Tailoring in project management can happen at any time and for any process being applied to a project. Organizations often have a project methodology in place and may realize that this methodology needs to allow for adjustments to best manage a variety of projects. As a project manager, you cannot blindly follow a methodology, you need to know how to assess a project to determine what processes will need to be adjusted to achieve a successful outcome for your project. Here we are going to look at a very high-level method for process tailoring. This four step method includes: evaluating existing processes, assessing the project, documenting the tailoring process, and re-evaluating.
1. Evaluate Existing Processes
Before you can even consider tailoring processes to meet the needs of your project, you need to understand fully the project management methodology and processes utilized by your organization. Some organizations implement the philosophy of setting a base list of processes that must be utilized for each project and allowing for adding processes as long as the base requirements are met. Some organizations identify all possible processes that may be utilized for a project and allow for the removal of some, if not most, of the processes depending upon the project needs. Others may employ a strict method that must be adhered to and may not be altered without prior approval. Before doing any project tailoring, it is best to understand fully the processes and know your organization's stance on making adjustments to tailor those processes for your project.
2. Assess the Project
Assessing the project tailoring needs can be completed by asking questions in regards to each of the project management knowledge areas to determine which processes are required for project success and which may need to be adjusted. Below is a small list of example questions a project manager may want to ask when tailoring their project. Each project is unique, so you should develop a list of questions to fit best your project.
Project Integration Management:
- Is this a phased project and if so, how many phases will this project have?
What is the size/complexity of the project and how will it impact the project management plan?
- Will we use Agile or Waterfall?
Are the project requirements clearly or loosely defined?
- How is time spent on the project logged by everyone?
Does the project need to be fast tracked?
- What tools will be utilized to track actual spending?
Is the project team managing finances or do we need to involve the finance department?
- Does the organizational quality policy affect this project?
Are there any quality regulatory requirements that impact this project?
- Are required skills available in-house to complete this project or will resources need to be hired?
Will the project team be co-located or virtual?
Have they worked together previously?
- Will project team members be allowed to communicate directly with stakeholders or will all communication need to go through the project manager?
What are the preferred communication methods of the project team and stakeholders?
- What would be the impact on the organization if the project were to fail?
How much risk management is "right" for the project?
- Will the project management team have the authority to sign contracts or will this be done by a procurement or legal department?
What level of approval will the project team have for purchases ($100, $1,000, $10,000, etc.)?
- Are the Stakeholders physically located near the project?
What is the anticipated involvement of the stakeholders?
As part of the project, you need to document the tailoring process approach in the project management plan. As the processes are tailored you also need to document how each process was tailored and why it was added, removed, or revised. This serves two functions. One is to document all of the adjustments made as part of the tailoring process to have a good record of the project for closeout purposes. The second is to show which tailored processes worked well, and which ones may need further adjustment for future projects. By documenting the tailored processes, process tailoring guidelines and project tailoring checklists can be developed (or improved upon if already existing) to improve the process of tailoring for future projects within the organization.
Just as with many project management processes, you can't just tailor a process and walk away. As the project progresses, it is vital to re-evaluate the processes being used to determine if the tailoring is working as planned and if additional adjustments are necessary. This can be completed formally at the start of a new phase if this is a phased project or even informally as part of the project status meetings. No matter the method you chose to re-evaluate, document the approach and the results both as part of your project documentation.
Project process tailoring is a good project management practice that helps ensure a successful project outcome. A project manager should not blindly apply a methodology, but instead, should evaluate the existing processes, assess the project to be completed, document any process tailoring completed, and re-evaluate the tailoring process as the project proceeds. Here we have provided a high-level project process tailoring method that you can apply to your projects.
About the author: Cornelius Fichtner is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 35,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at http://www.pm-prepcast.com/pmprepcast and The PMP Exam Simulator at http://www.pm-prepcast.com/simulator.