What is the project goal?

The PMI definition of a project says that it is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service” but it doesn’t say why we need to create that product or service. This definition is so often quoted and it makes the impression that the question “Why?” is not so important. Well, I believe it is.

Many people explain that the answer to the question “Why do we do this project?” is called a project’s goal and it is very important for the project manager to stick to it and never deviate. While I agree completely that everything we do in our professional life should be done for a reason and in project management it means that we should know why we are doing that project and never forget it, I disagree with the term “project goal” because it is misleading.

There is no project goal because only living creatures have goals. A stone doesn’t have a goal so doesn’t a project. There are two parties involved in a project usually – the customer and the implementor (the project team). They have goals and their interest is written down in some form of contract.

The customer’s goal is usually a business goal – to solve some business problem, to increase the income, to decrease the expenses, to maximize profit, or to improve the company image. They believe that this goal can be achieved by creating the product or the service as a result of that project. Many people say that the project goal is the customer’s goal. But there are some questions here:

  1. What if the customer assumes wrongly that the project will achieve their goal? What if you know that what the customer requests are plain stupid? (In the case of software it is usually because they give direct instructions how the product should look like without having any idea how a to develop software) What should you do if you know that in the end they are going to realize that they have spent their money for nothing?
  2. What is the implementor’s goal? Is it the same as the customer’s? Isn’t it just to take the customer’s money? At least that is what we do – make software for money. Why should we care about the customer’s goals?

What do you think? I am going to share my opinion on these questions too in the future posts.

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7 Comments

  • Dan Waldron says:

    Can you tell me who did your layout? I’ve been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.

  • Mike Ramm says:

    Dan, it’s just the theme. Look at the bottom of the page for a link to the theme’s site. I think I did just a little tweaking and changed the main picture on the top.

  • georgim says:

    I’ll vote for taking customers money…
    It’s a clever move from your side to warn customer (in written form) if you can see the issue in advance, but don’t bother if the customer does not pay attention (usually they are not [paying attention]) to your warnings.

  • Craig Brown says:

    Hi Mike

    I am absolutely in favour of taking the time to explain the implications of badly articulated requirements.

    But of they don’t listen? What then?

    I am also a believer that if you truly know your client’s business you’ll be able to deliver a better solution than they can desribe.

    But how do you ‘sell’ them on the concept of your having that insight?

    Two broad strategies
    1. Build up your trust points through a series of well executed and successful projects
    2. Have a look at the incremental delivery associated with the agile approach.

    What do you think?

    (PS have a look at this game; want to play?)

  • Mike Ramm says:

    Yes, Craig, I absolutely agree with you. I was going to propose the same strategies as you did, only it took me too long 🙂

    I believe that as a project manager you should be honest to your customer and if you have a better solution you should propose it. The problem is that sometimes the upper management of your company wouldn’t allow you to make such a proposal to the customer. They believe that doing what the customer wants is the best way to serve them and the easiest way to become successful in business.

    I am not a big fan of the agile approach but I definitely support the idea of the incremental delivery. But to do that you must have a customer who is actively interested in the outcome of the project. I have many examples in my professional life of customers who didn’t care at all about the project. It was just an unpleasant obligation they had to do.

  • Craig Brown says:

    One particular technique is an analysis of project drivers using weighted scoring.

    You pull together a bunch of criteria, get everyone ot agree on the right weights and then assess.

    Criteria can be generated via a series of things like business strategy, stated goals, customer satisfaction, financial, time constraints, reputaion etc.

    Put up a model, and have the client and stakeholders score (or rank) them.

  • Raycollins says:

    Hello

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