3 Strategies Project Teams are Using to Beat the Odds

If you’re like most leaders, you’re good at getting things done. You know what needs to happen, who on your team is responsible for each task, and when a project must be completed. The hard part, however, is developing a strategic communication plan that aligns with your business strategy and achieves your plan objectives.

In the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) 2017 Pulse of the Profession report, the institute identifies three strategies that project teams are using to sidestep project failure and instead achieve project success. While the report speaks to project managers, strategists will find the practices applicable to training and development, marketing, and public relations.

Act as a Strategic Partner Within Your Organization

In the past, executives worked closely with public relations teams to ensure alignment with business strategy. Over time, PR lost its strategic role to legal and finance, which resulted in a divide between business strategy and communication planning. This led to wasted budgets and an employee base executing a plan without an understanding of how communications fit into the bigger picture of a business’ strategy.

Due to the disconnect in many organizations, it’s now more important than ever to identify what PMI calls an executive sponsor. This is someone in your organization who has been involved in strategic planning at the highest level. This person will be your go-to person when you have questions while creating your team’s strategy plan. If you happen to have direct access to executive leadership, or if you’re already fulfilling this role, even better. You’re in a position to make a positive impact on your project’s success.

According to PMI, “an actively engaged executive sponsor is the top driver of projects meeting original goals and business intent. And that continues to rise–62 percent of projects this year compared to 59 percent in 2016.”

Connect Communication Strategy and Action

You’re likely under pressure to demonstrate how your efforts are contributing to the success of your organization. A key component of demonstrating this value is measuring and reporting on KPIs. There are, however, additional steps you can take to measure the success of your campaign or training initiative.

PMI’s Benefits Realization Management (BRM) framework allows you to test whether your plan aligns with your organization’s strategic goals and objectives. Organized into three steps, the framework is essentially a series of questions. Below is a summary of the questions and their relation to your strategy.

Step 1: Identify Benefits

In this step, you ensure stakeholders agree on the strategic direction of your plan, including how it will achieve your organization’s business strategy. This is when you come to a consensus on KPIs and measurement tools, a timeline and budget, and establish a schedule for reporting campaign metrics to an executive sponsor.

Step 2: Execute Benefits

You’re now putting your plan into action. It’s likely you’ll identify areas where you need to make adjustments to reach the goals and objectives in your strategy plan. As mentioned in the previous section, having an executive sponsor available to help with course correction will enable you to quickly make changes and to communicate those changes to your team.

Step 3: Sustain Benefits

The last step ensures your plan continues to bear fruit long after it has been executed. This includes documenting the results of the strategy and highlighting what worked and what fell short of the plan objectives. You’ll also want to review data with stakeholders and communicate to your team the areas for improvement.

According to PMI’s survey of nearly 4,000 project managements professionals and corporate leaders, organizations that used BRM had more projects completed on time (58 percent) and within budget (43 percent). In addition, they achieved more goals and objectives (33 percent).

Embrace Agile Project Management

It’s no longer safe to assume that a business or even an industry that’s thriving today will be relevant tomorrow. New technologies are quickening the pace of change and businesses must adapt in order to survive. If we look at marketing and public relations, their once defined roles in organizations are now one and the same. The same is true with eLearning, which is merging under the same umbrella of strategy due to the explosion of technology. This makes it even more critical in our roles as strategists to implement a process that’s adaptable and avoids lengthy approvals.

The agile approach has proven to be one of the most popular approaches to project management–especially in the software publishing industry, where new versions are released in iterations. Since its focus is on being able to adapt and anticipate change, it’s also highly adaptable to campaign management.

For example, let’s say your team has created a Facebook ad about your new application that helps dog owners find the nearest dog park. The ad begins running for two months, but metrics show after the first two weeks that the CTR is low.
 Since you’re using the agile approach, your team has alerted you to the performance of the Facebook ad during one of your meetings. You decide to make an adjustment to the communication plan and ask you team to conduct A/B testing, which shows that simply changing the headline has increased CTR by 50 percent. You approve the new Facebook ad, which outperforms previous social campaigns. Now you have metrics that executives will want to see.

This iterative process ensures you’re able to make the best use of your budget to align your strategy with business and stakeholder priorities and standards. It also helps facilitate communication among teams that are included in the integrated plan.

If you’re not already using the agile approach in your organization, it’s likely been adopted by your competitors. According to PMI, 71 percent of those surveyed said they use this methodology at least sometimes, if not always.

As strategists, it’s critical that we’re efficient, yet flexible in our approach to achieving our objectives, whether we’re in learning and development, marketing, or public relations. By viewing the strategic planning process through the eyes of a project manager, you can become more efficient in each phase of your project.