Part of an organization’s success comes from its ability to execute projects effectively. Yet, anyone in the business world knows that project management is no easy feat—it’s a complex process that requires a great deal of management skill, knowledge, and expertise.
As a project manager, you know that the success of a project rests squarely on your shoulders. From start to finish, it is your job to ensure that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the client’s satisfaction.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to being a great project manager since every organization is different and every team has unique dynamics, there are certain best practices that every project manager should know.
So, whether you’re a new project manager or a seasoned pro, brush up on your skills with this list of seven project management best practices:
Before taking the plunge and starting to work on a project, it’s crucial first to establish what the project entails. This means clearly defining the project’s goals, objectives, budget, deliverables, and timeline.
Collaborate with key stakeholders, such as the client, upper management, and your team. Then, create a project charter that outlines all of the necessary details of the project and have it approved by everyone involved. By doing this, you’ll have a document that can be referenced throughout the project’s lifespan to avoid scope creep—expanding project scopes beyond its original parameters that would throw off your budget and timeline.
People are direct contributors to the success or failure of a project, which is why it’s essential to assemble the right team from the get-go. As the project manager, it’s your job to identify the specific skills and expertise needed for the project and match them with the strengths of your team members.
When putting together a project team, keep in mind that it’s not just about finding people with the right skills. It’s also important to choose team members who will work well together and gel with the project’s culture. The last thing you want is a team constantly at each other’s throats or with a high turnover rate.
With the project’s scope and team in place, it’s time to start getting into the nitty-gritty of things and creating a detailed project plan. The project plan must specify the tasks to be completed, the responsible people, the timeline and deadline, and the budget. This plan will serve as your roadmap throughout the project’s execution and help keep everyone on track.
To ensure that the project plan is as accurate as possible, use open-source project management software to create a Gantt chart that will give you a clear visual representation of the project timeline and help you identify any potential scheduling conflicts. In addition, you can utilize this software to assign tasks and deadlines and monitor your team’s workload.
As the saying goes, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” Unfortunately, no matter how well you plan or how talented your team is, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong during the course of a project. That’s why it’s critical to have proper risk management processes in place to mitigate any potential risks.
Start by identifying all the risks that could potentially impact the project, such as budget cuts, scope creep, or team members quitting. Then, for each risk, determine the likelihood of it happening and its potential impact on the project. Then, create a mitigation plan for each risk that outlines how you’ll deal with it if it does occur. Hence, you can avoid being blindsided by risks and keep the project on track.
One of your most essential duties as a project manager is to serve as the main point of communication between all the stakeholders involved in a project. Keep everyone up-to-date on the project’s progress, relay any change updates, and address any concerns or questions.
Effective communication is integral to customer success. After all, they’re the ones footing the bill for the project, so it’s in your best interest to keep them in the loop. For that reason, you must establish clear communication channels, such as daily emails, weekly status reports, or in-person meetings.
You should also encourage your team members to speak up if they have any concerns or ideas to avoid misunderstandings and potential conflicts down the road.
Your Ghant chart from earlier will come in handy here as you track the progress of your project and ensure that it stays on schedule. As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to monitor the project’s metrics, flag any areas that are falling behind, and take corrective action to get the project back on track.
There are a variety of ways to track project progress and metrics. In addition to using project management software, you can hold regular status meetings with your team or create a “war room” where everyone can see the project’s progress at a glance. By tracking the project’s progress on a regular basis, you can catch any potential problems early on and avoid costly mistakes and delays.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that no project ever goes exactly as planned. Despite your best efforts, there will always be unforeseen obstacles or changes that occur along the way. Yet, being flexible and adaptable is the key to coping with these changes.
Don’t freak out or try to force the project to stay on track. Instead, take a step back and reassess the situation. See if there’s a way to work the new changes into the project plan or if you need to adjust the timeline or budget. However, don’t forget to get approval from all the stakeholders before making any significant changes to the project to avoid unmet expectations or disagreements later on.
Project management is a complex and challenging field, so it’s crucial to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. In addition to reading articles like this one, there are a plethora of great books and online resources that can teach you the ins and outs of project management.
Likewise, consider pursuing a project management certification, such as the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications offered by the Project Management Institute or the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Certification (CSSBB) of ASQ. These credentials will not only make you more knowledgeable and qualified for the job but also help you stand out from the competition and advance your career.
By continually learning and expanding your skill set, you can position yourself as an expert in the field and take your project management career to the next level.
The guest article was written by Sophia Young, from Content Studio.