If Only We Had Done X (Lessons In Project Management)

How many of you have managed consulting projects that didn’t turn out as planned and left you saying, “If only we had done . . .” ? Have you ever wondered how many steps and criteria are involved in successful consulting projects? And do you know how to avoid project failures?

In an upcoming research report, “Five Stages To Optimize The Research Process,” Forrester will lay out the five key stages, 30-plus key steps, and 130-plus key criteria identified in successful consulting projects. Not all criteria are equal and required for every project, but miss some key criteria and project steps and you could have a project crisis (or expensive failure) on your hands.

Some highlights for each of the key project stages:

  • Preparing. We identified 33 key criteria that help MI professionals avoid rushing into the project design without having a clear idea of potential gains and risks, timelines, and threats and how they will prove value-add.
  • Designing. Forrester found 36 key criteria to help build successful project designs. Some of the most overlooked were identifying all the stakeholders, their expectations, capabilities, and timing so that deliverables were designed from the start to be stakeholder-aligned.
  • Implementing.From finalizing scope to RFPs, final project plans, and kick-offs, Forrester found 27 criteria involved in making sure your project gets off on the right foot. Like creating a deliverable template that matches the goal and making sure that everyone is on the same page with what they need to do by when so that you don’t crash your timelines.
  • Managing and delivering. With 31 criteria in this stage, we found that there’s actually a lot to check. Most important: Have iterative content checks and get iterative sign-offs from stakeholders so everyone is in the same boat and there are no surprises at the end.
  • Optimizing. With 20 post-project action items to maximize project value, don’t just stop after the delivery is done. Identify lessons learned, build the results into your knowledgebase for greater value-add, and market the learnings (and your success) to the whole company!

Forrester recently did a study in which we identified several failed research projects. These were high-profile, multi-year, large-investment projects that — when they crashed — hurt the market insights departments’ reputation so badly that it took them years to recover. If they had followed our research process, we’re sure most of these failures could have been avoided.

As always, we would love to hear from you: Based on your experience, what criteria are must-haves for you? What X factors can you pass on to other market insights professionals to help make sure their projects are successful?


Why IT project fail?

Hi, Richard, thanks for listing five key stages of PM, well, overall, about 70% of IT projects fail, due to varies of reasons, for the multi-year projects, the right methodology and well-planning are surely important, more importantly, how to adapt to changes, the 100+ criteria may help measure better, but over-specializing may also make project inflexible. I would say, how to keep business and IT always at the same page, to read the same scoreboard, with iterative communication could be crucial. thanks.

Research and IT project similarities

Hi Pearl - Thanks for your input.

To be clear, this document focuses on research/insights projects and not IT projects ... but, yes, there are definitely similarities in best-practices of managing both.

We absolutely agree that business and IT should always be on the same page = what Forrester calls BT (Business Technology). Not easy ... but necessary!

Hello Richard, I agree that

Hello Richard, I agree that many projects struggle because of a lack of understanding of who the stakeholders actually are under the “Designing” project stage. At the consulting firm where I work (www.seilevel.com) we always work hard to create complete organization charts. It seems a little sophomoric at first but keeps us from overlooking stakeholders. And since it is a visual model it keeps us from missing gaps as well. Often times our customers even have all the information on their intranet while with others it take additional elicitation from stakeholders but is always worth the time and effort. Thank you for your post, I enjoyed it.