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Avoid Delayed Store Openings With a Strategic Approach to Project Management

ED CARNEVALE

The project manager at a major retailer was tracking a significant list of items that had to be completed before the store could be turned over to Operations. Once turned over the Operations, the planned opening was one week later. Since obtaining the business license is a responsibility of the Operations department and not of Project Management, it didn’t appear on the project manager’s checklist.

 

While the store was turned over to Operations on schedule, there was no business license in place – a process that takes 90 days to complete. The store sat dormant for 90 days – and not only was there the issue of lost revenue, but the retailer had to hire a security guard to ensure that the over $300,000 worth of equipment sitting within the store was safe.

 

Has something similar to this happened to you? Let’s review why managing critical milestones is crucial to the successful execution of a store development program or project.

 

Staying On Track

 

When monitored properly and in concert with other store development functions, active management of critical milestones can help ensure the program and project activities will be delivered on time and on budget.

 

And there are key lessons that can be learned in that process. In the over 26 years I’ve worked in store development and construction, I have learned the importance of not only developing the right strategy, but ensuring the execution supports the strategy – and to not treat that relationship as unidirectional. The lessons learned from effectively tracking critical milestones and the affect they have on project success, can help inform your strategy going forward and ensure the success of future initiatives.

 

What are Critical Milestones?

 

First, it’s important to understand what Critical Milestones are and how they affect the outcome of your project. In the most general terms, Critical Milestones are defined as the completion of major deliverable events over the course of a project. To be effective, they must be both clearly defined and observable.

 

Crucial to the attainment of Critical Milestones is recognizing that they have a number of dependencies. Critical Milestones are only achieved once a series of other related activities are completed and the results of those activities roll up to the completion of the milestone event.

 

So, What’s the Issue?

 

Well, in general, critical milestones and timelines are not given the upfront attention and analysis required to ensure the successful achievement of the project end date. In fact, by focusing almost exclusively on the end date and not the myriad of steps and milestones it will take to get there, the key decision makers, including the project manager, architectural engineer, civil engineer and general contractor fail to spend the appropriate time prior to project commencement to identify critical milestone dates, associated tasks and potential obstacles. In other words, they see the forest but fail to see the trees.

 

This situation makes it impossible for the project manager to identify whether the project is on schedule and to report any obstacles that may be in the way of reaching critical milestones and successfully completing the project on time. With all dates treated at equal and without a clear understanding of dependencies, timelines become bloated with too many conflicting dates to be tracked, and visibility into the overall project status is lost. Often, by the time it is clear that the project is not on schedule and that the end-date is in jeopardy, it’s too late to recover or the cost to “move mountains” is financially prohibitive.

 

Making Milestones Critical

 

Avoiding this costly and potentially disastrous situation is not difficult. It simply requires the right focus and careful planning before a project commences.To start, a mandatory meeting of the project manager, the architectural, engineering, civil firm and general contractor will help identify the true critical milestones. These milestones represent deadlines that must be met to complete the project on time, and failing to achieve them on schedule will place the overall project timeline in jeopardy. Along with each critical milestone, the team will:

  • Identify and define the sub-tasks that must be completed to achieve the critical milestones
  • Assign a stakeholder to each task and ensure they understand their role and responsibility.
  • Detail any and all potential obstacles in achieving the task must be identified, and how early this obstacle needs to be addressed to still meet the end date. For example, utilities that are not on site can often negatively affect tasks leading to achievement of critical milestones. Additionally, long lead time materials are tasks that may need to be managed before the start of construction.
  • Identify what other resources may be needed to overcome obstacles and when

 

Applying Technology

 

While historically project managers have attempted to manage this process in Excel or through various project management point solutions, those solutions lack the ability to link real estate strategy with store development execution. In lieu of empirical data collection of actual critical milestones and the ability to create trend and root cause analysis , these solutions tend to rely on anecdotal assumptions that are typically influenced by one-off exceptions that only provide part of the picture and color the real estate and development strategies.

 

Real estate development strategies are created based upon multiple factors within defined trade areas. Understanding how those factors affect time-to-market and cost within a given trade area, has a direct impact on a company’s capital development plans and growth strategies. Therefore, having immediate access to empirical data for root cause analysis will drive improved trade area and site evaluations, ROI projections and opening accuracy.

 

A program and project management solution that is fully connected part of an Strategic Store Lifecycle Management solution will help facilitate that relationship between strategy and execution. Discover more insights by downloading Tango’s Program & Project Management datasheet below.

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