Does your project have clear objectives? I hope so: these should be written into the business case and Project Charter. Having objectives is crucial to knowing what it is you are trying to achieve and whether you are on track to get there or not.
You don’t have to have the job title of ‘Project Manager’ to find yourself working on a project these days. Lots of people have responsibility for initiatives, big and small, that are essentially projects. You have to clarify your objectives for these too, so that you know whether or not you are going to be able to deliver them and keep your boss happy!
So where do you start?
There are 5 different categories of project objectives and it can help to think of these when you are doing your planning. Try to get an objective that fits in each category. This will help you end up with a set of objectives that is realistic and that ticks multiple boxes. They will show your manager that you have a wide-ranging outlook on the business and that your business know-how is up there with the best.
Use an online mindmapping tool to plot out your project objectives: it works whether your project is big or small. You can mark the different categories and then add more and more detail until all your objectives are clearly defined.
So: let’s get straight into the 5 categories of project objective with the first one.
1. Business Objectives
This is what you naturally think of when you come to define the objectives of a project. These are what we want to achieve, phrased in the language of business strategy. They are normally explicit in your business case, and the thing your manager first thinks of when asked why you are doing this project in the first place.
These are the objectives that relate to solving a problem in the business. If you aren’t clear on what these are, your manager should be able to tell you why the piece of work was kicked off: that’s your business objective.
It could be something like improving a process to improve customer satisfaction or reducing returns in a shop or similar.
2. Project Performance Objectives
These are what professional project managers would track regularly and even if you don’t consider yourself to be a project manager you can still include some objectives here that relate to managing the work.
These are things like:
- How well are you doing sticking to your schedule?
- How well are you doing sticking to your budget?
- Do you have the right people doing the right tasks at the right time?
- How much risk is there inherent in the work you are doing right now and do you have plans to deal with it all?
Put together a few objectives around being able to manage your project professionally, based on these targets. They should help you track progress and provide decent reporting to your manager and other interested parties. This type of objective sets you out as someone who knows how to deliver important work.
3. Financial Objectives
Projects cost money. People want to know how much money is being spent, normally so they can compare it to how much benefit they are getting in return to check that the investment has been worth it.
Tracking project expenses is important as it gives you the information to answer those questions. You can’t spend the company’s money without knowing where it is going – that’s bad practice.
Create a few objectives around financial targets. For example:
- To ensure the project costs $XXX or less.
- To deliver savings of $XXX based on saving six full time equivalents.
- To deliver an increase to revenue of x% by selling XXX units of the new product.
As you can see, a financial objective could either be to hit a certain financial target, to save money or to make more money. You could also have one that centered on avoiding costs. An example would be on a project where you are updating internal processes to meet new regulatory requirements to avoid the cost of a fine which could be levied if you were shown to not be compliant (more on compliance in a moment).
4. Quality Objectives
You can also include in your mindmap some objectives that relate to the quality of your project deliverables.
Let’s say you are building a website. Your quality objectives would be around making sure that it worked correctly and that customers found it easy to navigate. You can set yourself an objective of getting positive customer feedback or of response times being microseconds. Quality targets let you measure tangible results that you or others determine as important for the outcome to be deemed a success.
5. Compliance Objectives
Finally, your objectives could be related to compliance factors. Not all projects will have an element of compliance, but many of them will have.
Compliance normally relates to working within regulations, guidelines or the law. However, you can also comply with internal policies and procedures, so you could set yourself a compliance objective to ensure that the brand guidelines for your new website were fully adhered to.
This is probably the easiest kind of objective to measure: you are either within the regulation and compliant or you aren’t! There are no gray areas.
Your project might not have all of these categories of objectives, but it doesn’t hurt to spend some time mindmapping to see if you can come up with them. The broader your range of objectives, the easier it is to track your progress across a range of dimensions and prove the value that you added. You don’t want to have to track so many objectives that you don’t have time to do the work, but you do want your objectives to be drawn from a rounded pool, so they aren’t all financial targets or business objectives. Which of these categories are relevant for your project?
About the author
Elizabeth Harrin is the author and award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. Get her suggestions for being more productive at work on her blog.