How many times have you seen a project beginning with great expectations and ending unsuccessfully? This problem occurs both in small business project and in complex projects of big enterprises. The reasons for failure may be different, but wht they all have in common is the lack of understanding (or appreciation) of project management software. With various people involved with a wide range of opinions, skills, and perceptions, projects are never simple to implement.
However, decades of sharing tools and techniques across industries allowed project leaders to see what work and what don’t in handling projects. Although the best practices for project management had their origin in the aerospace, construction, and defense industries, other businesses as varied as software development is from events marketing use the same body of knowledge to implement projects across the initiation, planning, execution, control/monitor, and closing stages.
Here’s a review of the best practices for project management to keep your project on time, on budget, and with the best results possible:
What are you developing the project for? Too often, we jump excitedly into a project without having a clear understanding of its purpose. Once inside it, we can’t see the forest for the trees. Before getting entangled with the day-to-day project details, identify your real objective. This is your business strategic goal, not to be confused with project goals. For instance, you want to develop the best baby photo album app, which is your project goal. But your business goal may be to reach out to the young mother market niche because you see an untapped revenue stream. Having a clear picture of your business goal prevents your project to veer away from your real intention. Promoting that baby photo album app in a popular teen site may be enticing, but you know that’s not the market you’re targeting.
Set the boundaries of the project to prevent it from bleeding you resources or wasting time. You can use various project management tools and techniques in the planning stage to identify the scope for budget, time, schedule, and resources. Some of these tools are available online for free or they come with a demo subscription (or you can develop your own tool using a good spreadsheet). Your aim is to get a clear picture of all the tasks and costs anticipated for the project.
Similarly, describe the major deliverables and criteria for win/loss outcome. If you have a complex project, chop these deliverables further into sub-project tasks with their respective teams. With the help of your team leaders, list all the tasks for each team and plot their deadlines. Keep in mind that some of these tasks need to be accomplished in sequence, while some can be done in parallel schedule. By defining the scope, you can easily measure the status of the project once it progresses and quantify its success or failure at the closing stage.
Make sure your project has the right resources to accomplish its goals. The resources correspond to the tasks and scope you have set for the project. They can be human resources (team members and core leaders) or material resources (suppliers and vendors). While the latter is straightforward project procurement, human resources require leadership skills to make teams work seamlessly. You have various project team leadership tools and techniques at your disposal to build teamwork and manage team behaviour.
Inevitably, resources may be compromised due to a shift in business priority or the stakeholders change the original plan. Use the Project Management Information System—a set of communication techniques to collect and share project information including statuses, plans, changes, risks, and meetings—to ensure everyone is informed and on the same page. Make sure all compromised tasks are adjusted and communicated to the affected teams based on the changes in resources.
It’s easy to get lost in the forest once you get down to the details. Team leaders and their members are often focused on their daily tasks and their goal is to achieve their deadlines. Make sure what they’re doing are in line with project goals.
Likewise, should there be changes in the goals make sure these are communicated properly down to the person doing the specific task. Too often we hear horror stories of coders finishing a whole set of program only to be notified that the client has cancelled that particular tool, or that the program is not compatible with other modules.
You have a set of best practices for project management including the tools and techniques for the control/monitor stage. These tools help you to collect the day-to-day information about project accomplishments. They also assist you to analyse and create reports about the outcomes so you can track the overall progress and check if it stays the course of the project goals.
Using the scope of the project, you should identify until what point the project should run. This helps you to measure accurately the project’s success or fail rate (how many goals have been achieved and by how much).
Likewise, by knowing when the project ends, you prevent wasting further resources like paying idle consultants or specialists on retainer’s fee. The closure also signals the official handover of the project to your client or stakeholders and prevents legal complications that may arise from runaway or open-ended contracts.
Project management requires a disciplined, organized approach built on best practices culled from decades of practitioners sharing and improving on each other’s tools and techniques. These best practices are time-tested, but they don’t guarantee your project’s success; they just give it the best shot. However, they are a good foundation to hone your project management skills, especially as projects get more complex and turnaround time gets faster, so expect further comparison of the best practices for project management.
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