The best internal project managers are able to help their companies achieve business objectives by completing successful projects on time, on scope, and on budget. But as most PMs know, this is easier said than done – especially if there’s a barrier between business leadership and project teams on the ground. That’s why we’re here to talk about why project tasks should be aligned with even the highest-level business objectives whenever possible, plus some advice for doing just that.
What are project management tasks?
Project management tasks are the individual units of work required to complete a bigger scale project or objective. To be considered a task, it should be definitive, achievable, and have a set deadline for completion.
In terms of a project task, there’s no question or vagueness. It is clear, decisive, descriptive, and has written steps for being accomplished.
For example, if your goal is to increase sales by 10% in three months, then a task might include creating a targeted ad campaign with X budget that will run Y number of days and reach Z demographic. This can be considered a task because it has clear instructions that help support the long term goal at hand. That task can then be broken into smaller sub-tasks so as to make the project workable for a project team.
Project management tasks and project objectives
Project tasks are the steps that the project team takes to meet overall project objectives. In the example above, the company in question undertakes a marketing project (an ad campaign) in order to meet specific sales objectives.
So where do business objectives fit in?
What is a business objective?
A business objective is a higher-level goal that a company sets out to accomplish. A business objective is similar to a project objective in that there are usually particular steps outlined in order to reach specific goals and deadlines. Some common business objectives include increasing revenue, reducing costs, boosting productivity and/or efficiency, building out the brand, and increasing return on investment.
The subtle difference is that business objectives are high-level objectives, meaning their connection to particular internal projects isn’t always obvious.
For example, it makes sense that an ad campaign would help achieve a business objective related to revenue. But what if the objective is boosting productivity? Should the company simply turn down the thermostat during work hours? Hire an office yoga instructor? Develop a whole new time tracking system? Without a certain level of specificity, companies risk setting projects in motion without clear intent, which can be a waste of resources and negatively impact morale.
It’s incumbent on business leaders and project managers to work together to make sure that, on the one hand, business objectives are clear, and on the other, that projects are geared toward achieving them.
Why you should align project management tasks with business objectives
Unclear objectives make for project chaos
Vague business objectives can be very intimidating for project managers and their teams. If you simply instruct them to increase sales, you’re leaving a lot of confusing guesswork for them to figure out. By making business objectives as specific as possible – concrete numbers and timeframes are a start – business leaders can make it easier for PMs to devise internal projects for achieving them.
This can have positive effects not just on the immediate objectives, but on company morale. Employees are most satisfied with their work when they feel 1) their work has purpose and 2) their work is leading somewhere. Projects that lead to accomplishing business objectives can be very motivating for employees, which will keep them around longer. Employee turnover can cost your company precious money, time, and resources, so it’s a good idea to keep teams aligned and motivated.
Strong business cases make strong projects
By aligning projects tasks with business objectives, PMs can increase stakeholder and executive buy-in across the board. Project management is the art of getting things done within time and budget constraints, according to the interests of any number of stakeholders who can either help or hinder the team’s efforts. When proposed project tasks can be positioned as solutions to specific business challenges, gatekeepers are more likely to give the green light.
Tip: Start every project with a business case
There’s no surer way to align projects with business objectives than with a written business case. This statement acts as the project’s justification – the reason all the time and resources it requires will be worth it for the company.
By committing to making a business case standard procedure during the planning phase of every internal project, business leaders and PMs can build a point of alignment between the company and its projects right into the project planning process. It forces company leaders to make business objectives transparent and clear while giving PMs a better chance of successfully completing the projects they undertake.
If you’ve ever wondered what a business objective is or how to align it with your project tasks, then you are already in a good position. It means you are factoring the long term goals of your business into the equation and not just putting out daily fires. Clarizen’s project management solution helps you create scalable project plans, including clear cut project tasks, to align projects with business objectives. Get in touch for a live demo.