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Embarking on a new project? Before you start ask yourself why?

Posted on Thu 20 October 2022
Written by Tom Hedges

Further thoughts and insight into the world of Grant Management from the mind of project management guru Keith Turkington

Why, oh why…

One of the most important questions in any project is ‘why?’.  As a prince practitioner and a diligent and detail focused (tiresome to some) project manager I like a good ‘why’. At the start of any project it is critical to make an attempt to establish and articulate the ‘why’ of the project.  Specifically why has the project been started and why now?  Throw in a good ‘what’ (i.e. what do we hope to achieve) and mix in a little ‘when’ (i.e. when do we hope to achieve the what) and a smidgeon of how and who and we are off!

In a previous blog article I mentioned my disappointment at the apparent lack of structure regularly encountered in the selection of new grant management systems. My recommended starting point for any selection process is being able to clearly and succinctly articulate the reasons (the ‘why’), goals (the ‘what’) and the benefits to key stakeholders (the main ‘who’).  I believe this is essential if for no other reason when asked about the project you don’t start to stumble through some half-baked, ill thought through explanation. Not a recipe for success or a way to inspire those around you to help…

Take stock of what it is you are aiming to achieve

By pausing before the project begins … and I’m thinking about the selection of a new grant management system when writing this (but good principles are good principles and have value in any project)… you can consider what it is you are really trying to achieve and why.  Projects mostly do not finish on time and/or to budget (Google ‘Project success rate statistics’ if you would like stats on this).  Not surprisingly projects that have clear goals, stakeholders identified and bought into what you are trying to achieve, and a clear well-defined plan, are more likely to succeed. I doubt I would have many disagree with me on this and yet my experience is a lack of structure and clarity is all too frequent when selecting a new grant management system. Perhaps the effort required to kick-start a project, detail requirements and structure the procurement might seem daunting or too costly but as always I would argue can you afford to get it wrong? Perhaps it is the trap of thinking it can’t be that difficult and I know what we need.  A dangerous pitfall, as it can be so inviting to just get started and engage with suppliers.

Effort upfront pays dividend in the long run

As I say the first step is to establish the ‘why’ of the project and articulate what it is you are trying to achieve.  If you cannot explain the project and why it  is being started succinctly then stop and reconsider.   As those who have worked with me can attest, I like to see a short document prepared summarising the project at the outset of any new project. This requires a little effort up front and before significant resources are committed to the project but provides the opportunity to test the waters and see what colleagues, senior management, users and those impacted by the project (i.e key stakeholders) are thinking, and what they feel the project should be trying to achieve. It is amazing how consistently when exploring project goals with colleagues, how often these are improved upon and things one person might not think about come to mind. Engaging early and often with stakeholders makes a big difference to projects.

To help you capture the goals of your project, accompanying this article is a template for a project brief.  This document is shared in the hope it will help you consider key points and kickstart your project and help set you off in the right direction. To access the doc, fill in the form at the bottom of this blog.

 Feel free to add to and amend for your organisation!

I’ll end with this: If you want your grant management system selection to go well, prepare a project brief and articulate your ‘why’ before you do anything! You won’t regret it…

Keith Turkington

Grant Management Advocate

Keith Turkington Funny Profile Picture

Download the Project Brief Template

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