Project Management Process Improvement Tips

Sep 30 2016 read
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Even with an iron-clad project plan, managing a project successfully is tough when you don’t have the control and visibility you need into all the moving parts. To be an amazing project manager, you need a platform that’ll connect every part of your project and let you know when things are veering off course (and in time to do something about it).

Whether you’re using a client work management platform to manage your projects or not, the authors of Project Management for Profit point out that you can be more successful by simply tracking key variables well, having top-notch internal communication with team members (i.e. keeping everyone informed), as well as having frequent and transparent communication with clients and stakeholders (so that everyone is always in the loop). Here’s why:

Track your variables closely

Harvard Business Review dives into “the dirty little secret of project management”, highlighting how many project managers blow past their deadlines simply because they have no clear idea of when they’ll actually finish the job. Why? A large majority of them claim there are too many variables that are out of their control.

While project managers certainly have to deal with a ton of curveballs on any given day, there are still many successful companies that manage massive projects - and finish them on time and on budget. So, is it really about the variables that are out of their control, or rather, the variables that fall through the cracks - the ones that aren’t well-tracked? Successful companies that continue to manage projects well do so because they’ve invested in (sometimes expensive) project management software. While large companies have been able to purchase expensive platforms, there’s good news for the smaller guys: you don’t need very expensive project management software to stay on track. 

Keep your team informed to avoid silos

When it comes to keeping your team informed, Behnam Tabrizi, a professor at Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering did a study and found that 75% of Cross-Functional Teams (the kind project managers are often a part of) are dysfunctional. The research found that the teams failed on at least three of five criteria:

  1. Meeting a planned budget

  2. Staying on schedule

  3. Adhering to specifications

  4. Meeting customer expectations

  5. Maintaining alignment with the company’s goals

The main things that hurt these cross functional teams in professional service industries like communications, consulting, and engineering were: unclear governance in what needed to be done, a lack of accountability, unclear goals, and companies’ failures to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects (i.e. investing in technology that could bridge the gaps between different teams). Alternatively, projects that had a higher-level cross-functional platform where projects could be easily overseen had a 76% success rate. That’s why investing in a client work management platform to break down those silos will make better decision-making more prevalent. More specifically, every project should have an end-to-end leader detailing who’s responsible for what, have clearly establishes goals, resources and deadlines (with the right sized and skilled team in place), and make sure everyone’s objectives are aligned.

To make sure everyone is on the same page, go beyond simple planning and collaboration. Manage your projects against budgets, schedules, and resources in real time so that anyone working on the project can just log in to see what’s been done. Nevertheless, bringing together busy team members to hit important project deadlines isn't easy. Not to mention, team leaders should be focusing on important client work and not be left to juggle calendars and spreadsheets to keep everyone in the loop. That’s why you’ll need a client work management platform that can let your team know what needs to get done, while being able to see how much they already have on their plates. With that kind of real-time visibility, you’ll be able to automatically assign work to schedules that are more open so that work is evenly distributed and deadlines are met.

Keep your stakeholders and clients informed

Keeping stakeholders and clients informed isn’t always prioritized, but it’s one of the most proactive ways to ensure your project is successful. By actively checking in and allowing customers to see the status of work, you’ll be better suited to set expectations early on and celebrate milestones by allowing them to log in to something like a client portal

At the same time, no two projects are the same - especially when a client is involved. Plans change, so you’ll need a client work management solution that’ll let you respond to change without creating mountains of work (i.e. something that adjusts dynamically as the project moves along). That way, if a client has a suggestion or concern, you’re not frantically trying to keep to project from falling off course by implementing their request.

Conclusion

As Jennifer Lonoff Schiff writes, a Sr. Contributor to CIO.com, “Make sure you have a good system in place for managing the project, one that everyone can and will use.” You won’t be able to track your key variables or keep your team and stakeholders in the loop if you don’t have everyone working from the same platform. When you find technology that can link all the moving parts of your project together into one integrated platform, you’ll have the visibility you need to make better decisions, be more successful, and effectively bridge the gaps in project management.

 

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