7 Tips For Better Project Management

Project management can be challenging, especially when working on projects that have time and budget constraints. A project’s success is largely impacted by having the right people, process, and tools in place. However, this alone won’t guarantee a successful outcome. Let’s take a look at the 7 most important things to consider when managing projects.

1. Choose a project leader

Every project needs a leader. Surprisingly, it can often be unclear who is ultimately responsible for a project. A good project leader is someone who can step in and set priorities when needed, but who also knows when to stay out of the way. The main responsibility of the project leader is to make sure the teams work stays aligned with the project’s objective.

2. Clearly define the project’s objective

A well-defined project is built around a clear objective, and this objective needs to be communicated to the team working on the project—before the project begins. Even if there are multiple distinct teams working on a large project, it is still important that everyone is aware of the overall project objected—not just on their particular part of the project.

3. Determine project milestones

Most projects have a start date and end date. Within this span of time it can often make sense to break down a project into manageable chunks that can be delivered to the project stakeholder on a given date. Each milestone should have a certain amount of scope that is required to be completed in order for the milestone to be considered done. Milestones can be internal and external. For example, your project may have an “internal review” milestone that is followed by a “client review” milestone.

4. Define what it means for the project to be done

A well defined project will eliminate any ambiguity regarding what it means for the project to be considered complete. This may seem obvious, but there are times when that’s not always the case. One common challenge in project management (especially with client-related projects) is the introduction of scope creep. This can occur when it is believed that adding new work to the project will result in a better, or enhanced outcome. Usually, scope creep just alters what the “definition of done” actually means, and can be devastating to a project’s success. Once “done” has been defined, stick with it, and don’t change it.

5. Be “Agile”

Although your team may not explicitly be taking an “Agile” approach, it’s still good to have an agile mindset. Here’s why. Agile teams tend to be more collaborative, more client focused, and are more adaptable to change. And let’s face it, things change all the time when working on projects. Change isn’t always a bad thing though (sometimes it’s unavoidable), and having an agile mindset can prepare teams for dealing with uncertainty and unexpected obstacles. One common Agile practice is to have a “daily standup” meeting. Daily standups are typically less than 15 minutes long, and give each team member the opportunity to discuss three things: 1) what they did yesterday, 2) what they plan to do today, and 3) what’s in their way. These brief meetings can prevent the need for additional meetings and they keep everyone in the loop on what’s happening on a daily basis.

6. Track time

Even though a project may not be considered billable (in terms of having a billable hourly rate), it’s still a good idea to have all project team members keep track of how they spend their time. This information can provide useful insights both during and after a project’s completion. For example, if a project extends beyond its original end date, then why did this occur? Where exactly did we spend too much time? If your team members are not logging their time, then it can be very difficult (i.e., time consuming), and perhaps impossible, to really know where things went wrong. Time tracking is a good practice, and everyone should do it.

7. Choose the right project management software

This is the part that too many people gloss over. Although having the right project management software won’t guarantee the successful outcome of a project, it can have a significant impact on a projects success. For example, if you’re using a fragmented collection of siloed applications and spreadsheets to manage your projects, then it’s going to be impossible to easily see the big picture. And, your team is going to get frustrated trying to find the information they need to get their job done. Furthermore, the right software can provide useful insights that will help you make better decisions on future projects.

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