Project Management. Some people love it, some people hate it. Love it or hate it, project management concepts are key parts of growing a successful business. Project management (PM) helps you balance the competing factors of time, cost and quality. The ability to create a sustainable and repeatable framework will help you grow your business.
To find the correct project management balance, utilize my four-stage process to achieve your own success. The key, high-level, core steps are identified under each stage.
The Start-Up Stage
- Establish the project start-up team. Determine what go-to skills, experiences, resources and/or partners you need. Establish relationships that will enable the success of your project. Officially communicate the project. Hold a formal kick-off meeting.
- Get organized. Create a project workspace—the one-stop location for all project-related documents and details. This is your working space and will ultimately become your archive for lessons learned. This is key to your continuous improvement.
- Plan. Develop a start-up project plan: create an initial task list and develop the timeline for your planning activities.
- Resources. Determine your resource requirements: estimate resources and expenses. Review and communicate the start-up plan with your project team.
- Outline the project’s scope. Develop the scope document and include the solution criteria. Document the requirements and get approval of the scope.
- Establish your PM environment. Identify measurements; schedule training; and complete purchase orders, updated budget and planning schedules.
- Change. Establish change-control procedures: determine how changes in the project will be handled. Think ahead!
- Financials. Determine financial procedures for the project: consider expense and billing requirements.
- Risk. Identify project risk: think about what the risks are with this project. Is the solution a new release of software? Are you working with new partners? Is the customer truly committed to this project? Determine how you will mitigate or transfer these risks. What will be my “Plan B” contingency?
- Checkpoint. Establish a review gate for start-up activities.
Have you done your pre-planning properly? Does the project
team agree to the task lists and initial schedule commitments?
Do they agree with the committed timeline?
The Planning Stage
- Your approach. Document your approaches to completing the project. Evaluate, consider and recommend your solution(s).
- Divide and conquer. Divide your project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Create tasks that can be managed more effectively (example: less than 80 hours in effort). This is your work breakdown structure.
- Estimating. Estimate the amount of resources, risks involved and assumptions.
- Scheduling. Develop preliminary schedules by adding dependencies, durations and constraints.
- The resource plan. Create a staffing plan that clarifies roles and responsibilities.
- Communicate. Create a communication plan. Communicate risks, status reporting schedules and periodic project reviews. Identify and target your project audiences. Communicate issues.
- Standards and procedures. Determine technical standards, quality assurance reviews, key project metrics and documenting risk procedures.
- Walk it out. Conduct a project plan walk-through with team, customers and suppliers. Ensure all parties understand their roles, requirements and expectations.
- Assess risks. Define critical success factors, prioritize key risks to manage. Continue refining mitigation plans and contingencies.
- Money. Create preliminary budgets for the project. Obtain budget and funding approval.
- Statement of work (SOW). Get team input and ensure the business benefits of the project are articulated clearly. Review the SOW and get approvals.
- The baseline. Set and archive the baseline project plan. Capture the baseline plan and communicate it.
The Execution Stage
This phase is iterative. This is where project execution occurs. Monitoring, follow-up and checkups occur here.
- Execute. Hold a project kick-off meeting. Set expectations for the team. Do the steps identified in the baseline project. This includes acquiring resources, materials and systems. Gain or train skill sets required for project success. Delegate assignments.
- Monitor. Track progress relative to costs, work completed, quality assurance and key performance metrics. Continuously evaluate the project.
- Manage. Alter the project plan from the baseline plan as required to ensure project success. Identify changes, make changes and communicate changes. Continuously re-evaluate risks. Negotiate changes with the team. Track changes and their impacts.
- Update. Maintain your project workspace and project documentation. Update systematically, periodically and consistently!
- Communicate. Continue to communicate project status updates per your communication plan.
The Close-Down Stage
- Complete the resource plan. Assess the team and each individual’s performance. Communicate their performances to them. Document the performance of the team. Reassign assets, including team members, materials and systems.
- Conduct post-project reviews. This is key! Gain team input on the project. Determine successes and lessons learned. Use a questionnaire and a review meeting where it makes sense. Review your key project metrics (performance to time, quality, cost, customer satisfaction). Review the project workbook, data and documentation created. Look for insight to improve your processes. Think continuous improvement.
- Close the contract. Document any open contractual issues. Close down subcontracting agreements. Identify and document new add-on business ideas! Get formal project completion sign-off. Archive your project documentation.
- Close the communication plan. Communicate the official close of the project to all parties. Give the project finality.
- Complete the financial procedures. Request/initiate final payments.
Right-sizing project management concepts to your projects can give your business a competitive edge. It creates and promotes confidence within your team and with your clients. It allows you to manage scope and cost elements in real time. Project management can help you identify risks and scope issues earlier in a project, helping to protect your investment and create new innovation opportunities. Utilize my four-stage process to save money, save time and enhance quality. iBi
Greg Johnson is president of Pearl Technology in Peoria Heights, Illinois.
For more details on the process, email [email protected].