They say it’s never too late. Never too late to go back to school, learn ice-skating, undo a mistake or make a childhood dream come true. Wish the same could be said for project failures, unmet deadlines, and lost clients.
As project managers, we’ve all had a taste of at least one project gone awry. Where the damage was unfixable and repair out of question. The failure of which still haunts us, makes us wonder what we could have done to prevent it?
A KPMG survey of 100 businesses reported 70% of organizations faced at least one project failure in the year 2010 alone. Well, there’s no point crying over spilled milk. Which is why we have gathered 10 Project Management hacks you should have known and can still use in the future:
Automate your project management methodologies
KPMG’s Project Management Survey 2017 reported 80% of organizations, use more than one project management methodology.
An effective project manager is one who will always look for ways to streamline the project, team collaboration, and its outcomes. And the best way to do that is by using a project management tool.
Let technology take care of the administrative glut, so you can spare your time and effort on more critical aspects of the project.
Project management tools are a double-edged sword. Smart management tools such as Jira and nTask, provide inbuilt tools to manage projects, timesheets, meetings, and multiple workspaces. This automation aligns the daily communications, and file sharing under one platform.
Secondly, project management tools are also a means for time management. In nTask, a project manager can appoint due dates to tasks, projects, and meetings combined. Each time, the task of a project nears a due date, a reminder will be sent to each team member.
To sum up: a project management tool will organize your daily work by splitting it into daily, weekly or monthly chunks, to help divide your focus in a more systematic way.
Break it down
A Project Manager is no super-human. Little delegation is a must. If the project is too large and complex to handle, it can be broken down into smaller chunks. More skilled team members with expertise in a specific domain can be assigned to each chunk. This methodology will ensure that each task is completed on time with best efforts.
Bond with your team
According to the PMI Project Management Survey 2017, 30% of project failures were due to poor or inadequate communication. So, it’s no newsflash that communication in workplaces is key.
However, it may be important to notice that communication alone doesn’t do the job.
A good project manager creates an environment in which the team(s) can perform successfully. He/she creates a bond with the team members separate from deadlines and launch dates. Arranges a happy hour at the end of each week. That’s when complaints, ideas, and suggestions are exchanged more transparently between the team and their project manager.
In other words, empathize with your team. Also, it’s imperative for good project management to have all its team members be well-informed of each step of the process. As it erases confusions and conflicts later down the line.
Baseline your project schedule & monitor the budget
Brett Harned, Digital Project Management consultant explains that creating strategic timelines and managing budget estimates helps the team to get a better more holistic view of the project’s framework. This, in turn, enables team members to come up with better ways to meet project goals.
Tracking a project schedule keeps the team and its project manager on top of the progress update.
Similarly, monitoring the project budget helps in keeping the allocated budget from exceeding its limit.
A Project Management survey in South Africa, revealed that 55% of project failures in 2015 occurred because of exceeded budgets.
Groom your project management skills
Margaret Meloni, president of Meloni Coaching Solutions, Inc., says “if you want to be a better and more well-rounded project manager, you have to be a more well-rounded person. Don't forget to keep learning.”
Business trends evolve by the hour and new tools & techniques emerge each year.
Project managers who upskill regularly by acquiring certifications, attending workshops, and listening to podcasts, are familiar with new changes in the market. They know what mode of strategy to adopt in newer times for increased productivity.
Do your market research
A project that has no tangible outline – who wants the end product and in what way- that project is doomed to fail.
It is the responsibility of a project manager to conduct his/her part of market research before the project is given a head start. Market research enables full visibility of the prospect, scope, and the outcome of the project that is still in the pipeline.
Lack of market research has proven detrimental for large corporations like Microsoft. Five years after Windows XP was launched, Vista was released to replace XP. Microsoft spent $500 million on marketing campaigns to help users transition from XP to Vista, which resulted in negligible success as users refused to upgrade from XP.
Keep standardized templates
Businesses without templates typically see a failure rate that ranges from 10 to 30 errors per 100 opportunities.
A successful project manager develops schedule templates to share with clients, teams, and even stakeholders. These templates contain the description of each task, their due date, and assignee appointed for its completion.
Same can be done for work plan templates, risk templates, and budget templates. Standardized templates help save time otherwise spent on creating documentation from scratch and also serves as a record which can be shared with potential or existing clients.
Set realistic goals
Setting unrealistic objectives and impossible deadlines results in nothing but sloppy work.
For a project to successfully move its course, it must first have a clear objective, with clear action items. Members responsible for those action items cannot complete them unless they have a clear understanding of the project objectives.
Identify risks early on
Risk management is a significant component of successful project management. Identifying problems early on in a project lifecycle saves time, resources, and money, otherwise lost under lack of a risk planner.
Most project managers utilize a risk management tool that is automated in terms of checklist, notifications, and a risk mitigation plan.
Keep track of your team’s time
By tracking the team’s time, a project manager gets to keep an estimate of time spent by each resource on a given task. It facilitates the project manager in calculating how much time to allocate a member on a new task based on his/her performance on the previous task.
While old project failures are now water under the bridge, it’s never too late to start applying these 10 hacks on your next project.
Select your top 3 favorite hacks and let us know how useful they were in making your project management a seamless ride.
This a Guest Blog Post from Fred Wilson
About the Author
Fred is an Agile & Software Consultant at nTask. He works with teams to streamline workflows and enhance team collaboration. He is an avid reader and often writes about productivity, project management and collaboration.
