Project management has become a highly sought-after IT (and business) capability and resource, with the business mindset no longer seeing a project manager as a wildly expensive overhead. Some companies, in the past, may have asked the question “Why do we need a project manager to deliver this initiative?” Hopefully, this view has changed for many of them now, but some businesses might still struggle with the cost of project management staff.
So, to help you justify the need for project management roles in the future, we’ve assembled five tips to ensure that you, or someone else in a project manager role, are adding value to your next project.
But before we get started, let’s step back to basics for a moment to understand what project management is.
What’s project management?
There are many definitions out there, but here’s one we like:
“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
You can apply different methodologies when managing a project, and certain methodologies work best when used within their respective areas of industry. A good example of this is the Agile methodology. Agile was created for the software industry. Although the concepts of Agile are also being applied to other use cases, both inside and outside of IT.
One of the most commonly known project management methodologies – PRINCE2 (which, stands for “Projects IN Controlled Environments”) – was originally introduced as a UK Government standard for information systems projects. Although today, it’s also employed across a wide range of industries, with it now one of the most recognized project management methodologies, across many countries, with different adaptations for different scenarios.
Now, back to our five top tips for increasing project management, and project manager, value.
1. Understand the project in its entirety
Let’s start off with something that’s relatively easy but very important – knowing your project inside and out.
Ensure that you have established who the stakeholders are and what their interest is in the project. Taking the time to understand their expectations means that you’re clear in each person’s agenda in the project.
Once this is clear, you’ll need your project plan to define each involved role and the relevant responsibilities.
Also, establish measurable and trackable success criteria. For a clearer understanding, you’ll need to identify the goals and objectives in a simple manner, then elaborate on what tasks or actions will propel you there. It also helps to ensure that all stakeholders and other interested parties can easily identify if the project is on track or not.
2. Realize that effective communication is vital
To ensure that a project runs smoothly, like all aspects of business and life, communication should be a high priority.
All major stakeholders need to be aware of the project milestones, roadblocks, or changes and these should be communicated clearly, as early as possible, and on a regular basis. Open up communication lines for all stakeholders such that they’re willing and happy to approach you without hesitation, this will hopefully mean that the project will run without any avoidable surprises occurring.
Highlight reports (as they’re referred to in PRINCE2) are a good way to provide key stakeholders with a regular summary of the project. These are provided by the project manager, to provide a status update of the project, and are normally issued at a defined interval which was agreed with the stakeholders at the beginning of the project. This allows stakeholders to monitor progress. The highlight reports are also used by the project manager to communicate any potential problems or areas where the stakeholders may be able to help.
3. Use a project management software tool
Technology has provided project managers with many tools to help them to do their job more effectively.
For instance, project management software can act as a library of all relevant project information – holding documents, images, text. Many also offer quick and easy communication methods from internal chat features to a comments sections such that users can provide feedback on the latest updates in the project thread. And let’s not forget Gantt Chart capabilities.
4. Understand project team members strengths and weaknesses
While we’ve just called out some of the capabilities of project management software, the success of a project mostly depends on the effort and skills of the project team.
A responsive and engaged project manager will always make a conscious effort to know their individual strengths and weaknesses, so they can assign the correct work package to the right person (or people). Ideally, work is given to an individual who is most efficient and competent at completing it.
By knowing and leveraging the strengths of team members, this results in tasks being completed quicker and with better time management.
5. Review your completed projects
This point is KEY for any project manager progressing in their career, and a truly effective project manager will always do this. Analyze your project’s performance and learn from it. This is often referred to as a “Lessons Report” section of “closing a project.”
To do this, you’ll need to be self-critical and evaluate the nitty-gritty parts of the project, such that you’re best positioned to ensure the success of future projects too.
Review the project as a whole and each project element, note down what went well, and what went wrong. You should also go one step further and include what should be improved for future projects.
This self-assessment is very powerful for your growth and ability to run a project effectively, and with a higher success rate! It also expands your capability to manage future projects more logically and successfully based on your growing knowledge, skills, and experience
What do you think? Do you agree with these top tips? Are there others that you would like to see added to the list? If so, please leave your comments or suggestions below!