Have you ever considered how assumptions affect our lives? For example, we assume our alarm will go off as scheduled, we will have our first coffee in the morning, and we believe our car will start and get us to work on time.
It's in human nature to operate under assumptions. However, sometimes they can be proven wrong, affecting our plans and projects. Therefore, project managers must understand project assumptions and try to identify them in the early planning phase.
Read on to learn more about project management assumptions and how they impact projects.
Managing project assumptions
You need to manage project assumptions skillfully, since they are a series of moving parts that could significantly affect the outcome of your project. For instance, you can make assumptions based on similar projects in the past, but they should be monitored carefully and considered potential risks.
Any inconsistencies and inaccuracies need to be addressed immediately. You should document this process and inform all necessary parties about changes.
In the worst-case scenario, the assumption regarding third-party team members or equipment can lead to serious issues. But, considering these assumptions imply a level of trust in equipment and people, we assume that everything will work properly and that the project will be finished on time and within scope.
We can say the same thing about untested methodologies or equipment; should they not work as expected, the consequences can be devastating. To prevent these issues, team members should immediately voice their concerns and problems to a project manager, so they can make necessary adjustments and avert a crisis.
The project manager needs to rectify the project team's observations or assumptions early on and monitor everything throughout the project to maximize successful output. It's important to note that assumptions change, since they are only educated guesses from previous experience.
Project managers are responsible for identifying and recording where and when these changes took place and how they impacted the project.
Validating project assumptions
There are several ways in which you can validate assumptions. Keep in mind that completing this process takes a lot of time and effort. It's crucial to select the best practical method that includes the following steps:
- Ask: Ask other team members or parties involved whether your assumption is correct or realistic—request their proof, documentation, experiences, etc.
- Test: Perform a small and controlled test and record results to validate if your assumptions are correct.
- Research: Look into others' experiences, feedback, and work preceding your project.
- Confirmation: Request a confirmation from the authority, like a regulatory organization or a vendor, to ensure that your assumption is correct.
- Brainstorm: This comes as the final step in the validation process. Keep in mind that two minds are better than one.
There is also another way to validate your assumption. In a digital system implementation, assumption management is vital. Take time to get all assumptions in separate logs, then validate them appropriately.
Don't take anything at its face value; always be on top of all assumptions throughout the project cycle.
Why is it important to validate assumptions?
Even though validating assumptions is essential, it doesn't always translate into having a successful startup. So, one may ask, why do we even need this process? We believe it's necessary for the following reasons.
- Maintains objectivity. The process of validation and discovery is crucial because it maintains objectivity and removes emotions from the decision-making process.
- Incorrect assumptions are expected. This is common in a project lifecycle, and the entrepreneur is responsible for reshaping and changing their assumptions. However, this skill doesn't come overnight, and it's further redefined as they follow this process and gain more experience.
- It shows you can strategize. This is probably the most critical aspect, as it shows the investor your ability to organize ideas and people and strategize while making justified and intelligent decisions with their money.
Another way to look at this, maybe entrepreneurs don't have time to deal with assumptions. In fact, spending too much time on their validation can terminate some companies. We have to agree that time is one factor you mustn't neglect.
Every business needs a method you will follow to make timely and appropriate decisions. Failing to validate your assumptions can also mean your business's failure.
Why are assumptions important in project management?
Creating a reliable project or marketing plan that encompasses and tests all the assumptions is worth the trouble. Before we go one step further, remember that you can't make unfound assumptions.
This is not guesswork or something you just made up. We base assumptions on particular experiences or knowledge. They are unknown facts that we think are accurate at some time. When you assume something, you need to confirm it as well.
For instance, if you assume the time or cost of resources and don't check this information, you may have a problem, especially if your assumption turns out to be very different from your project, causing delays or spending more money than planned. As your project plans move, you must deal with assumptions by verifying them with information.
Project assumptions examples
Resource assumptions. We allocated resources assuming that funds, materials, and people would be available when needed. These assumptions have a crucial effect on the success or failure of a project, since resources are the most significant part of project planning. We can compromise the entire scope and outcome if some resources become scarce or unavailable during a project lifecycle. Let's not forget about resource contribution. Even when you have enough resources, if they aren't contributing to the projects sufficiently, your project can also fail.
Technology assumptions. They create a tech infrastructure necessary to meet project goals. Tech resources mainly include physical devices like phones and computers, IT support, and software. Nowadays, many companies outsource tech, so it is crucial to be aware of the resources' procedural difficulties, capabilities, and availability. Identifying potential constraints allows you to prepare a contingency plan in case any problem appears.
Time-based assumptions. Time-based assumptions are also known as scheduling assumptions and are often impacted by the availability of critical resources like staff, finances, and technology.
Quality assumptions. If quality is lacking, it can impact the project schedule by causing the work to be redone. Pay attention to safety guidelines because your team might be asked to follow certain specifications where there is no room for mistakes. And any slight divergence from specification can affect the project's success.
Cost assumptions. When it comes to project planning, cost assumptions are one of the crucial components. Cost projection is important in the budgeting phase, while creating short-term and long-term budgets will keep the project within the scope and expected budget.