This is the 3rd post in our 5 part series on Resource Management. Post #1 covered Allocation. Post #2 was about using Effort vs Duration. Now in this post we'll discuss Collecting Data to make informed Resource Management decisions. When I reflect on our client engagements, there are a few common issues which come to mind. One is the lack of data collection which leads to inconsistent decision making.
I talk to companies of all sizes and find a consistent theme when talking to less mature organizations. They tell me they don’t need Project Management software to be successful. They can easily use Excel or MS project and/or SharePoint to manage their work.
I then ask a few questions:
In our last post on Resource Management we showed you the Rule of 60s and how it is beneficial when planning resource allocation. That tool is primarily used for Planning and Managing your Portfolio rather than building project specific schedules. In our post today, I'll review the differences between using Effort vs Duration when building your Project Schedule.
Let me start with an obvious statement, You can't execute a project if you don't have available people. However, what we encounter far too often is that organizations don't perform any sort of Resource Planning, Resource Analysis, Capacity Planning, Resource Management or whatever buzzword name we want to give it this week. Here are 5 tips to consider for effectively managing your resources to deliver projects and manage your portfolio.
The PMO, the Project Management Office. The team within an organization which is responsible for delivering projects. Imagine the responsibility and burden on the PMO leader. From my experience running several PMOs it goes a little like this.... You are in charge of delivering the most critical, strategic projects for the organization and you need to do it with limited resources and limited organizational span of control.
I've also found through working with many clients and talking with peers, that starting or improving a PMO should be done by simplifying the approach. Simplify to get early wins, and then start to expand influence within your organization as you build trust through successful delivery.
Our approach follows the P - M - O process;
Setting up a Project Management Office (PMO) can appear to be daunting. And let’s not kid anyone. It is. It actually is. It requires careful planning, deliberate relationship building, flawless execution and continuous improvement. Throw in a mix of doubters, “we’re not going to change”-ers, and differing demands, it makes the situation even more challenging.
Does this look familiar? I think everyone I know plays the game of "get ALL the toothpaste out of the tube!" That toothpaste probably cost us about $2.50 and we aren't going to throw it away until we know we've gotten every last drop of toothpaste out of it.
Why then, do organizations not treat projects like we treat toothpaste? Projects cost organizations $10,000 or $50,000 or $250,000 or a $1 million. Certainly more than the cost of a tube of toothpaste.
At the start of the new year Project Management leaders should take some time to be sure the organization is focused on delivering successful projects in 2018. But how do you do that? What are some of the key steps which need to be taken to give you the best chance for success?
Here are my top 3 areas you should be focused on:
Is there such a thing as Good vs Great Project Managers? Of course there is! Just as with any profession, some Project Managers are better than others. There are several items which can contribute to this differentiation such as; Consistency, Attitude, Experience, Background, Desire, Training and more. What I've found over the years is that the PM who has developed "soft skills" has an edge over PMs lacking these soft skills. Even more specifically, I've found through my experience there are 8 soft skills which are the most important for a PM to cultivate and grow.
I was a pretty decent baseball player back in the day. Lots of Business Lessons were learned between the lines; Leadership, Trust, Teamwork to name a few. Another lesson was the use of a Playbook. My freshman year of High School I was called up to the Varsity team and the coach gave me the team Playbook. I had never used a Playbook in baseball. Hit the ball, throw the ball, run. What was the need?
There are so many choices today when selecting Project Management Software. There are Enterprise PPM solutions, Cloud based or desktop based choices. We can even select apps to use on our mobile devices. There are tools which specialize in communication, collaboration, task management, gantt charts and more. Are you needing a tool for yourself, a small team, small or mid-sized business or perhaps a large corporation. Do you practice traditional Project Management, Agile, or hybrid methodology? So many selection criteria to assess. So how do you pick the right tool for your particular need?
We've all seen it.....
Hey John, can you please take on this project? Problem is, John isn't a Project Manager. We know how this is going to finish!
Over and over again organizations ask employees to take on Project Manager responsibilities for critical projects. Usually the reasoning being the employee is a subject matter expert or has seniority in the department. These top organizational employees are now put in a position in which they are not prepared. They haven't received Project Management training, are unfamiliar with tools, haven't had to negotiate resources, have never built a schedule and are being set up to fail. This all too common scenario has given birth to the Accidental Project Manager.
I am often asked, "Why do we need a PMO?" Regardless of industry the question is the same. If we have Project Managers then why do we need a PMO. I guess thats a fair question and it allows me to ask a few follow up questions to get a good dialogue started.
I'll ask my clients if they have an Accounting Department - Yes.
Do you have an Accounts Payable team/resources - Yes.
Do you have a set process for how you pay your vendors - Yes. See where this is going??
We've all seen the fight between Agile and Waterfall evangelists on the web. The traditionalists opt for Waterfall and the new age is favoring Agile. Certainly there seems to be a shift to Agile these days, but who really runs a full Agile shop? What I wonder though, does it even matter? What is really at the core of Project Management best practice? Does using Agile principles make you a better PM than following a Waterfall methodology?
How about Project Management software? Does it matter if you are in the MS Project corner vs Planview or Clarity? Perhaps you rely on JIRA or Asana? Maybe LiquidPlanner or Wrike? There are literally hundreds of software solutions for Project Managers to use. Will using one over the other make you a better PM?