Dependency management fails in too many organisations. Projects almost never exist in isolation. It would be much simpler to manage if a project never relied on external events and did not affect other things around it. But the reason for a project is likely to need it to interact with some form of change. So, there will always be links between your project and external forces. There is also likely to be a link between your project and other projects. Even if there are limited external factors your project team and stakeholders have links and commitments to things outside your project.
So, managing dependencies is not an optional task for project and programme managers. No matter how well you feel you have planned your project you will risk being impacted by elements that are external to the project. You will also have a responsibility to provide services and outputs to other projects too.
Identifying and Sharing Dependency information
Most organisations have a problem with consistently documenting and storing dependency information across projects. Storing dependencies in excel spreadsheets and private documents does not lend itself to assisting the process.
So, the usual method of each project doing their own thing is unhelpful and leads to misunderstanding and duplication of effort. Having a mechanism to share information is essential to good control.
A path to identifying dependencies should start with your key SMEs at the start of the project. This will give an initial position. But nearly all projects will discover additional dependencies that were not apparent at the start of the project. Situations where your project relies on other projects or services outside your control. In modern organisations there can often be a complex map of dependencies on things outside the project. There is also the likelihood that your project will rely on things external to your organisation.
Visibility across projects is essential in supporting practical dependency management.
Active management not just recording
Assuming you have a method that allows you to record and share dependencies across projects in a common way, is not the end of the story. All projects must maintain the dependency data to maximise its usefulness. If a key project fails to maintain records this can impact many, if not, all projects across your portfolio.
Programme and Portfolio management can also help. Senior managers should actively resolve priorities between projects. Aligning the complete dependency map in support of the organisation’s objectives will improve the likelihood of timely benefit realisation.
Good dependency management will underpin the success of your project portfolio. It is amongst the more intricate areas of project and programme management, but often over looked and left to good will and luck.