Project Management is all about planning what needs to be done and managing the different elements to achieve your desired outcome. Whether you are creating or updating your website, transferring from one system to another, managing building work for home improvements or tackling a complete business restructure, it’s always a good idea to have a plan for your project.
Take time to think about who and what is involved, any deadlines and dependencies. A plan will help to make sure the elements are ready when needed and to help the project stay on track.
Objective – What do you want to achieve? Are you clear on the purpose of the project or the problem to be solved? Make sure your objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Timebound). For example, Setting up a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system), your objective might be to load details of relevant contacts from paper records to an online system by the end of the month.
Primary products items/output and critical success factors – What are the key elements for success? Measure your progress against these so you can see how you are doing. List all clients, suppliers, associates and other people that you want to stay in contact with and set reminders for follow-up activities.
Who is the audience? Is there a Sponsor who is investing in the project? Who are the Stakeholders? Know your audience so that you can make sure everyone is on the same page as to what needs to be achieved. If it’s for your own company then you are probably the sponsor/stakeholder but you may be carrying out the work on behalf of others. Use the WIFM strategy (put yourself in their shoes and think ‘What’s In it For Me’?) – keep them happy.
Team/resources – who and what needs to be involved in the project? Consider who will do the work. Do you need any tools or systems, do you have the funds to pay for what is required or is it only the cost of your time, which could be used elsewhere? Plan this so that you ensure you have who and what you need.
Risks and Mitigation – it’s worth considering what might go wrong so you can make back-up plans or put into place some workarounds. If you have identified a major risk, you’ll be better prepared to prevent it from having a negative impact.
The Harvard Business Review Guide to Project Management ebook, suggests that there are four phases of project management
- Planning. The defining stage, what problem needs to be solved and by who
- Build-Up. In this stage the schedule is created and the team identified
- Implementation. This is the phase when the plan is put into action and tracked
- Closeout. This final phase is for the team debrief and overall project evaluation
When planning your project, consider the Time, Cost, Quality triangle. If the outcome is to be of good quality, it is unlikely that it can also be both fast and cheap!
Create a schedule, list all activities and assign owners and due dates, starting with the major milestones & deadlines. What are the earliest start/finish and latest start/finish times for each task? Are there any dependencies? Line up any resources, systems and equipment. For example, designing your logo and choosing your brand guidelines before building the website. Consider lining up more than one resource so that you have options when it comes to the time
Think about the time needed to complete each activity and build in buffers. Make sure any people involved further down the line know what is needed and keep them up to date on any changes or delays. Communicate often to keep all relevant team members informed and report back to any stakeholders on the progress.
Project Management Tools
You can manage a project simply with a spreadsheet that lists the tasks and due dates. This will work as a simple tracker so you can monitor progress. For more complex projects and better control you may wish to use a system, here are some you could consider:
MS project – “Deliver winning projects. Streamline project, resource, and portfolio management with Microsoft Project & Portfolio Management. Integrated planning tools help you keep track of projects and stay organized.”
Asana – “Move work forward. Asana is the easiest way for teams to track their work—and get results.”
Trello – “Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done. Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible and rewarding way.”
Slack – “When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered.”
Good luck with whatever project you choose to work on next!