It is not how quickly you start a project that’s important but how quickly you finish…And how quickly you finish depends on where you start not when you start.

In our experience, many clients underestimate project complexity. They indulge in getting things started, fast. The question is: have they started doing the right things? Doing the wrong things, especially if you are doing them efficiently, is a big waste of time and money. We like to focus first on doing the right things and, only then, doing things right.

For example, we are currently exercised about how to deliver IFRS17 projects, a complex financial reporting project that will affect life insurance companies. Our research has demonstrated that the focus of life insurance companies has resided with their actuarial and accounting teams. However, the implementation of the standard will affect investor relations, legal, compliance, audit, HR, IT, procurement, audit, actuarial and accounting. I wonder how much notice the accountants and actuaries are taking of these other areas?

Often, a client will place undue emphasis on a project manager having particular subject-matter expertise as well as being a skilled project manager. If they have both skill-sets, all well and good; but, given the choice between the two, we would always choose the person with the project management experience over and above subject matter expertise. This is because an experienced project manager will understand that a holistic view of the project, up front, is necessary to identify and mitigate risks. The very process of architecting the solution, in cooperation with the stakeholders, will give the project manager all subject matter expertise they require. After all, if you have a project with many work streams how likely is it that the project manager will have good subject matter expertise in all of them?

This is why we believe the project management experience of a project manager is a large part of the determinant for project success. In talking to a client recently, their analysis of the determinant of project success was the quality of the project sponsor. This is looking at the issue from the opposite perspective. However, we would agree that a good sponsor linked with an ‘Innovator’ is even more powerful.