At Northwest Contract Services, we know a project is successful when the needs of the stakeholders have been met. We define a stakeholder as anybody directly, or indirectly impacted by the project.

Once we determine who the stakeholders are, the next step is to find out their needs. The best way to do this is by conducting stakeholder interviews. We are always sure during the interviews to draw out the true needs that create real benefits.

Once all the interviews have been conducted, and we have a comprehensive list of needs, we work with you to prioritize them. From the prioritized list, your team and ours create a set of goals that can be easily measured.  These goals need to be time-based and trackable, relevant and realistic, attainable and agreed upon, measurable and meaningful, and specific. This way it will be easy to know when a goal has been achieved and to measure how well we are doing in meeting your need..

Next, deliverables need to be determined. Using the goals you have defined, we create a list of things the project needs to deliver in order to meet those goals. We agree upon when and how each item must be delivered.

The deliverables are added to the project plan with an estimated delivery date. More accurate delivery dates will be established during the scheduling phase, which is next.

Together we create a list of tasks that need to be carried out for each deliverable identified in step 2. For each task we identify the following:

•    The amount of effort (hours or days) required to complete the task.
•    The NWCS or client resource who will carry out the task.

Once we have established the amount of effort for each task, we can work out the effort required for each deliverable, and an accurate delivery date. Then we can update your deliverables with the more accurate delivery dates.

A common problem discovered at this point, is when a project has an imposed delivery deadline from the sponsor that is not realistic based on the estimates. If we discover this is the case, we contact the sponsor immediately. The options you have in this situation are:

•    Renegotiate the deadline (project delay).
•    Employ additional resources (increased cost).
•    Reduce the scope of the project (less delivered).

If you are going to need additional resources, you will need to define the essential skills and knowledge that each resource will need to bring to the project. If you do not have the essential skills and knowledge in house, you will need to identify the resources that Northwest Contract Services will be need to find and deliver to your team.

Next, we describe the number and type of people needed to carry out the project. For each resource we detail start dates, estimated duration and the targeted price point for the project either in terms of hourly rates or a price for the duration of the project effort.

Once we have agreed on these targets, you will just need to give it to your NWCS contact and prepare to begin selecting your ideal resources.

Although often overlooked, it is important to identify as many risks to your project as possible, and be prepared if something bad happens.

Here are some examples of common project risks:

•    Time and cost estimates too optimistic.
•    Customer review and feedback cycle too slow.
•    Unexpected budget cuts.
•    Unclear roles and responsibilities.
•    Stakeholder input is not sought, or their needs are not properly understood.
•    Stakeholders changing requirements after the project has started.
•    Stakeholders adding new requirements after the project has started.
•    Poor communication resulting in misunderstandings, quality problems and rework.
•    Lack of resource commitment.

Risks can be tracked using a simple risk log. Add each risk you have identified to your risk log; write down what you will do in the event it occurs, and what you will do to prevent it from occurring. Review your risk log on a regular basis, adding new risks as they occur during the life of the project. Remember, when risks are ignored they don’t go away.