Managing a successful project means wearing several hats at any one time.
But project management doesn’t have to mean sleepless nights, as long as you've got a good plan and a good team behind you.
Here are five areas we see as key in ensuring your project runs as smoothly as possible.
1) Plan and set clear priorities
This may sound like an obvious starting point.
But without clear priorities which are shared with all involved, your project may fail at the first hurdle.
It's good to keep the old adage in mind of 'plan and plan again'. By effectively planning your project you can outline its scope, including objectives, timelines and responsibilities.
Have a briefing document which contains all the project details. This will become your single point of reference to make sure everyone involved is clear on what’s required so that delivery is met, and priorities are clear.
In the words of Stephen Covey (of 'The 7 habits of highly effective people' fame): “Start with the end in mind.”
Make sure you are clear on the success measures for the project and its outcomes and work backwards from there, so that all the required activities can be done in the time allowed.
2) Have a clear and realistic budget and timescale
Many projects fail when clear and realistic timescales and/or budget have not been set.
If you've set out your priorities and planned them, you can begin to see the scale of the project.
For example, if you are planning for technology change, we would always recommend a minimum of six months from implementation for the project.
Anything less than this and you are setting yourself up to fail. Either that, or you will be stretching your resources and the outcome may not be as successful.
When looking at budgets, don’t just think of the budget needed to get to ‘go live’ against the project brief.
You should also consider any ongoing support that will be needed, and the associated budget that may be required. You don’t want to have run a successful project to the go live point, then discover there is no budget left to support the ongoing adoption of the new system.
3) A strong team to support project delivery
A team approach can deliver better outcomes, so it’s important you have the right people in the right seats to support the project outcomes.
Communicate clearly to everyone involved about what is expected of them, and have regular update meetings to keep the project on track.
Whatever size of project you are running, you will also need a project sponsor who signs off on the brief and any associated budget requirements. This will help ensure the importance of the project is communicated throughout the firm.
4) Effective tools
To gain the right level of visibility of the project, and to have a clear understanding on progress, we recommend the use of digital project management tools.
These allow you to easily create the actions required, and provide a clear, high-level view of key activities.
This means that everyone (both internally and external parties if applicable) has access to the project plan and can keep it up to date. Working in this way gives a clear view, in one place, of everything required by those involved.
If you are considering technology to support your projects, have a look at these:
5) Manage any risks in the project
Small issues can become risks if they are not identified quickly, evaluated and prioritised so they can be resolved.
Having a clear risk register against any project means these risks can be monitored. It also means you can control the probability or impact of these events. Don’t be afraid to face any risks to the project head on.
Our key pointers regarding risk are:
- Create a risk register
- Identify risks
- Identify opportunities
- Determine likelihood and impact
- Determine the risk response
- Estimate the risks
- Assign owners
- Regularly review risks
You don’t have to be a formally trained in project management to achieve successful project outcomes. It’s all in the planning, tracking and monitoring to make sure you are keeping pace with what's needed.