What Project Managers Need: Project Management Best Practices in 2021
12 September 2021
Project management is often misunderstood. People have lots of different ideas of what it is, assuming that it is simply enough to have a project manager of any kind, or thinks that the project manager is someone who can take a back seat and gets all the credit. Both of these ideas are untrue. Successful project management is essential in modern business, but bad project management can lead to disasters. We describe the project management best practices, top tips for effective project management, and explain the necessary skills for project managers, so you can make sure your project succeeds.
What does best practices mean in project management?
Project management can be best described as ensuring a project is finished. Ideally, within the time limit, budget, and where the team, clients, stakeholders, and anyone else involved, are happy with the end result. There can be good, or bad project management, or none at all!
So to understand what is effective project management, there are a few things to consider:
Saving time to save money
Time wasted is money wasted. Any delays in your project launch means that is a loss if expected income. If you were expecting $30,000 per week for your project after launch, and it has been delayed a month, that’s $120,000 lost immediately.
Further to this, the overheads may continue, and to speed the project along, extra help may be needed adding to the overheads.
If workers are overburdened day to day, to hit the deadline, then they may burn out, and staff retention may be jeopardized. This is not only bad for the project, but for the entire company. They will now have to slow down, spend more time on hiring and training, and the quality of the project will suffer as a result.
The Project Management Institute report “Pulse of the Profession” in 2018 found that $1 million dollars is wasted every twenty seconds in organizations around the world due to poor management. Good management has real financial benefits on a mass scale.
Ensuring quality and schedule control
Quality is a good barometer of success. Quality control, and comparison to other standards, is a vital measurement of success in a project. If project quality standards slip, then the project may be delayed, or have a considerably lower rate of return.
Scheduling likewise is an essential part of project management. By keeping things on track, by being realistic with schedules, the project manager can provide feedback on the project, keep the team working effectively to achievable goals, and this will boost productivity. Bad scheduling can make workers demotivated, or overworked, and may lead to further delays. It requires a lot of re-evaluation and constant appraisal (more on that later).
Delegation and organization
Knowing who needs to do what and when by is a key day-to-day task for project managers. The project manager needs to know how best to organize their team, and what tasks to delegate and when.
Bad delegation will lead to a drop in productivity or quality, and bad organization leads to delays. If the project is organized, if tasks are properly delegated to those who are capable of doing them, it makes work easier for everyone, leading to an easier implementation of the project.
Dispersion of information
The project manager has to be certain that everyone knows what they need to know. It is not enough just to have people working on their own task. Progress, reports, evaluations and reevaluations have to be shared. This may be with the rest of the team, the client, the stakeholders, management, etc.
The project manager needs to be able to know who needs to know what, and what they all need to know. They also, therefore, need to be able to effectively and efficiently communicate this, as there will be constant new information coming back to them, and they need to be able to extract this information from others.
Best project management practices to follow right now
For successful project management, you need to consider the following practices. These tips will help you achieve the goals of the project, ensure your team and stakeholders are happy, and manage the workload effectively between members.
It is essential to communicate as a project manager. Communication has to be clear, consistent, at appropriate times, and with the right people. It is also worth considering taking meeting notes, and recording meetings and interactions to provide a log, to guarantee that everyone remembers what has taken place, and that there are records to prove conversations took place. Consider sharing all communication in one place between team members, such as in Slack.
Be in touch regularly
Checking in daily with members of the team, just to say hello, goes a long way to make the team happy. It also shows you are available to hear any concerns, questions, and facilitate conversation between relevant parties. If team members feel isolated, they may not be so productive, or be working in the dark so to speak, without the knowledge they need.
Host a kick-off meeting
At the start of the project, host a kick-off meeting with everyone, including stakeholders. By having everyone in one meeting, it aligns all relevant parties on the same page, puts names to faces, and establishes clear communication.
Establish the objectives and project scope
Before the kick-off meeting, you need to have a project brief, which you will establish. This brief needs to include the main objective of the project, goals, project methods, the scope, deliverables, constraints, milestones, and how you will gauge success. This will help all team members know what they are aiming to achieve, and the stakeholders can see how you wish to achieve the goals.
