One of the primary issues facing CIOs, VPs of Engineering, and software development leaders is project governance and how to maintain control of new software development, software changes, and pivots. We find that often, a project becomes too big or too complex and the work spirals — breaking budgets, missing deadlines, and frustrating everyone involved. Proper project governance can help control spending, keep developers on track, and ensure that you meet your stakeholders’ requirements.

While project governance does not have to be overly complex, it is something that requires strategic thought and careful planning. However, if you’re looking to cut costs, governance is definitely not the place to start. In fact, governance can be one of the best ways to save money in the long run.

Think About Your Requirements — And Rein Them In

Software development takes time and effort, and features need to be prioritized. One of the best ways to keep project governance on track is to carefully track your requirements and rein them in. Not doing so can slow down projects and place budgets at risk. When management blindly accepts all requirements or sets them all as equal priorities, it isn’t clear what needs to happen and when.  This can result in runaway timelines and budget overruns.

Focus on what needs to be done first. Prioritize tasks based on importance, price, work hours, or whatever criterion is the most applicable. Remember that development teams and outside firms cannot say “no” to specific requirements — especially those that come from stakeholders such as product teams and mid-level functional managers. It is especially risky when the source of each request is unknown — thus, developers have to treat each one as equally important. This means important work can get pushed aside for relatively trivial work.

Because of this, it’s essential that you identify and prioritize all requirements at the onset of a project. You can add to those requirements or refine them as needed — all while defining roles, allocating tasks, and keeping clear metrics on what gets done.

Building A Software Roadmap

A roadmap is primarily a communication tool that shows product priorities across the short and long term. When you have a clear, concise project roadmap, everyone can get a good view of what tasks need to be done, which ones have been completed, and which ones need to be assigned in the future.

If you must accommodate multiple software requests from your employees, but you get many more requests than you can handle, you will need to make some difficult decisions about priorities. Often, business leaders feel like they need to choose between their financial standing and workplace morale because they believe it’s not possible to satisfy both. However, a software roadmap that covers many years can help business leaders visualize and maintain their budget on particular projects while also keeping team members well apprised of the situation.

Problems emerge when someone on the team tries to introduce an over-engineered system in one step. It creates logistical problems, implementation issues, and lessens efficiency in your system. A project roadmap will allow businesses to roll out software updates and additional features in phases over a longer period of time. Those phases are carefully documented, and everyone can, with a glance, tell where they should be along the timeline. With this, features can be added and changed based on their priorities within the business – so what is important will get done first. An over-engineered system will damage a company’s ability to generate revenue quickly.

Plus, unwieldy software often lacks necessary user-friendly features.

There are several other benefits associated with installing “under-engineered software.” Streamlined software produced within a project road map helps businesses meet goals, exceed expectations, and keep everyone satisfied. It also helps drive decisions forward and encourages those decisions to be made faster, perhaps even before committing to a project.

Risk Management

Risk management is one of the most important aspects of project success — therefore, it should be viewed as a basic component of project governance. You can plan for some risks, but you can’t plan for them all — and these risks can jeopardize your project. Identify all the risks you can before you even begin a project. Talk to people with knowledge and strengths in specific areas to have them outline not only the risks, but also what can be done to mitigate these risks. Strategic planning and brainstorming can ensure these risks never emerge at all or that you are prepared with what actions to take if they do arise at any point.

Some risks cannot be avoided, but you can approach them in a way that prevents them from derailing an entire project and blowing your budget.

Keep Roles Well Defined

The success of a project will largely depend on your team members, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their roles. An effective project governance plan will catalog team members by roles, strengths, weaknesses, and how they should work together. From there, roles can be managed, requirements can be structured, and teams can have a better idea of who they can go to if problems arise. Of course, a large part of this depends on communication. Ensure there are always open lines of communication where people feel they can be heard and that their input matters not only to project leaders, but also to other team members.

Evaluate At The End

One of the best tools you have is history — each project needs to be clearly documented, evaluated, and cataloged once it is complete. Review the project as a whole, breaking down the roadmap that you’ve created and looking at each individual piece of the project. Note the successes, of course, but also document the challenges and failures. This is the time to think about what can be improved in the future.

Project managers, CIOs, and other team members need to see the overall picture of a project before you even begin the journey. There are certain things that can ensure a project is successful and certain things that can completely derail it. No matter what, project governance is one of the only things that can completely make or break a project. Without it, a project has little chance for success.