Projects are important for any business – but they can be hard to manage, and made even harder without a solid project management plan. It doesn’t matter what size your business is, project management is crucial to get right if you want to be successful. Here are my eight steps to successful project management every time:
1. Create relevant KPIs
There is little point in putting time, money and effort into a project if you don’t have a target outcome. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are useful here. Create a list of the outcomes that you’re looking to achieve – be as specific as you possibly can – and try to attribute target results to them, be it in the form of numbers or otherwise. This helps to clarify what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and also helps to communicate the importance of the project to others.
2. Budget for surprises
It is very rare for a project to go from start to finish without surprise costs – in fact, I am yet to complete a project that doesn’t end up having some extra expenses crop up along the way. Surprise costs could be anything from travel, postage or staff – whatever it is, it’ll need to be paid for at the time and accounted for at the end of the project. By working with a budget that has room for surprises, these extra costs will be easier to manage, and won’t put your campaign under pressure.
3. Plan for and manage risks
Some (if not all) projects will incur some risk. The key is to anticipate it or to step in with corrective measures if necessary. By incorporating a ‘what could go wrong’ section into your plan, you’ll already be better equipped to deal with a difficult situation if it arises. Having contingency plans and an agile approach helps, but it's also crucial to be realistic and acknowledge that risk is a part of the process.
4. Make sure you have space
Many projects (particularly events) require a vast array of 'stuff'. Marketing materials, promotional giveaways, extra furniture and pop up banners are just some of the items that are usually drafted in for extra special work-related projects. Having this stuff lying around the office and taking up space does little for morale and can make it hard to stay focused. If you know you’re going to need extra room and your office can’t cater to it, you might want to consider external storage.
5. Outline responsibilities for each team member
The success of a project largely depends on the skills, commitment and communication between team members. But team members can only do a good job if they know exactly what is expected of them. Try to have regular conversations to see what they’re up to, what they think is their responsibility and whether they think they can complete what needs to be done on time. If they need extra training, then it may well be worth considering this. Then, follow up with a written note to clarify exactly what you’re expecting of them. It’s also worth including them as much as possible in the planning stages so that they know exactly what the project is and why you’re doing it.
6. Create clear and open lines of communication
Everyone in the team needs to be able to communicate with each other from wherever they are and whatever stage they’re at in the project. For example, if it’s an event that you’re running, you might want to create a WhatsApp group in advance of the day so that everyone has one channel that they can easily access. It’s worth thinking about this in advance but also adapting as you go along if people aren’t using the channels you’ve created. Some might prefer Skype, others might use WhatsApp and some might stick to email. The point is to have the options available and to adapt to whatever works for the majority.
7. Use project management tools
Unsurprisingly, technology already exists to help you manage a project. There are many tools available that can act as a source for all the information relevant to the project. Think task assignment, document creation and effective collaboration – all of this can be done in one place, using readily available software. Some tools you might want to check out for this include Wrike and Asana – both integrate with other enterprise software and are relatively easy to install and use.
Once a project is over, it’s tempting to just get back to your normal job and forget all the hard work you’ve had to put in. But it’s really important to evaluate your success once it’s done. Evaluate the project as a whole and then analyse the more specific components – did you have enough people helping you? Was there enough budget allocated? Did you have the tools you needed to execute the project effectively? These answers will help you understand whether the project was a success in terms of ROI and what you need to get the job done better next time.
Projects can be difficult – but they’re made much easier once you understand what you need for effective project management. Sometimes they’re a case of trial and error, but more often than not, they’re a case of efficient planning and solid technique.
About the Author
Jonathon Kofler is Head of Marketing for Access Self Storage. He has worked in digital sales and marketing for 15+ years and is currently responsible for driving growth across Access Self Storage’s 56 nationwide stores.
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