Projects in the field of development are ultimately aimed at obtaining specific results to enable the promotion of socio-economic development in a community, region or country.
Results-based management is particularly important in development projects and is based on a series of widely-recognized approaches and tools, such as strategic planning and the alignment of programs with targets, risk management, and the assessment and follow-up of results.
One of these tools - strategic planning - will enable organization of the cause-effect relationships that exist between the targets or goals to be achieved and the programs to be implemented in order to achieve them. It is important to be able to analyze the relationship between the projects and objectives we wish to achieve in different scenarios, as this will enable the prioritization of different targets and the creation of a sufficiently consistent and flexible framework for analysis to establish relationships between each project and each objective. Hence, strategic planning enables a selection of projects to be chosen that will guarantee their contribution to the strategic goals of countries and promoting entities, and ensure that the expected results are defined according to suitable priorities. Strategic planning is one of the tools that enables increased effectiveness to be achieved in development and it is used by the organizations that implement projects and receive financing to justify the steps taken towards development and meet the requirements set by promoting entities.
The importance of results-based management lies in the fact that development project management should not be limited to delivery of the scope of a project within the agreed time and budget but rather aims to ensure that the final goals are achieved, in this case the expected socio-economic impact.
Development projects are aimed at meeting long-term goals, as most of them are focused on enacting socio-economic or environmental change, which does not usually lead to immediate results when concluding the project but rather produces results over much longer timeframes. This means it is necessary to conduct an ex-post assessment after the project is finished. In this regard, successful project management will enable intermediate results to be achieved that will gradually enable sustainable results to be obtained in the long term.
One specific characteristic in the field of development is stakeholder diversity, the various stakeholders have varying needs, expectations, demands, areas of influence and interests in the project. This leads to a need for effective communication in order to reach agreements on economic, social, environmental and gender-related issues, etc. Given that development projects take place in complex environments where there are various stakeholders and limitations on access to certain resources or technologies, there is a need to consider these issues when designing the project and to be able to adapt to the changing conditions of the complex environment without affecting the achievement of expected results.
As is the case in any other project, development projects are subject to restrictions in three areas: scope, time and cost. The success of a project will depend on the ability to achieve the goals while considering these restrictions and adopting the measures necessary to keep them in balance, as changing one the restrictions will undoubtedly have an effect on the others. For example, a change that increases the scope of the project could also mean that costs are increased, the schedule is extended or both.
The goals that justify the project must be achieved within the boundaries set by the restrictions on budget, time and scope. However, the needs and expectations of stakeholders must also be met, which are ultimately responsible for assessing the quality of the project. Management of these factors will require meticulous planning, analysis of the project indicators throughout the implementation period and agreement on priorities for the stakeholders. The implementing organization, the promoting or financing entity and the end beneficiaries may have different priorities and efficient management of communication will be necessary to ensure that the needs and expectations of all stakeholders are known and considered.
In this regard, it is important to understand planning as a participatory process in which the results to be achieved are agreed upon and which considers the interests of both project stakeholders and, in particular, the beneficiaries because, if the expected results do not meet the needs and expectations of the end beneficiaries, it will be hard for the project to be successful even if the planned results are achieved in terms of cost, time and scope.
Communication management plays a central role in ensuring the appropriate generation, distribution, storage and provision of information about the project. Project managers will need to be in constant contact with the team members and other stakeholders in the project, and appropriate and efficient management of communication between stakeholders will enable connections to be made between the various perspectives and interests regarding the development results, as well as information to be provided on performance.
Appropriately managing communication enables stakeholder expectations to be handled and concerns addressed in such a way that the probability of success for a project can be increased to the extent that agreements can be reached between the stakeholders in terms of understanding the resources involved, the goals at which the project is targeted and the expected benefits.
The use of integrated project management tools, such as ITM Platform, allows methods of recognized success to be used and ensures that stakeholders have the tools to manage communications and undertake strategic planning, among other things, which have been shown to be fundamentally important in the management of development projects.
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Article written by Alberto Martín, Support and training Responsible in ITM Platform