Whether you call it project delivery, execution, implementation, or roll-out, the Project Delivery stage is the beating heart of your project.
Project Implementation is where the rubber hits the road. After all your definition, scoping and planning, it’s time to make things happen.
It’s what you’re here to do.
Here’s where you implement your project, execute your plan, and deliver the benefits your sponsor commissioned. So, although I’d argue that this is the easy bit, you have to get it right.
Because it’s not the part that sets you up for success…
But, it is the stage where you harvest the seeds you have sown.
So, get this wrong, and all is lost.
In this article, we tackle project implementation. And we’ll look at all of the things you need to do during the Project Delivery stage.
And, in the process, we’ll also see how:
In this guide, we’ll tell you.
There are different names for what we are talking about here. None is ‘the best’. But it’s as well to be clear what we are talking about. And I will use all of these terms interchangeably.
There are as many lifecycle models as project managers! Whatever one you use, delivery sits between the planning stages and the close-down and review stages. It’s at the heart of the project. Here is the lifecycle model we use in our training.
Project implementation is about managing your resources to deliver your
If these three vital parameters don’t instantly ring a bell for you, you may like our video on the Iron Triangle:
The lifecycle model that we illustrated at the start of this section also represents resource utilization through the project. The area under the curve in each stage represents the resources the project needs, or its budget.
During the implementation stage, you will:
As a result, changes to scope or specification will have an increasingly big effect on your ability to complete your project successfully. As each day passes, you will have a rapidly diminishing budget and capacity to implement those changes.
Notably, the consequence of this is that your change control process needs to be robust and well-managed.
If you need more information on Project Resource Management, check out our articles:
But now, let’s turn our attention to how to keep your project ticking over smoothly.
There is a rhythm to the implementation stage of a well-managed project. I call it the ‘Project Heartbeat’.
The primary function is, without doubt, the Monitor and Control cycle.
Shift happens and things will constantly change in your project. Delays will emerge, issues will arise, people will encounter problems. You need to be constantly monitoring what’s going on, and intervening to regain control.
The essential question is…
Are you cycling around the Monitor and Control Loop frequently enough to catch problems early, so you can deal with them quickly and easily?
After monitoring and controlling, the associated task is to keep your project’s performance under review. This is a vital part of governance, and also the means by which you know what controlling actions you need to take.
For most basic projects, you’ll be checking on:
The gold standard methodology for measuring progress and expenditure is Earned Value Management. We looked at EVM in detail in a recent article, but here’s a short introduction to what EVM is.
You will need an effective process for collecting, analyzing, and documenting project status information. Consequently, you’ll and need to get it to the people who need it quickly and in an accessible format.
Therefore, take a look at our Giant Guide to Project Reporting [How to do it well]. You may also like our guest article from Ben Aston, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Project Status Reporting‘.
Your risk management process will run throughout the implementation stage of your project. But, how frequently are you reviewing outstanding risks and issues?
And how effectively are you and your team dealing with them? In addition, you will need a regular process for identifying new, emerging risks and issues. Take a look at our article, How to Build a Robust Project Risk Culture [8 Steps].
And, if you are in any doubt about the value of good risk management, we recommend you read How Project Risk Management will Make You a Better PM.
Issues will arise throughout the delivery stage of your project.
Nobody else can take total project responsibility for the quality of your project’s products or deliverables. So you need to stay fully involved in the Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes.
And yes, if you need to know more about this, we have you covered here, too, with our article, Project Quality Management: All You Need to Know.
Team working is an essential aspect of your project implementation stage. And a crucial part of this is to set up a regular cycle of team meetings and establish a suitable style, culture, and agenda for them. On a long project, review this from time-to-time, as your project’s needs are likely to change
To help you with this, do take a look at our article: How to Run a Really Great Project Meeting
Other articles you may find helpful include:
Your project will cycle through its ups and downs and so will the morale of your team. For example, successes and meeting milestones will create a real boost, just as setbacks and problems will bring your team low.
Project implementation can be a roller-coaster. As the project manager, you need to work constantly to maintain morale and deal with any setbacks appropriately. That way, you can be sure your team remains resourceful when you most need it. Here are some articles that will give you plenty of ideas:
Don’t wait to the end of your project to learn its lessons. Set up a regular meeting to harvest new lessons and plan how to act on them throughout the implementation of your project. Our feature article on this topic is How to Get Your Next Lessons Learned Meeting Right.
You might also like this article: Ten Project Management Lessons I’ve Learned over the Years.
Your stakeholders will determine the success, of failure, of your projectOne of my 12 Project Management Rules You’d be Wise to Note
So, never let up on your focus on your stakeholders. Keep engaging with them in a positive, respectful way, to:
We have lots of articles on stakeholders, but the ones most valuable during the delivery stage of your project are:
We alluded above to the importance of a good change control process during project implementation. You need to be able to:
You will need Change Request documentation and a
Project implementation is a busy, sometimes frenetic, time. It can be hard to stay on top of everything that is going on – let alone to get out ahead of events.
