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Six essential questions for project success

by Chanelle Harkness & Natalie Hort

This may be an obvious statement, but success is central to project management. No one comes to work each day striving for failure. As project managers and producers, it’s on us to fail-proof our projects. Asking your team these questions at the outset, will go a long way to making the pathway clear.

Before deep diving into question time, it’s key that your team is primed with a collaborative mindset ready for problem solving. If they’re focused on understanding the problem with an open mind, they’ll be able to work through these six questions to together to find the best solution. 

  1. What’s the real problem?

    This question is arguably the most important, but it’s also often the most elusive to answer. Without understanding the business problem the project wants to solve, project teams will struggle to set KPIs and long-term success becomes more difficult. 
  2.  Why are we trying to solve this problem?

    Answering this question involves clarifying the project priority and the impact that potential solutions may have on other areas of the client’s business. This understanding is invaluable for the team as they work to produce a solution that balances the two.

    It also helps to contemplate the expertise that each team member will bring to the table and how this can contribute to overall success.

  3. Who are we wanting to reach?

    Often the right people to target are overlooked. Understanding the target market can help project managers pick team members who are great at communicating with - and addressing problems related to - that particular audience.

  4. When do we need a solution by? 

    Knowing the hard deadline will help the team hone in on a solution, but shouldn’t suffocate the exploration phase. 

    Sometimes the best solution isn’t the one that can be produced before the deadline, it’s the one that can be stripped back or delivered in a phased approach, ultimately yielding a better result. 

  5. How big is the budget? 

    Budget needs to be managed carefully to balance requirements, solution creativity and innovation. Running out of funds is a sure-fire way to put a dampener on any big idea. 

    One approach to achieving balance is to adopt a tiered, agile approach. This allows the team to work through the requirements, and prioritise each based on the anticipated value to the client’s business (and target audience). 

    Once this list is compiled, it can be weighed against the original budget to determine scope. As with deadlines, a phased approach to building out more sophisticated functionality may end up being preferable.

  6. How do we solve the problem? 

    This is the fun part: it’s time to begin the solution exploration phase. Here, all potential solutions to the problem are considered without being bound by the constraints of budget and timeline. 

    Once all solutions are on the table, each can be evaluated according to its strength and weakness. Each should be weighed up against project requirements such as objectives, budget, deadline and available resources to create a shortlist that can be presented to key project stakeholders.

Overlooking even one of these elements for a project (of any size) leaves room for misunderstanding and miscommunication between key stakeholders. An unclear start yields an inferior result. By allowing sufficient time for clients, account service and the project team to ruminate on the above questions, project managers can lay a solid foundation for success from the outset. 

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