April 3, 2023
While developing your next - surely - ground-breaking project, it is tempting to follow the Silicon Valley-darling rules: "go big or go home," "think different(ly)," or - last but not least - "fake it till you make it", isn't it? Well, the thing is, these mottos all work well only in companies' success stories. Business practice needs some groundwork, and well-defined project goals are the most important foundation.
Don't get me wrong. Of course, seriously groundbreaking ideas demand bold thinking. Still, under all of these catchy one-liners, there is some hidden fundamental work that had to be done.
Defining the project goals is the most crucial.
Without well-defined project goals, we will wander back and forth, exploring many directions but scratching their surface. It can be adventurous but few companies can afford these unleashed R&D activities, especially during economic downturns. Even they need to be put up in some "frames."
But how does the "frame job" fit into dynamic IT products, where almost nothing, users' demands included, is set in stone? That's precisely the issue we will try to cover in this article.
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Every project's founding idea can be sealed in the word "improvement." Companies kick off their projects to improve something - make it better, faster, or more diligent than before. Although pretty superficial, this "street smart" description may serve as the project goal definition.
A project goal describes the high-level results a company wishes to achieve in the long term. They provide a general development direction and align the project with the company's strategy.
Examples of project goals:
Project goals answer the question of WHAT the project is about, but - to get it done - the project objectives must be defined, too. On the most basic level, the "goals" and "objectives" might look the same; indeed, most people unfamiliar with project management use them interchangeably. And yet, there are significant differences between them.
Project objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) statements describing how to achieve the project goal by defining specific tasks.
The SMART framework:
SPECIFIC: Objectives avoid the general statements
MEASURABLE: Objectives should be possible to track and evaluate
ACHIEVABLE: Objectives should be realistic
RELEVANT: Objectives should be related to the project goals
TIME-BOUND: Objectives should have a specific deadline
They are more precise and actionable than goals, and in project management, they are used to monitor project development. While project goals are typically quantitative, objectives are usually qualitative to provide the success criteria necessary for a project evaluation.
Examples of project objectives:
Projects fail for several reasons, including for confusion about individual roles and responsibilities. Of course, project goals - as we hoped to prove earlier - are not the same as objectives, with actionable steps built-in. Still, by answering the question of what kind of improvement we want to achieve with the specific project - project goals can serve as an ultimate direction for the team involved in developing it.
What is essential is a well-established project goal that works cross-department, enabling both tech- and business-oriented staff to see the future value of their work. Still, it is quite a general statement, so let's dissect it a bit deeper.
With project goals, managers are equipped with a so-called "framework" for decision-making. Project goal serves as a Northern Star - in case of any doubts, for example, when faced with a choice of whether a specific feature should be included in a specific iteration, referring back to the ultimate goal can help determine what decision should be taken. Moreover, with a well-defined project goal, it is easier to convince other stakeholders of specific "does" and "don't," which is crucial, especially when the decision chain is long and taking any, even the smallest, choice can take months.
Time is money, and - as we all know - developers' working hours are not cheap. Clear project goals ensure that everyone understands the project's purpose and can communicate effectively about progress, challenges, and solutions.
Even though they are pretty general, well-defined project goals enable us to determine whether the project has succeeded. A well-defined goal, specified with project objectives, helps establish measurable success criteria and ensures that progress can be tracked and evaluated.
Seat Unique, an innovative marketplace selling tickets and hospitality packages for sports, music, and cultural events was looking for a way to improve the user experience it offers. To be specific: the project required refreshing the outdated, lengthy, and complicated buyer journey, cutting it, and removing any friction.
However, in the case of marketplaces, it is not a piece of cake. Marketplaces where various products are offered need to find a way to present them effectively. It is not easy, from a designer's point of view, nor a developer's. The main challenges included creating releases able to handle substantial traffic volumes, especially during periods of peak ticket sales, and implementing a bevy of B2C and B2B selling tools.
The key was to create an MVP to verify the project assumptions as quickly as possible. Clearly established project goals enabled managers to see where they can take a shortcut, what they can deliver, and what value certain features will bring to the users.
Read more: Software Prototype - Why It Is Essential and How to Build It?></CTA>
The MVP allowed the company to gain real user feedback and address it during the development process. With it, finding a perfect market fit sped up, and the costs remained controlled. The likelihood of launching a completely irrelevant product is significantly lowered.
Defining project goals can be quite challenging especially in a chaotic startup environment, where there are always a lot of variables and unknowns. To not get lost, it is good to follow several steps, including:
According to a KPMG study, only 33% of organizations tend to deliver projects that meet their original goals and objectives, which means that most of the rest risk failures as their projects drift into unknown directions. They may but may not find their niche. So, it is really important to know how to set reasonable (and so useful) project goals.
Well-defined project goals help managers to identify the most critical features and functionalities and build successful projects - for example, MVP or prototypes to test the initial assumptions and avoid wasting time and resources on unnecessary or low-value functionalities.
Clear project goals keep the project scope in the regime, preventing it from expanding beyond what was researched and agreed on. This regime avoids additional development costs caused by delays and reduces the likelihood of duplicate efforts and wasted resources.