Product development projects are the basis for corporate success. In recent years, the demands placed on the management of these projects have steadily increased with growing complexity and more volatile requirements. This trend is further intensified by the advancing digitalisation of products. A professional project management approach is, therefore, the basic prerequisite for the control of scarce resources and the effective and efficient application of interdisciplinary product development processes.
Overview of levels in project management
In order to develop products professionally, you deploy a development process. Here, you define exactly which results you need for development. However, the project management procedures are not described in the development processes, but in a separate project management process. This regulates the processes of project application and approval, project planning and controlling , project start and successful project completion. Within the framework of programme and multi-project management, not only individual projects are considered, but also the interdependencies between them.
The foundation for successful project management is laid as early as the selection process for existing (and new) projects. Portfolio management is concerned with the strategic selection and composition of the project portfolio for the coming period. Multi-project management provides the information necessary for the decisions made there. From the resulting prioritisation of the projects and the available resources, a Project Roadmap is drawn up. The task of multi-project management is now to monitor this plan on a rolling basis and to revise it if necessary. This is the only way to ensure that you keep track of all dependencies. You, therefore, maintain your project information with the help of database-supported software – the only source of documented information on planning and decision-making processes (otherwise known as the “Single Source of Truth”).
In practice, the projects planned on the Project Roadmap receive confirmation of the planning data – such as project objective, content and budget – as part of the operational planning of the start year. Only then can the initiation phase begin. In this initialisation phase, an initial budget is usually already required. Here, it is a question of how the project is to be realised in specific terms:
- Classic or agile project implementation
- Deadline and resource planning
- Selection of team members
Only when these points have been sufficiently clarified does it make sense to start with the project kick-off.
In recent years, in particular, agile working methods have come into focus alongside the classic ones. Agile approaches bring fundamental advantages in terms of efficient project implementation. The Stacey Matrix provides an initial source of orientation as to which type of project implementation can be advantageous.
An agile approach is always indicated when the requirements and the technology used are volatile or the framework conditions are largely new or unknown. These uncertainties are gradually reduced by the use of a permanent iterative procedure (empirical process control). Read more about agile working methods here.
Regardless of the choice of working method, a project kick-off is held after the successful completion of the initiation phase. All project participants get to know each other and receive the necessary infomation about the project. The project leaders and stakeholders answer any open questions posed by the project team. In practice, it has proven useful for the team to jointly agree on rules of cooperation – to formulate a so-called “working agreement”.
With the conclusion of the project kick-off, project implementation then begins. This phase includes all activities that are necessary to achieve the project goals. During project implementation, both working methods play out their advantages in their respective areas and produce project results within the methodological framework.
An important difference lies in the distribution of responsibilities and authorities. In classical project management, responsibilities and authority are concentrated on one person, the project manager. He or she prioritises the requirements and plans, controls and monitors the project. Simultaneously, this person is responsible for the efficient implementation of the project contents. In agile working methods, the responsibilities for product, technical and performance responsibility are distributed among three roles. Each role is responsible for exactly one responsibility and has the requisite authority for it.
Mixed forms of both working methods can be found in many companies today. We know the challenges stemming from classic and agile projects in the development of physical products and can support you in the successful implementation of your projects. Let our colleagues advise you on what will be a genuine gamechanger for your company.
Project closure is the final phase of a project. In addition to the final review of the project results and the handover of all necessary information, in order to ensure seamless series support, the project is subject to thorough retrospective review. The aim is to learn from the course of the project and to identify improvements at all levels.
Project management organisation in product development
A project management organisation provides all the necessary roles and capacities for the application of project management processes. In the following, predominantly elements of the classical project management organisation are described. Here, you can find more about the agile organisation.
At the centre of classical project organisation is the project manager and the interdisciplinary project team led by him or her:
The project manager has the methodological and social competencies to lead the interdisciplinary core team to success. At the same time, this person and their team are given full authority to make the decisions relevant to the project within its objectives. He or she represents the project to all stakeholders and reports to the steering committee. This person is the interim entrepreneur.
The project’s core team is staffed with an experienced member from each relevant department. This person is responsible for all project tasks to be carried out by his/her department and reports to the project manager for the duration of the project. At the same time, he or she bears organisational leadership responsibility for the project staff of the extended team from his or her department. This person has the professional and social competencies to do this. Project teams develop their potential best when they are embedded in a higher-level project management organisation.
The project steering committee consists of the project-relevant managers and steers the project team towards achieving the set project goal. It makes those decisions that go beyond the project boundaries and has the interests of the entire company in mind. The steering committee does not do any project work and leaves the responsibility for achieving the project goals with the core team.
The multi-project management function is responsible for monitoring resources and schedule-related dependencies within the scope of the entire project organisation. It collects and interprets all necessary data required for the decisions of the project portfolio committee and prepares necessary decisions.
The PMO ensures the provision and improvement of project management processes, methods and tools. In some companies, the PMO also provides a project manager pool. It supports project managers and teams by providing technical coaching.
Only a holistic project management approach can cover all dimensions of these complex processes. At CO Improve, we understand the problems, pitfalls and concerns that come with adopting such an approach. Together with your colleagues, we ensure the irreversibly successful transformation of your project management function.
The benefit to you
- You benefit from a holistic and professional approach to project management.
- You find the perfect mix of agile and classical working methods for your company situation.
- You take advantage of a project organisation with full-time project managers and an interdisciplinary project team.
- You use a project management standard supported by a PMO that helps you to embrace every aspect of professional project management in your company.