Have you ever thought about this? Is a project a project is a project is a project? Meaning…underneath…are all projects basically the same? Yes, in detail, every project is different…though some are very similar. But from a project management perspective, setting up a repeatable set of processes can help you become more organized, more efficient and help you scale your business.
With the goal of creating the best chance of project success, below are some suggestions of best practices that should be applied to every project.
Know your Customer
Before starting any new project, every project manager should know everything they can about their customer. Yes, they will undoubtedly learn more and more throughout the engagement. But just like you might prepare for a job interview by investigating the organization you are interviewing with, prepare for the project by knowing your client, their business, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and know as much as you can about the management team of the organization. Going into the project engagement with key information and history on the client organization will help you understand their needs early on, will help you document key customer info – probably for inclusion in your customer relationship management (CRM) system, and will give you instant credibility with the new project client. Trust me, they will be impressed that you’ve done your homework.
Compile Early Project Information
Get what you can from whoever initiated the project or closed the deal or whatever. An account manager, the project sponsor (or both), your manager, the owner of the company... whoever might have meaningful information, requirements, estimates, mockups, etc. You need that critical information to start the real planning on the project and putting together a useful project schedule. If you find that this material is scattered in different places, you may want to locate in a centralized place (like your CRM).
If it's a big project, acquire the team you need, or at least know the needed skill sets required for the project to be a success. If you need to outsource these skill sets make sure you give yourself enough time to find them and engage them. Now, if the project is small…like maybe a data transition and you have the knowledge and capability to do it all yourself, this may be a one-person team. Otherwise, you’ll need to gather resources based on the skill sets you need or document those skill sets well and hand them off to whoever is the project resource gatekeeper.
Plan and Conduct the Kickoff Session
Sometimes this has to happen before you’ve assembled a team and sometimes after and sometimes it may just be you and the project sponsor. However, this meeting is critical to set proper expectations, finalize milestones, understand assumptions and plan for more planning and plan for the when and how the work will happen on the project. This session – no matter how big or how small the gathering and the project – is all about setting proper expectations and milestones for the engagement.
Conduct weekly meetings and disseminate project status. It doesn't matter how formal you make your status meeting – it can be a one-on-one call with the project sponsor that last for five minutes if that’s all it takes, but it must happen every week like clockwork. If communication falters, that’s when the project can start to come unglued and project customer satisfaction can begin to decline. Don’t skip the regular meetings and status reporting, even if there isn’t much to report. Of course, on larger projects this status meeting and reporting process will be more formal, but it still needs to happen…every week.
Effective and efficient communication is job one for the project manager no matter how big or small or detailed the project is. It’s not just about the status meetings and status reporting either – it’s about all project details, task management issue management, risk management and anything relevant to the project that needs to be efficiently disseminated to the project team members…and customer…in a timely fashion. And that must start with the project manager.
In general, the basic steps and practices that need to be included in order to achieve success are generally the same from project to project. You may scale based on the size of the project, but every step mentioned above should happen on every engagement. How about you? Do you agree? Are there any steps that might be missing?
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