An external dependency, in the context of project management, refers to a relationship between a task, activity, or milestone in your project and something outside of the project that it relies on. This could be an event, a task that another project team is working on, or a deliverable from an external vendor or contractor.
The defining characteristic of an external dependency is that it involves factors beyond the direct control of the project team. These dependencies can introduce risks to the project, as delays or problems outside of the project can impact the project’s timeline or outcome.
For example, suppose you’re managing a project to launch a new software product. One of your tasks is to integrate a third-party software component into your product. The delivery of that third-party software is an external dependency because your project depends on something that your team doesn’t control.
In order to effectively manage external dependencies, it’s important to identify them as early as possible in the project planning phase, clearly communicate with the parties involved, and closely monitor the status of these dependencies throughout the project. This can help you proactively manage risks and adjust your project plans as needed.
Example of an External Dependency
Let’s consider an example in the context of a construction project.
Imagine you’re managing a project to build a new hotel. One key task is the installation of custom-made chandeliers in the main lobby. These chandeliers are being manufactured by an external company and the delivery of these items is crucial for the progress of your project. This is an external dependency because the task of manufacturing and delivering the chandeliers is outside the control of your project team.
If the external company is delayed in manufacturing or delivering the chandeliers, this could delay the completion of the hotel’s lobby, which in turn could delay the opening of the hotel. To manage this external dependency, you would need to maintain clear and regular communication with the chandelier company to keep updated on their progress. You may also need to have contingency plans in place in case of significant delays.
This example highlights how external dependencies can have a direct impact on a project’s timeline and how they need to be carefully managed to mitigate risks.