January 13

Project Context


Project Context

Project Context

Consider a project to build a nuclear power plant in England in an area with high unemployment, but a large population.

Undertake a preliminary assessment of the project’s context.

Is there government commitment to nuclear energy; if yes, then project in sound footing, if unclear then risk increased?

How does the local authority view the project – favourable then good news, against then more risk, and much more work to do on “hearts and minds”.
What sort of stakeholders will need to be considered in this area? Will they be positive or negative?

Economic Context

An area that has high unemployment may consider the relevance of grants, European funding, central government funding.
Likely to boost local jobs and economy so should engender positive views of local community.

Social Context

There is likely to be a mixed response. Some people will see the investment providing jobs and boosting local economy whereas some may not want the threat of nuclear power in their area (closely linked to environmental considerations).
With the current security threat levels there are bound to be concerns in this area. The project must consider the security implications, make the appropriate plans, and commit sufficient resource.

Technical Context

This will use new technology but there is expertise available. The project will need to ensure proper representation from international suppliers who have the latest experience in this area.

The fact that the technology is new and is likely to change before the station is built indicates that the project budget must include for these possible changes and contain sufficient contingency to cater for unexpected problems.

Legal Context

There are likely to be legal challenges to the construction from a range of sources. It will be important to ensure that all areas are investigated and the appropriate legal team established to deal with challenges that are likely to be based on environmental concerns and local issues.

Consider any relevance of European legislation affecting nuclear installations.

Environmental Context

This is an area where there is likely to be the most concerns and where the majority of the opposition will come from. There are likely to be protests for anti-nuclear groups, environmental campaigners and so forth. The project will need to carefully research this aspect and ensure that appropriate security measures are put in place for people working on the project both in the planning and delivery phases.

Explain why it is important to consider a project’s context making four relevant points

When the project’s context is established the type of project will be known. This is achieved by analysing what you know about your project.

Project Type “WHAT” known “HOW” known

Paint by numbers Yes Yes

Going on a Quest Yes No

Making a Movie No Yes

Walking in the Fog No No

Each type of project will need a different approach. For example, paint by number is straightforward using a standard delivery life-cycle; a quest would mean a feasibility study(ies) is required; a movie would require investigation of ways in which to exploit expertise whilst walking in the fog needs small interim stages to establish the basis for the project itself.

This information will help to set the stakeholder expectations in terms of what can be achieved and by when.

PESTLE Analysis

Undertaking a PESTLE analysis will help to identify the risks facing the project and the main areas of risk. This will help the project sponsor and project manager best decide who is best placed to own and tackle the risks. It will also indicate how much of the risk should be escalated to the programme or strategic level.

Similarly, a PESTLE analysis or a What/How analysis (shown above) will indicate the issues that the project must deal with. This is particularly relevant to the fog, movie, and quest projects that need to be transformed into paint by number before progress on actual delivery can be made

Finally, the results of a PESTLE and What/How analysis may well identify the options that could be used to satisfy the reasons for the project. These options can be used as a basis for the business case. Careful considerations of these options will ensure that the business case is robust and valid before major commitment is made to the project in terms of both time and money.
Failure to consider any of the above factors will significantly increase the chance of project failure, poor public perception and de-motivated teams.

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About the Author

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of project-related downloadable video training products under the Primer and PM Mastery System brand names. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.


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