Focus on Delivering Value – PMBOK 3.4

“Continually evaluate and adjust project alignment to business objectives and intended benefits and value.” PMBOK pg. 34

This is my favorite principle out of the 12. When I first started my career, the focus was on scope. I would be handed a project and told to get it done. GO! Scope is still important, but the value and outcomes a project delivers are more important.

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Let’s first differentiate scope and outcome. Years ago I managed a project to deliver an internal application to assist with shipping of products. We were given the scope, requirements, and timeline. We delivered on all three and guess what? NO ONE USED IT!! One person tried the application out, said it sucked, and went back to the manual way of shipping. We delivered scope, but did not deliver value with our outcomes (the project was later deemed a failure, but with it came the valuable lesson of organizational change management (OCM)).

Projects are initiated to support a bigger organizational goal. Not all projects have a business case justifying their existence, but somewhere it should be highlighted which business strategy it aligns to (I’ve started including this in the charter). If it doesn’t align to a business strategy, it’s probably a “pet” project that shouldn’t be moving forward. Also, strategies, and the projects that support them, can pivot at any time. Changes in the market, customer preferences, competitive landscape, and COVID are just a few that could cause a pivot to happen.

Pivoting

When it comes to strategic alignment, release your inner 5 year old. Continually ask WHY and HOW? WHY are we doing this project? HOW will it help meet organizational goals? WHY does this internal group or external customer want what we’re delivering? HOW will it benefit them? Continually ask questions until you feel comfortable with the information. You’re the one who has to explain to the project team and stakeholders WHY this project is important and being done. Understanding the business need also helps in decision making throughout the project.

Value can be subjective based on the person or group you’re working with. I appreciate PMBOK pointing this out. Some may say 100% of requirements need to be met to be valuable. In incremental delivery, requirements may be 70% realized but at that point, needed functionality is delivered. A governance decision may be made to stop the project now. Value would come from the product being delivered for intended use and saving money. Gold Star!

There are times when value could be realized not only from the outcome, but also the journey. Recently I was working on a compliance reporting effort where the client was implementing the reports using a new architecture approach. Throughout the project, we worked through various setup and configuration tasks that allowed the team to do their work. It was a bit clunky here and there, but the client built processes during our project that will lead to other successful initiatives in the future. They gleaned a lot of value from our project, and for that they were appreciative!

Projects are far more than just delivering scope. To be truly effective, project professionals must deliver outcomes that add organizational value. Be sure to ask WHY this project is important and HOW it aligns with strategy. Add incremental value if possible and pivot when you have to. Scope is nice, but value is better!

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Project Management Institute. (2021). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide) (7th ed.). Project Management Institute.

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