Fast Company

Is There a Way to Improve Project Planning?

I've never seen a project brought in on-time due to project planning software such as Microsoft Project. Have you? If so, I'd like to meet you and shake your hand. Most projects are late and over budget.

Most project plans are based on best "guesstimates" and seldom used to manage day-to-day project activities. The milestone dates are considered immovable though they tend to move often due to "unforeseen circumstances." How a program manager navigates the gauntlet to complete a milestone is virtually certain to be quite different than the original plan.

One of the most significant issues is allocating resources to a specific project based on need and availability, particularly when resources are used across concurrent projects. This has always been very problematic, so problematic that most projects do not even attempt to manage this.

Most project plans are built to satisfy management reporting and planning needs and provide little support for actual program execution. As a result, it is up to program managers to juggle resources and project planning on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis, maintain lists of issues, project risks and mitigations, and do what they can to bring in their portion of the schedule in spite of what the prior project planning suggested.

It's "what you don't know" that bites a program every time.

As much of the value I offer my clients includes managing a variety of different programs and projects, I'm always on the lookout for a better way to manage programs that leads to better execution and on-time completion. I may have found such a company right in my back yard: Realization, based in San Jose, California.

Realization claims to be "the pioneer in project execution management." I've now had several meetings with Sanjeev Gupta, Realization's Founder and CEO, to get a better sense of the capabilities the company brings to the marketplace. Realization has produced some impressive results:

  • A capital equipment upgrade project typically required 300-500 days. After applying Realization's approach and technology to the business problem, the cycle time was reduced to 120-160 days, a cycle time reduction ranging from 60-68%.
  • A firm that produces engineered-to-order recreational water parks increased capacity from 121 annual projects to 165 annual projects over a 3 year period while improving execution to customer delivery dates and creating a better working environment for the employees. More projects, happier customers and employees--many executives would like the sound of that.
  • A plant refurbishment project was completed in 9 days rather than 11 days saving $4 million in production availability that would have been lost. Time is money.
  • Firms involved in maintenance repair operations (MRO) report efficiency and turn-around improvements of up to 50%. Aircraft are out of service for less time.
  • Engineering projects are experiencing cycle time reductions of up to 50% with projects being completed on time and increasing capacity to bring additional products to the marketplace.

Realization's approach seems to support success in on-time project completion, increased capacity to do more work with the same resources, accommodate project uncertainties, plan for project execution buffers and, quite simply, help teams win.

So does Realization offer a superior approach to executing programs? It appears they do. If your business suffers from programs that are continually late and over-budget, Realization may have a solution for you that can help your company look more like a Fast Company.

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker and blogger who resides in Silicon Valley. He has no interest in or relationship with Realization. His firm helps clients eliminate business execution issues that threaten profitable and sustainable growth. He can be reached through his Web site at www.gardnerandassoc.com

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • Lucian Ioan

    David,

    Based on your article title I would have expected to read something about improving project planning but you are actually talking about improving project execution...

    Further more I would disagree with you regarding a project planning software. For smaller projects I think that it can be enough to use such a software and only for more complex projects you would need better control over the execution phase.

    Lucian

  • David Gardner

    David...it would be better to indicate that you do contract work with "WORKetc" in this forum as you did with GigaOM earlier today with another similar comment you posted there. My piece is not about trying to find a "one-size-fits-all" business application that does everything but the dishes. I fail to see how your comment is related to the core issues in the post. Perhaps your not-so-transparent message is really an advertisement. Fast Company sells ad space. I invite you to contribute to the discussion I started, not change the subject. Dave Gardner

  • David Morisseau

    Interesting post.

    I think a lot of this has to do with the lack of efficiency and workflow as a result of a lot of the project management software used today. Companies stack up multiple different applications - such as a separate project management software, a separate CRM software, and a separate billing software. By the time all is said and done, this company is paying far too much, while lacking efficiency as a result of the lack of integration capabilities. When these applications don't integrate, it's discouraging and problematic.

    One possible solution to this is through all in one business management solutions. Software such as ''WORKetc'' offer business management tools that cover CRM, PM, and billing. Because of this users can literally manage their entire business through one software, and the level of efficiency is astounding.

    You can see their direct comparison of features to other project management tools and competitors here: http://www.worketc.com/compare