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The Challenge of Managing Project Expectations

October 12, 2018 | By Greg Bailey

Projects at the enterprise-level usually have a lot of moving parts. One result of this is that there are always opportunities for things to go wrong. Managing project expectations can be a difficult task, even for the most successful project managers. Whether it’s goals, deadlines, costs, or project outcomes, you need to define project expectations clearly and ensure that all key stakeholders agree on these before the project gets underway. This is much easier said than done.

In this post, we discuss:

  • How you can set realistic expectations that all key stakeholders will be happy with
  • How resource management software can help you achieve this

The devil is in the detail

When it comes to setting project expectations, like most aspects of project management, taking a detailed approach is always the best option. Time will not always be on your side when managing expectations in project management, but it really helps to ensure everything is covered, sketched out in detail, and then presented formally to be signed off by key stakeholders. It might be tempting to quickly throw a project together, especially when time isn’t on your side. But if you jump straight into a project without fully defining expectations, scope creep will almost inevitably happen.

Scope creep occurs when project expectations or requirements increase as the project progresses. Projects can expand out of control if expectations are not set in stone beforehand.

The key to avoiding this situation is working on the details of your plan before it is implemented. Make sure everything is outlined, so that all stakeholders can see what the project entails, i.e., the timelines, costs, and outcomes expected. You need a record of this for all parties to look back on. This way, expectations are settled and agreed upon. All that is left is for you and your team to deliver.

Of course, as the project progresses, the unexpected can occur. In this case, expectations are bound to shift to some extent. Again, all stakeholders need to be kept informed, but changes to expectations need to be defined and agreed to early on to prevent difficulties regarding project management expectations. You need a way of documenting this communication that can show project change at every stage, including new developments, as transparency between a manager and stakeholders is crucial to managing project expectations.

Balancing, setting, and managing project expectations

There is no silver bullet solution that will define the expectations for your project. You need to sit down with your resources and establish a plan for your project. Ensure project manager expectations are aligned before presenting it to the board. However, there are tools that can make this process much easier.

Resource management software is a great option. As resources are the critical component in project success, it makes sense to take an approach that prioritizes resources.

Here are three ways that resource management software can help you better manage expectations.

It provides 100% visibility over resources

In order to plan effectively, you need to be able to dive down into your resources. You need to be able to see how many resources will be required and how much this will cost. By moving resources around and analyzing different scenarios, you can work out timeframes and costs with greater accuracy. This will provide the foundation for creating and managing realistic project expectations.

It lets you forecast for possible outcomes

You need to test different scenarios for two reasons – first, to work out the best resource allocation for your project; second, so you can demonstrate why this is the best plan. It instantly gives more weight to your proposal. You can show stakeholders what is planned, why it is best this way. This will prove that the scope, as you have currently defined it, is the best option. If stakeholders have different expectations of the project, you can easily work out and show which is the optimum choice.

It helps you compile detailed reports

Real-time data and visualizations are the best way to show stakeholders what is involved in a project. This way, you can keep them informed on what is planned and why. With real time reporting, you can keep them up to date at all times, even if something happens and expectations change. Heatmaps and coolmaps can show if resources are allocated optimally and where there is room for movement. Previously, project managers had relied on Excel spreadsheets for this. Unfortunately, Excel makes it difficult to follow what is being shown. Visual dashboards offer an easier approach, which can lead to greater understanding and sign off.

How Tempus Resource can help

Tempus Resource offers the resource-focused approach required to help manage project expectations better. Its sophisticated functionality gives project managers greater visibility and control over their resources, including how they plan projects and how they report on them. Features include:

  • Real-time reporting
  • What-if analysis
  • Drag-and-drop user interface
  • Heatmaps and coolmaps
  • Integration with PPM tools

To find out more about Tempus Resource by ProSymmetry and how we can help you manage project expectations better, get in contact with our team and start your journey to improved resource management today.

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