The clock’s ticking. Your boss is expecting the deliverable tomorrow, but the project you’ve been managing doesn’t seem like it’s moving along at the required place. Completing this project is your responsibility, though, so failure is not an option.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this position, then you’ll be glad you’re reading this post. In this article, we’ll list and explain 7 game-changing tips for successful project management.
1. Nail Down Scope
First things first: you must have a crystal clear vision of what the project entails. Understanding what defines success for the project is key to achieving that success.
This isn’t something that you will do by yourself, however. You must get input from all the various stakeholders involved in the project. Everyone who had a role in getting the project put together probably has their own idea of what success looks like. As project manager, it falls on your shoulders to understand what each stakeholder wants out of the project and to align those visions into one strictly defined scope.
Something that ineffective project managers often miss is defining what is not in scope. It’s just as important to understand what success does not look like as it is to understand what it looks like. Keeping a running list of what falls out of scope for the project will ensure that nobody who works on the project will waste time chasing down unnecessary deliverables.
2. Understand the Technicals
Probably the most difficult part of being a project manager is that you’ll be tasked with leading different projects across a breadth of topics that you may not have experience in. The only way to combat this is by attempting to gain some depth of technical understanding of the projects in which you’re involved.
Don’t get me wrong. The last thing I’m asking you to do is go out and understand all the nitty-gritty of software development if you’ve been tasked with leading a software project. That would take far too much time out of your day and render you unproductive.
Instead, just take a couple of hours to talk to those stakeholders who have deep expertise in the technical side of the project. Ask the subject matter experts to give you a quick overview of everything you must have a broad understanding of as project manager.
3. Define Milestones
Once you have scope nailed down and a decent technical understanding of the project, up next is defining milestones. Having a solid list of all the milestones to be completed is critical to keeping everyone on task.
Don’t just define the major milestones either. Effective project management requires that you break those milestones down into little tasks. Each task should have a due date (keep in mind that some tasks may depend on the completion of previous ones, so you must plan due dates accordingly). Having dates attached to every task will assist you in holding each member of the project accountable to completion.
4. Communicate and Update Consistently
You’ve heard it before, but it’s always worth repeating: communication is key to successful project management. Communication is the lifeblood of any project.
If anything comes up that you foresee could cause the project to be delayed, it’s crucial that you let all the project stakeholders know as far in advance as possible. They won’t criticize you for it; instead, they’ll thank you for the visibility.
Also, remember that the various members within the project group may not be communicating with each other. It’s your responsibility to coordinate some of that communication so that everyone is up-to-date on each other’s task progress.
5. Leverage Software
In today’s world, a hundred-and-one tools exist to serve every function, and the story is no different from project management. If you’re still trying to manage your project out of Excel, it’s time to bring your skills into the 21st century with such a tool.
The right tool arms you with several useful features. Some tools allow you to map out a project’s timeline on board, making it easy to visualize which tasks and milestones are due when. Particularly high-end tools will also offer email integration, which accomplishes two important factions. First, you’ll be able to tie in email conversations into tracking project progress. Second, the tool will send out automatic email updates depending on what triggers you select, allow you to keep everyone involved in the project up-to-date without having to spend hours drafting emails.
6. Evaluate Deliverables
Repeating any part of the project is the last thing you’ll want to do after you submit it for review. That’s why it’s crucial to evaluate deliverables as you receive them to see if they’re meeting the definition for project success.
If the deliverable isn’t living up to expectations, don’t be afraid to send it back to the responsible party for it to be fixed. Just ensure that you’ve given them all the tools they need to succeed — support with cross-departmental communication, all the tools/software, and a clear vision of what they need to accomplish.
Only mark a task or milestone as complete when you’ve evaluated the result and made sure that it matches what the stakeholders expect to see at the project’s conclusion.
7. Take an Agile Approach to Project Management
An agile approach to project management takes traditional project management and turns it into an incremental, iterative process. Agile project management is a method that prioritizes early delivery, and continuous improvement through the course of the project.
Agile project management is useful in the software industry, as the software relies on continuous iteration to progress forward. However, it remains applicable across a breadth of different industries.
Successful Project Management
Successful project management is never easy, but these seven tips can make the process simpler. If you’re ready to take your project management to the next level, check out the tools we offer to improve your workflow.