What to Do If Your Project Runs Late?


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It is way too late.

Despite your best laid plans and well thought out project timeline your project is forecast to run late.

Scenario: The project is forecast to run late.

In a good project timeline you will have key milestones, which should be used to track the project’s progress. By having interim deliverables due, a project manager can determine how a project is progressing and therefore be able to forecast if the final deliverable will be later than expected. As the project manager, you will be able to see from your project timeline which tasks should have been completed and which have been.  Once assessing your situation, one or a combination of the following solutions may be suitable.

Solution 1: Consult with your stakeholders to agree on a suitable extension of time

Strong communication with all types of stakeholders involved is critical for successful delivery of projects on an ongoing basis. It is important to maintain strong communication with your project sponsor and project client, as potential and actual issues arise so they are not surprised when a project runs late. By being well informed of issues that come up, a client may actually feel that you have provided a better outcome by taking longer on the project. Although the project may be delivered after the initial due date strong communication will reduce negative impacts of delayed delivery.Never break the golden rule of telling a client the job will be late, AFTER it is due. Managing client expectation is an important part of project management.

Solution 2: Prioritize project elements, reduce project scope or agree on staged delivery

If a project needs to come in on a particular date you may need to re-examine the project scope with the view to refining some elements. This can be challenging, however generally projects have “nice to have” components that are not critical. These could potentially be delivered after the key project due date. If a report is due, you could elect to provide an extended executive summary with key results found to date, with an updated final report provided at a later stage, or you may elect to not deliver some components of the project.

Solution 3: Bring on additional resources and/or extend working hours (spend more money)

Spending more budget is often suggested as a way to bring projects in on-time. This solution generally works on bigger projects and is particularly suited to projects where the deliverables are clear, eg. Build this house to this plan or tasks can be separated and given to another company or additional staff. For example, repainting 20 depots can be split into 2 sub tasks given to two companies to paint 10 each. For smaller projects this approach may not be suitable as the project knowledge may be with one or two individuals and disseminating this knowledge may slow the project further.

Improving for next time

Most clients will forgive a late project once, twice is pushing the relationship and after the third time you won’t be invited back. The best way to ensure future improvement is to conduct a post implementation review and ensure project improvements are incorporated into your project management delivery framework. The delivery framework you adopt in your project management sets out steps to follow to develop your project plan, scope and budget and effectively deliver the project. For smaller projects the project management delivery framework may be a checklist of key items to complete and key issues to consider before the project commences and during implementation. Having this process documented means that you can get it right each and every time and incorporate improvements from lessons learnt.

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