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Project Success and 6+1 Variables

Success of a Project: Explanation of the 6+1 variables

Tourism projects are defined by nature by a set of characteristics and variables that the Project management team must consider and control throughout the duration of the project itself in order to ensure maximum chance of sustainable success. Tourism projects should always be considered the means by which Change (in its broader meaning) is introduced in a destination, in a local community.

All projects are subject to many variable factors which the PM must monitor throughout the project lifecycle to ensure a controlled delivery of the project’s products within a defined set of objectives.

These objectives are measured in terms of: Timescale, Cost, Quality, Scope, Risk and Benefits. PM4SD includes an additional variable: “Sustainability”. The PM needs to make sure that the project is delivering a product which complies with sustainable criteria and the sustainability of the projects solution in the future stages of the product lifecycle and not only during the project.

These seven factors (6+1) of project performance to be controlled can also be used as indicators of project progress and ultimately as a good way to measure the rate of success of the project management activities. It is therefore very important for the PM to have a clearly defined set of objectives, in line with sustainable tourism policies and criteria, from the start of the project, as these will form the basis of the entire project preparation, planning, control, and overall evaluation.

Timescales

Tourism projects are characterised by a pre-project process, which is pivotal to design a successful project. But since we are approaching the project, we are in the lifecycle of the project with a specific start date and a specific end, the “moment of truth” starts.

Projects are temporary in nature. They will have a defined and controlled start, a planned development and a known and controlled end (normally identified with a final “delivery” of the project products and a report). Timescale is one of the two standard monitoring factors (cost being the second one) used to monitor overall progress of a project comparing actual data against forecasts. One of the major factors affecting the success of a project is often an unclear definition of the project timescales. More often than not this indicates that the temporary project organisation is involved in the operational and maintenance (and therefore post-project) activities related to the product. This in turn creates problems with the correct apportionment of responsibilities and the calculation of running costs versus development costs of the project itself.

Cost

Projects need to produce value for money and their products are meant to provide added value to the users (tourists and local communities). For this reason the projects need to be affordable. Many projects are financed from the start with a specific budget set for the entire duration while some other projects might have a rolling budget (for example: “The management of an Archaeological Site” can be considered a maintenance project with rolling costs). However, this does not necessarily mean that there will be no risk of overspending or opportunities for cutting expenditures. Thus Cost is considered one of the major standard factors to be monitored during the project.

Quality

Depending on the nature and context of a project, Quality can take different forms. However, in PM4SD, Quality means making sure the projects deliver products that are fit for purpose and that meet all the criteria required by the clients: tourists and the citizens. Moreover, in PM4ESD Quality takes on a broader meaning, where the Sustainability of a project’s solution becomes a qualitative criterion that the project must meet. In simple terms PM4SD projects are planned around the quality of the products to be delivered, giving a greater understanding of what the project is supposed to create and reducing the risk of over/under scoping it, and making sure the Project’s Solution meets any Sustainability criteria set by the policy makers.

Scope

Scope is often a factor that greatly impacts Timescale and Costs. Scope is the definition of what a project is meant to deliver versus what it will not. For example, a customer buying a ticket for a tourist attraction might assume that meals and transfers are included in the costs while many tour operators might consider these as “extras”. The PM must therefore have a clear definition of what is required from the project in terms of products to be delivered as a vague understanding of the scope very often translates in what is known as scope-creep, where the delivery goes beyond the requirements creating delays or overspending, or the requirements are short of what is needed for the project to deliver the expected results and consequently benefits.

Risks

Another characteristic of tourism projects is the fact that they are inherently subject to a higher level of uncertainty than normal operational activities, as it covers activities for the creating and/or modifying of products outside of the established operational processes and procedures. The PM must therefore be prepared to manage a higher number of risks when managing projects. PM4ESD recognizes two type of risks related to tourism projects: external and management risks.

Benefits

It is not uncommon to read in the press of projects that have not produced the desired benefit albeit having delivered all the required products, within budget and within the allocated timescale and quality criteria. For example a new Expo pavilion meant to attract thousands of tourists is finished in time and within scope and budget but the actual tourist turnover is below expectations. This is sometimes due to the fact that there is no clear understanding of what the project is meant to deliver in terms of improvements derived from the change. The PM needs to have a clear understanding of the reasons why the project is being created and the project’s purpose. This in turn needs to be evaluated against the investment to be made to make sure that what the project produces is capable of achieving the desired improvement which is calculated in terms of Benefits. In PM4SD benefits are split in the following categories: social, economical, cultural, technical, and environmental.

Sustainability

In PM4SD the sustainable variable is a fundamental success factor.

A Sustainable project aims to reduce the negative impact of tourism activity and to increase the range of positive impacts. “Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability”.

Sustainable projects should:

  1. Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural resources and biodiversity
  2. Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance
  3. Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation
  4. Maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction
  5. Raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.

In this context, PM4SD applies the use of sustainable criteria, as a practical and scientific tool to planning and monitoring activities.

In the rest of the manual we will constantly refer back to these 6+1 variable objectives although they will be referred to as Tolerances as it is by setting the maximum/minimum permissible deviation from these objectives that the Project Management Team is able to monitor and report on the progress of a project.