s life, that time will more than pay for itself down the track when you don’t have to blow out your budget or make other negative concessions to meet a deadline.
Be wary of diminishing returns though – past a certain point putting more time into design phase optioneering can end up as time wasted and value conceded. Once again, having experienced project managers onboard can help you strike the right balance.
For all I’ve said about how crucial it is to find the right people for your project, staffing a project can sometimes be easier said than done! However, RPS has experienced and capable project management teams all around the country, including here in Melbourne.
The outcomes we deliver, and the quality of those outcomes, improves with every project we work on, and recent investments in our own project and program management digital tools like myProjects are taking things to the next level.