UCL Centre for Systems Engineering


Invest in the Early Stages of Projects

For any activity in a project there will be a correct time to undertake it. Too early wastes resources while too late can lead to downstream adverse impacts.

The optimum ordering of activities should be identified, resisting pressure to defer work until later for short-term reasons. Often this means that a project's ideal resource profile will be reshaped exhibiting an earlier peak (so-called 'left shift' of effort), with the expectation that this will lead to a reduction in the total effort required by the project, and a greater chance of project success. This approach can be extended upstream of the project, for instance investing resources in preparing for a future bid or even in predicting customer needs and future technology requirements. Above all, a project should be seen as an investment - it requires resources to be committed early on to deliver a (probabilistic) payoff later on (as major costs are avoided). Like other investments, projects should be seen as part of a portfolio of activities (a programme) that also needs to be optimised holistically.