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Best Practices for Project Management

As both an active project manager plus a project management trainer, people frequently ask me what are the fundamental aspects to effective project management. Whilst there have been numerous fantastic books written on the subject, I always summarise what I think to be the best practices at the heart of good project management.

Define the scope and objectives

For any project to be productive you’ll want to comprehend what the project is supposed to achieve. Suppose your boss asks you to organise a campaign to obtain the employees to donate blood. Will be the aim of this to get as a lot blood donated to the local blood bank? Or, is it to raise the profile of the business inside the local community? Deciding what the real objective is will allow you to to figure out how you go about planning and managing the project.

The project manager also needs to define the scope of the project. Will be the organisation of transport to take staff to the blood bank inside the scope of the project? Or, ought to staff make their own way there? Deciding which activities are inside the scope or out of scope of the project has a huge impact on the quantity of function which requirements to be performed in the course of the project.

An understanding of who are the stakeholders is also critical should you be going to enlist their support and recognize what each and every individual expects to be delivered from the project. As soon as you’ve defined the scope and objectives, you will want to obtain the stakeholders to review them and agree to them as well as agreeing who ought to be on the list of stakeholders.

Define the deliverables

To achieve the desired outcome from the project, you have to define what issues (or products) are to be delivered by the end of the project. If your project is an advertising
campaign for a brand new chocolate bar, then one of the deliverables may be the artwork for a newspaper advert. So, you’ll want to decide what tangible things are to be delivered and document in sufficient detail what these points are. At the end of the day, somebody will end up performing the work to create the deliverable, so it needs to be clearly and unambiguously described.

As soon as you’ve got defined the deliverables, you’ll need to have the key stakeholders review the work and get them to agree that this accurately and unambiguously reflects what they expect to be delivered from the project. Once they’ve agreed, you can start to strategy the project. Not defining the deliverables in sufficient detail or clarity is usually a reason why projects go wrong.

Project planning

This will be the time when you define how you’ll obtain the desired outcome of the project embodied inside the objectives and definition of deliverables. Planning demands that the project manager decides which folks, resources and budget are necessary to complete the project. You might require to choose in case you will break up your project into manageable phases, decide which products will be delivered in every phase, and determine the composition of your project team. Since you’ve already defined the deliverables, you need to decide what activities are required to produce each and every deliverable.

You are able to use tactics for example Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) to assist you to obtain this. You may need to estimate the time and effort required to complete each ctivity, dependencies between related activities and choose on a realistic schedule to complete the activities. It’s constantly a great concept to involve the project team in estimating how long the activities will take because they are going to be the ones truly performing the work. Capture all of this into the project plan document. You also need to obtain the key stakeholders to review and agree to this plan.

When developing the project strategy, a project manager is usually under pressure to produce a strategy which meets the (unrealistic) expectations of some of the stakeholders. It is important here that the project manager comes up with a realistic schedule – 1 which he/she thinks is realistic to achieve. You’ll be performing nobody a favour in case you succumb to pressure and agree to deliver the project in a completely unrealistic schedule.

Communication

Even the very best created project plans are useless unless they’ve been communicated effectively to the project team. Everybody on the team needs to know precisely what’s expected of them, what their responsibilities are, and what they’re accountable for. I once worked on a project where the project manager sat in his office surrounded by massive colour print outs of his latest plans. The issue was, nobody on his team knew what the tasks and milestones were because he hadn’t shared the plan with them. Needless to say the project hit all kinds of difficulties with individuals going off and doing the activities which they deemed crucial instead of performing the activities assigned by the project manager.

Tracking and reporting project progress

As soon as your project is underway and you’ve got an agreed strategy, you’ll require to continually monitor the actual progress of the project against the planned progress. To do this, you might require to get reports of progress from the project team members who are actually performing the work. You may need to have to record any variations between the actual and planned price, schedule and scope. You might require to report any variations to your manager and key stakeholders and take corrective actions if the variations get too huge.

You can find plenty of ways in which it is possible to adjust the strategy so that you can get the project back on track (rearrange the order of tasks, assign tasks in parallel if the variation is small, or add more staff to the project or reduce the scope if the variation is really significant).

All projects need the project manager to constantly juggle 3 points: cost, scope and schedule. If the project manager increases one of these, then among the other elements will inevitably require to be changed too. So, for a project which is running behind schedule to recover so it might be delivered to it is original planned schedule, the spending budget could be increased by employing a lot more staff (despite the fact that this invariably in no way achieves the desired result of decreasing the time left to total the project), or the scope will want to be decreased. It’s the juggling of these three elements – called the project triangle – that usually causes a project manager to tear their hair out in frustration!

Change management

All projects change in some way. Usually, a key stakeholder inside the middle of a project will alter their mind about what the project needs to deliver. On projects of longer duration, the enterprise environment has usually changed given that the start of the project, so assumptions produced at the beginning of the project could no longer be valid. This frequently outcomes within the scope or deliverables of the project needing to be changed. If a project manager basically accepted all of these changes into the project, the project would inevitably be delivered late (and maybe would by no means ever be completed) and would inevitably go over spending budget.

By managing changes, the project manager can make decisions about no matter whether or not to incorporate the changes immediately or inside the future, or to reject them. This increases the chances of project success because the project manager controls how the modifications are incorporated, can allocate resources accordingly and can strategy when and how the modifications are produced. Not managing modifications successfully is frequently cited as a major reason why projects fail.

Risk management

Risks are any events which can adversely have an effect on the productive outcome of the project. I’ve worked on projects where some of the risks have included: staff lacking the technical abilities to perform the function correctly, hardware not being delivered on time, the control room being at risk of flooding in a major thunderstorm and several other people. Risks will vary from project to project however it is essential to identify the major risks to a project as soon as possible and to strategy the actions required to prevent the risk, or, if the risk can’t be avoided, to at least mitigate the risk in order to lessen its impact if it does occur. This is what is referred to as risk management.

Do you manage all risks? No, because there might be too a lot of to manage, and not all risks have the identical impact. So a simple way would be to identify as several risks as you’ll be able to, function out how likely each risk would be to happen on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 becoming the worst), estimate its impact on the project on a scale of 1 to three (3 being the worst), then multiply the two numbers together. The result will be the risk weighting. A high risk weighting is the most severe risk. Just manage the top ten risks i.e. the ones with the highest risk weighting. Continually review the risks and consistently be on the lookout for new risks given that they have a habit of jumping up at unforeseen moments.

Not managing risks successfully is also usually cited as a main reason why projects fail.

In Conclusion

So, in a nutshell, these finest practices are the principal issues that I would expect all project managers to do. They’re applicable on all projects massive or little. Project management just isn’t rocket science. Applying finest practices on your project cannot guarantee that your project comes in under spending budget, on time and exceeds all the expectations of the stakeholders, but applying them will surely give you a much greater chance of delivering your project successfully than if you don’t apply them on your project.

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