There’s nothing worse than continuing working unproductively, or towards unrealistic goals. If something isn’t working, or even if it is, constantly assess and evaluate all aspects of the project. It is better to make a change earlier on, than it is to drag out a project, risking going over budget or burning out the team, or worse, just failing all together to deliver the project.
Relatedly, make sure the deadlines for each team member are realistic, to give them space, take off the pressure, and get better quality results rather than rushed jobs. Additionally, communicate any changes back to the stakeholders or anyone else, to show honesty. People would rather work with honest and communicative managers than those who pretend everything is fine.
A project manager must constantly assess what could be harmful to the project, team, future users of the product, and anything else for that matter. Be constantly aware of any potential risk (which is why communication is key) and try to mitigate and lessen their negative effects or potential.
Find specialists for repetitive tasks
Some tasks can take a lot of time, whether for your or other team members. There is no harm in delegation if the members are trustworthy. Repetitive tasks, in particular, can be delegated to specialists to get good quality results and to stop wasting time.
A final important tip is that you need to know the project progress and the team progress. You need feedback from the teams, and thighs to be logged and tracked. CRM software can help, but also consider recording and logging all team members’ meetings, no matter who they are with, to make sure that all communication is proper, and you can see how progress is being made. Tying back to evaluation, this can also help you see the progress being made, evaluate in turn what is working, and what needs changing.
Skills of a project manager
The project manager needs to understand some of the project’s technical aspects, or be willing to learn and get a solid enough grasp of certain key features. This way, managers can talk to the members of the team with confidence, communicate clearly, and understand how to make realistic deadlines for technical tasks. Agile project management is a particular skill set for example in modern software companies that is worth considering being adept in.
In addition, the project manager needs to know what tools they can use to make the project run smoothly. For example, automation software for recording meetings such as Notiv, collaborative software such as Trello or Toggl, CRMs, messaging service such as Slack, and so on. With a good grasp of these tools, the project manager will make their life easier, and the project proceeds with ease.
Organization, planning, and goal setting
A top set of skills for any project manager. By being able to establish achievable goals in the first place, the steps to reach it, you will make your and the team’s life a lot easier. Time management in project management is an essential skill as well, as knowing how long something needs and making sure that each task is finished at the right time is a major aspect of the role.
Project management involves working with many people, so project coordination skills, such as being able to keep this all organized, and not overwhelming for anyone, collaborating and communicating between parties, are a must-have ability for any project manager. This ties back to being able to evaluate too, and modifying any goals.
Being able to recognize what is a barometer of success is essential to project management. A project manager should be familiar with KPIs, budget forecasts, output, and understanding reports that show the status of the project. There is plenty of automated software to help with this however, so you can save time, such as Scoro or Databox, which is free for three users!
We already stressed that communication is a top tip. This means communication is a must-have skill for project management. A project manager has to manage workflow, communicate with all parties, from stakeholders to executives and workers, in an appropriate and timely manner.
It is also important to be able to know what each party wants to know, for example, a developer may communicate some information on some updates which are quite technical, and the stakeholders may need to know some part of this information, but this information will need to be said differently, with a particular focus. Knowing people’s needs, and understanding different people, this is all part of project management.
There is a real combination of hard and soft skills, human skills and technical skills, in project management. A major interpersonal skill you need is to be a good leader. You are leading the project in many ways, coordinating everyone, and with the big picture goal in mind. A project manager takes responsibility for the project, and this means you must be able to get people to want to work with you and achieve the goals you have allocated. A good leader is not iron fisted, but rather inspiration, and knows how to get the best from the team, while ensuring they are happy and productive.
We have provided a list of the best project management practices and skills needed to succeed in the project management role. What is important to recognize is that project managers always need to learn and grow, and there’s always room for improvement. There’s also new tools and techniques for project management you can always take advantage of to make your life easier. For successful project management, consider learning more about the best tools for virtual meetings.
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