Project management principles are the same whether you're building a multi-level car park, installing a finance system or launching a new product. If you want to deliver a quality outcome, on time and within budget you need to focus on the following ten essentials of project management.
Know Your Scope
Be clear about the required outcome of your project. If you are engaged to undertake a feasibility study you need to plan to deliver a feasibility study. Including an implementation design will not add any value to your project but it will add both cost and time.
Measure Your Success
Before you begin know what success means for your project. Typical measures are based on time, cost and a predetermined quality standard. Accumulated wisdom suggests that you can actually only deliver on two of these three requirements due to the variable nature of project work.
While the “two of three” choice is often true of baseline targets you set for your project, agreeing the measures of success up front can result in “three of three.” To allow for unforeseen delays or barriers you need to set reasonable parameters for success measures on time and cost. Set upper and lower limits within which success can be achieved. A budget plus or minus ten percent of the original base cost and a delivery date within a time frame of one month are examples of how this can be done.
Quality measures are often set in stone. Whether it’s safety standards that must be met or premium product requirements there is rarely much room for movement. The principle however can also be applied to quality measures where the quality standard is able to be set within a tolerance.
Know What You Need
Plan your baseline in detail so you know exactly what resources you need to deliver your project. What skill sets do you need on the project team? How many people do you need and what will they cost. What type and quality of materials are needed? How long will each task take?
Plan for contingencies
Use phases, stages or sub-projects to plan for large projects. Don't try to lock in delivery times on tasks that are months down the track. Plan the whole project at a high level, but only lock in the detail for the next phase as it approaches.
The plan will change, problems will arise and barriers will be faced. Understand your critical path and when you have established your ideal baseline add in time and additional cost to each task on the critical path to provide a buffer. Do not publish the baseline for the plan until this has been done.
Use Your Resources Wisely
Don't try to do everything yourself. The role of a project manager is not to undertake tasks. They plan, monitor, manage and report on the activity of a project. If you step down into doing tasks, visibility over the whole will be lost. Plan your resources carefully and you will have everything you need to complete the project.
Track Your Progress
The only way to stay on course is to track the progress of your project. Monitor deadlines for slippage and overruns. Look for progress markers that highlight strengths and weaknesses within your team. Give constant attention to the near future to ensure upcoming needs are met. The information you obtain from tracking your progress can assist to identify emerging risks before they impact your project.
Be prepared to alter your plan to adjust for the inevitable events that cause delays. Move tasks and resources, use the buffers and flexibility within your plan to address the issues and get the critical path back on track.
Keep Everyone in the Know
Weekly project meetings are a good way to ensure all project members are kept up-to-date on progress and dependencies. In larger projects it is particularly important to identify leaders for sub-projects who are responsible for delivery of the plan.
The combined problem solving power of multiple leads assists in addressing risks and adjusting resource allocations. They also act in concert to ensure integration occurs seamlessly and communication flows are effective and unrestricted.
To maintain support and achieve approval to proceed to the next phase of the project, provide regular progress reports to your project sponsor and steering committee. Keep detailed notes of the root cause of changes to the plan so it is clear exactly what has happened and what remains to be done for successful completion.
Post Project Review
Once the project is complete take the time to step back and review the project from start to finish. Review each version of your plan and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your planning to improve for your next project.
If you are interested in an online project management degree, many universities offer great programs.