There are six categories of drivers to any projects. These drivers are the initiating function that becomes the project’s origins. I’d like to take a minute to review each of these using examples.
One important thing to draw from in this discussion isn’t necessarily the specifics of each driver, although those are important. What is more important for organizations is to realize that they need to have keenly attuned feedback mechanisms to be able to receive information and process it in a way so it can turn into a project. Remember how I talked earlier that demands for growth force companies to invest in projects in order to beat market expectations? The need to invest in projects to stay competitive in the market is real.
- Marketing Demand: This driver emerges from an unserviced need within the marketspace. Uber and Lyft are two great services developed in response to an unsatisfied market. Similarly FEDEx’s initial development was also in response to a market demand. Many of the sharing economy’s innovations including AirBnB are in response to unserved markets. Sometimes identifying an unserved market is difficult because it requires creativity to look beyond the barriers to innovation. Taxi medallions, established hotel chains, and the USPS all had to be overlooked to create some of today’s great companies.
- Business Need: Staying competitive sometimes means focussing internally. An old HR system’s inefficiencies can cost the organization time and a loss of productivity. Business needs often look inside the organization to find similarly inefficient systems and implement a project to reduce those inefficiencies. At work we have a new system to facilitate new employee integration.
- Customer Request: The customer request driver is often the traditional initiator for many projects. Project management as a discipline emerged in part from construction efforts which often emerged from customer requests. A contracting company’s entire business model revolves around receiving and responding to customer requests. When I needed a home I hired a contractor to build it. But what about other industries or organizations? Good organizations need to serve their customers, great organizations need to listen to them and their ideas about building something better. Sometimes a suggestion box can be the source of the next project.
- Technological Advance: Taking advantage of a technological improvement can lead to increased efficiency and adopting the improvement will often require a project to implement. The technological advance driver is different than the marketing demand driver. While Overstock.com’s acceptance of bitcoin as payment is certainly taking advantage of a technological advance in currency development it’s mostly done to address a marketing demand. True technological advance projects are more focussed on tangible technological improvements. Steam powered ships over sailing vessels. Today these often include updating existing infrastructure to improve efficiency. Migrating from 10/100 based IT systems to gigabit would be an example of one of these projects. Other examples include adding WiFi, migrating to virtualized servers, a film company adopting higher resolution cameras, or transitioning to open source software.
- Legal Requirement: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) contains over 900 pages of text and the word “shall” appears 4156 times. The word shall is significant here because it is a directive word legally prescribing requirements of action on the identified individual, congress shall, the secretary shall etc. These shall requirements require a change in behavior on behalf of the identified individuals and agencies. Some of these changes required projects such as creating the exchanges for purchasing health care. Other changes were less intense, but all of the changes were due to legal requirements. Since the federal registry currently floats between 70,000 and 80,000 pages of legal requirements there’s probably some part of it that your organization is currently violating and will require a project in order to comply.
- Social Need: The mantra of going green is one of the biggest social mantras of our day. Companies such as Marriott dedicate millions of dollars into improving their standing on this social issue. The process of improving one’s social standing generally involves a publicly visible project to show waste reduction or some other socially approved idea about reducing cost to the environment.
Each of these drivers lead to projects, but each are also in response to identified needs. Organizational survival isn’t simply based upon its performance it’s often based upon the organization’s performance against market growth. It’s not just about being good at implementing a project. It’s about being a good listener to respond to project opportunities.
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