But that is exactly what you need to do – especially if you want to consider yourself a project leader, as well as a project manager.
So, carve out time in your busy week to do some quiet reflective thinking on your own. These are the times when you are most likely to notice the things no one has yet spotted… the opportunities or issues that are coming around the next bend.
The ten project heartbeat functions I’ve listed above are fundamental to managing any project through the implementation stage. But more formal projects have additional requirements.
The bigger, more complex, more structured your project becomes, the more likely you are to need to put some attention into some or all of these.
If your project goes smoothly, all your governance needs will be accommodated by an effective reporting process and robust change control procedures.
However, your project may be complex and needs to accommodate changes in direction or possible choices in, for example, technology. Then, you will need to put a corresponding effort into serving good decision-making and governance. Maybe you are wondering: ‘What has Project Governance Ever Done for Us? [Ans: A Lot]‘.
To learn more about good decision-making, take a look at our twin articles:
Likewise, simple projects will see little in the way of scope changes, once planning is complete. And the small changes – largely to specifications – will come under
But, for long and complex projects, you may need to manage significant changes in scope throughout delivery. The article you’ll need for this is
If your project needs to procure goods or services, then you will need to manage both the procurement processes around this and the supplier relationships.
We have you covered on this, too: Project Procurement Management [All the basics you need to know].
We talked above about Change Control. If you create a change request within the project and the change authority confirms it, this may need a change to contractual terms with one of your suppliers. For this, you’ll need a Variation Order. We have a video, explaining Variation Orders.
Managing the finances of your project is critical, and we have a comprehensive article and some videos:
Benefits management is a process used in more formal projects to ensure that you don’t just deliver the products you promised, to specification. Rather, what matters is that those products lead to the benefits you anticipated when you wrote your Business Case. Keep an eye out for a full article on benefits management, in the near future.
During project implementation, you will create and collect a lot of information. You’ll need to store this, make it accessible, maintain its integrity with version control, and (after project completion) archive it and make arrangements for its eventual safe destruction.
For formal projects, you’ll need an information management process to handle this. A special example is…
This is the need to make knowledge available and ensure it gets used. Your lessons learned, reporting, and information management process will contribute to knowledge management. There are plenty of excellent tools that facilitate it, but the real challenges are behavioral:
This is largely a factor in either technology or product development projects. As the complexity of the product you are creating grows, so does the importance of actively recording and managing the configuration. This means that any changes the project team makes to the project are fully recorded.
The reasons are simple. The audit trail means:
When you run a project you’ll have to create a whole load of project management deliverables. This is the project documentation you need, so you can control your project, manage it efficiently, and deliver it in an accountable way.
In the video below, I look at what I consider to be the key Project Management deliverables. And I’ve ranked them into three groups of 5:
The PMBOK Guide is divided into 10 Knowledge Areas (KAs) and five Process Groups…
The project implementation process is covered by the ‘Executing’ and ‘Monitoring and Controlling’ process groups. The way the PMBOK Guide documents these process groups is little more than a series of call-backs to the processes that it covers fully in the Knowledge Area sections.
You will only be interested in these sections if you are studying for your PMP or CAPM exams. We have a guide that compares the two, as well as a training program that will prepare you for either.
As a result, the most useful thing we can do is summarize these two PMBoK chapters with simple diagrams…
You may be interested in pursuing a qualification with PMI – either PMP or its qualification for less experienced PMs, CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management). If so, we have a roadmap that sets out the outlining process and links to all of our free and paid resources: ‘I Want to Study for Project Management Professional ‘.
Just as with PMBoK, PRINCE2 spreads your project implementation responsibilities across more than one of its seven processes. In this case, four are involved:
The diagram below illustrates how these fit together.
Most of the content relevant to project delivery within PRINCE2 falls in the process, Controlling a Stage. In particular, you’ll find:
In addition, there is more about Work Packages in the Managing Product Delivery Process:
This short video will answer this question…
To learn more about PRINCE2, we have an article, PRINCE2 Certification: Everything You Need to Know.
If you are really interested in PRINCE2, we have a roadmap that will guide you through the study process, and point you to all of our free and paid PRINCE2 resources: ‘I Want to Study for PRINCE2’.
These include two full courses that will prepare you for certification at:
A question I get a lot is ‘PMP or PRINCE2?’
I don’t think it should be an ‘either/or’ question. But, as an answer, I recently wrote a full article comparing the methodologies and who each one is best suited to. See PMP or PRINCE2? Unraveling the Knot.
If you have any questions or suggestions for what we should have included in this article, please do let us know, in the comments below. I’ll respond to every contribution.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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