In today’s challenging economic environment, senior management needs to understand the fundamental supportive and strategic role that project management plays in business.

If companies are to pursue their plans for stability and growth they need to cease seeing project management as a functional activity and place it at the core of their business processes. At the same time, project managers and planners share the responsibility to engage better on a business basis with senior executives.

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that project management is limited to specific industries, such as construction, engineering and manufacturing, indeed it is relevant to these industries but not only these. What successful business would admit that they pay scant regard to resource, time and progress management?

The concept of project management focused traditionally on delivery challenges; this has long since widened in scope and takes in a vastly greater landscape of business challenges including management transparency through reporting functionality, financial planning and compliance.

Working with so many companies to hone their project management approaches in a highly mature software sector, has shown us how enterprises can be supported at a strategic level with integrated project management. Many company leaders are still failing to see this, though all could benefit from what is a major opportunity to leverage a richly developed professional discipline.

Decades of practical learning and development have created advanced enterprise project management platforms that provide companies with tools that can be applied directly to many of the mission-critical programmes upon which the future of their businesses depend. What’s more, they could have a huge impact across the enterprise, in any industry. 

Boards can no longer afford to make assumptions about projects; they are operational realities and for businesses to run effectively, clearer insights are required. As the old maxim goes: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

In today’s climate, this an unacceptable level of business risk and can lead to money going down the drain. As Peter Jones of Canon Europe, points out: 'every business today has to keep costs under control, and everyone is under pressure to get their product to market more quickly and within budget. So careful resource management is critical to ensure there is no wastage of time or money.'

If business failure is linked to project management failure, there are many ways in which a business can understand what the reasons behind them are.

Here are the five top ways that good project management can help your business. 

  • Dealing with the unexpected - before it becomes a problem. Dealing with unexpected issues, delays and the implications of delay can have serious impact on a business. Unforeseen delay thanks to ineffective planning, scheduling or neglecting to test assumptions can damage customer relationships, create extra costs and interrupt key processes. This can create a knock-on effect; for example, failing to fulfil on a service level agreement or failing to deliver to a customer on time can have direct financial or legal implications. The ability to manage a project in a way which enables you to see and adapt around a potential delay can avoid these problems occurring in the first place.
  • Protecting the company. Managing operations via a solution which enables a full, complete and comprehensive capture of each step of a project or a delivery process, including exactly what happened when and by whom, provides protection by enabling later investigation and discovery and can even provide legal evidence about adherence to an SLA, a contracted commitment or even regulatory compliance. 
  • Gaining management support. Buy-in or funding can delay the start of a project and also enable effective resolution when and if problems crop up during a project. Clear senior stakeholder communication is vital throughout, but in supporting projects the content of the reports must be at the appropriate high level.
  • Ensuring consistent and dependable delivery every time. Dependability is one of the most important factors in good client relationships and reputation, as well as business success. Achieving what you set out to do, on time, every time, and with predictable costs, is directly linked to profitability and business growth. Doing so depends on having robust and repeatable processes which are derived from good project management. A further benefit is to create confidence inside the company which enables it to make those commitments in the first place, and communicate that total delivery confidence to potential customers.
  • Provision of informed decision making about people resource. Making the very most of people is financially critical in an economy in which, for the vast majority of companies, they are the most expensive resource of all. In straitened times many companies have already optimised their staffing; they will rarely have spare resources on hand and instead need to ensure that scarce resources such as expert engineers or specialists are utilised to the maximum. This means planning their involvement carefully on any activity or project, from a scheduled timing and hours of time spend perspective, and making real-time deployment changes as circumstances require or making decisions about extra resourcing needs.

Focusing on good project management and implementing the right tools and strategies to safeguard and enhance business performance and reputation should be one of the top priorities right now for any business.

Not only does a strategic project management function put increased control into the hands of those managing projects, processes and other operations, it also allows vital information exchange across the enterprise and delivers essential management transparency.

To ensure that project management plays its essential strategic role, there needs to be ownership for this critical function at board level as with other key corporate functions such as financial management.

Project management is a fundamental part of many aspects of management and is interwoven with HR, finance, production and supply chain management - areas which all share the same need to be managed from the top down to be effective.

Given the criticality of project management, a cohesive approach that binds it to strategy is called for. Most organisations support this function using a disparate range of isolated tools and DIY approaches and it is clear that this will no longer do.

To achieve project management excellence the right tool for the job needs to be in place that supports the business at an enterprise-wide level, so the business is supported from top to bottom and from edge to edge.