Project management is a multi-step process critical in planning and organizing company resources to complete a specific task. For some, it’s on a per-project basis. While for other businesses, project management is already ingrained in the operational culture. In the past, we only hear about project management when dealing with IT, engineering, or construction projects. But since the concept is now applicable to any industry, the principles are roughly the same – that is defining objectives, identifying components, task assignment, and monitoring for quality control.
Every project involves plenty of moving parts. Perhaps one who has an essential role is the project manager. He is charged with decision-making, and the power to oversee everything to reach the desired outcome. To him, the project’s success depends on how he ensures that the team follows the suggested steps and processes throughout the expected lifecycle. But the ideal scenario is always easier said than done. The good thing about project management today is the availability of modern tools and resources fueled by innovative digital technology.
Do modern-day project management tools make the job easier for managers?
You can’t talk about project management without touching on the role played by technology. It would be useless to engage in a project if your team doesn’t maximize tools such as project management software. Regardless of the project size or how many people are involved, using software helps in planning, organizing, deploying, and monitoring tasks more efficiently. But, not every platform or tool meets the challenges faced by project managers – because of the unique requirements of their industry or the project’s complexity.
It’s essential to keep in mind to use the best project management software. For example, simple projects could do well with a tool that has basic capabilities. And if you want the best features offered by a project management platform, it’s vital to compare robust capabilities and consider the ideal variation that works for your needs.
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The right way to approach tool and technology selection
Choosing tools, especially technology, is not an easy decision for project managers. Ultimately, you want these tools to be valuable assets and not a hindrance to productivity. Of course, the cost also matters because a majority of enterprise tools aren’t free.
When it comes to project management, implementing tools and technology should be a goal-driven decision. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or platform. What do you want to achieve by requiring your team to use a particular tool? What are your priorities in selecting project management software capabilities? Once you have one at your disposal, it’s also vital to recognize that technology is only one factor that will impact project success. Project managers still need to leverage techniques and strategies that ensure efficiency and productivity.
With that in mind, let’s discuss helpful tips to guide project managers in staying organized and on top of every issue encountered during the course of the project.
Setting project priorities and goals
Before your team begins working on the project, the first step is to at least have a blueprint of specific priorities. Completing a project should be a process with phases and steps you can break-down into actionable tasks. Setting priorities will help you and your team adjust to the project’s expectations. The list of priorities will also become the basis of your criteria for monitoring and quality control. In a nutshell, prioritizing tasks in a certain order will give the team a goal-oriented approach to their daily output.
Define deadlines and completion schedule
Every task, no matter how small should have a deadline. A well-organized team manager keeps a tight schedule so as to motivate each member not to fall behind. Of course, the ideal scenario is meeting the deadline set. But in case of delays, managers should also remain flexible and find a new course plan to accommodate possible changes and adjustments to the target deadline.
Although adhering to a strict schedule may be intimating to some, it’s a critical aspect of quality monitoring. Don’t let any team member tell you otherwise.
Setting project milestones
What is the difference between a milestone and a goal? A milestone refers to a specific event that marks the completion of a specific project stage or phase. A milestone is essential because it gives the manager and the team a detailed view of key events that will push the project forward to the next step. To avoid getting confused about what’s an ordinary task and what’s a milestone, the following questions should be your test.
- Will the completion of the said event significantly affect the final outcome?
- Is the event important in defining whether or not the project moves forward?
- Does it involve input from stakeholders?
In general, if you think the event is important, then it should be considered a project milestone. Doing so will allow you to keep track of and map the team’s progress.
Have a distinct set of short-term and long-term goals
We mentioned earlier the importance of prioritizing tasks, which goes hand in hand with this recommendation. If you clearly define short-term and long-term project goals, it’s easier to identify which tasks come first. Also, you can delegate better when you’ve split the project deliverables into manageable “goal-centric” tasks. These goals should also become the basis of monitoring progress, especially when you need to touch-base or coach a team member.
Consistent communication is hard, even for the most experienced project managers. When you are in charge of a big team, a lot can fall into the cracks. Also, trusting and understanding individuals with varying personalities can get in the way of handling and managing issues experienced while working on the project.
Effective communication is also a process. It requires commitment on the part of the manager, to be consistent in encouraging each team member to become more open. Fortunately, there’s plenty of simple ways to achieve this. Apart from regular meetings and one-on-one coaching sessions, you can use tools such as a messaging app, video-conferencing, and even regular emails to keep the communication lines open. Also, it’s the manager’s responsibility to be receptive to opinions and ideas that could help in addressing common issues and concerns.
Automation simplifies repetitive tasks
We mentioned earlier that modern-day project management relies on technology. But there are times when managers fail to maximize the benefits of these tools. When you have them at your disposal, look for ways to automate repetitive tasks. Does the project management software allow for scheduling recurring tasks and assigning them automatically? How about a tool that automatically generates reports for specific data? Managers should understand that doing things manually doesn’t make you any better at your job. These tools are available precisely because you only have a set number of hours each day to get things done.
Delegate and assign
Project managers don’t need to do all the heavy lifting. You can divide your team into mini units assigned with specific administrative tasks. Of course, it’s also essential to ensure that you’re choosing the right employee who can handle the assigned task. Delegate based on their strengths and core competencies so that you can maximize each member’s untapped talent or skill.
Quality control and progress monitoring
Last on our list of recommendations is the importance of monitoring progress through quality control. Project reports and analytics will help you determine areas for improvement and specific coaching opportunities. If there are KPIs, the team should have access to reports that show how they stack in terms of the goals.
Overcoming common challenges faced by project managers
Now that we’ve discussed tips that will help managers become more organized and productive, how then should they overcome common management challenges? It’s a reality that even that most experienced manager will stumble upon roadblocks from time to time. These are examples of uncontrollable instances that could hinder project progress.
- Budget constraints and issues: Money is always a critical concern for project managers. When you are constrained to meet a specific budget, it can complicate the achievement of tasks and goals. According to a study in 2017, 49.5% of manufacturing managers consider project cost as the biggest challenge. To resolve this issue, we’ll go back to our earlier recommendation about the importance of planning. The process of setting goals and priorities will at least minimize the problems encountered with overruns and shortages.
- Team members lack the skills: Your team will only be as good as the weakest member. And the project highly depends on individual performance. As the project manager, you’ll have to objectively assess competencies to determine whether you need to reinforce your team with additional support.
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In conclusion, a well-organized project manager plays a critical role in the team’s success. For managers, the task at hand can be overwhelming and tedious, but you need not approach the project without the help of tools and a team of competent employees. The tips discussed here in no way comprise all the best practices a project manager can employ. Although managing a team is a highly personal endeavor, adhering to these established principles for productivity and efficiency will guarantee favorable results.