Project management is among a top skill to master in any business; especially one wanting to grow.
Because without project management, business owners will unnecessarily run into common issues:
- Getting work back from team members in a timely fashion is impossible and unpredictable.
- Work somehow (eventually) gets done, but nothing is well planned out which causes stress and delays.
- Without a single person assigned the role of project manager, no one person has ownership of the project resulting in confusion, pissing matches, and missed deadlines.
- Come the deadline, critical deliverables will be missing and/or the quality will suffer.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, your business could use some basic project management skills and tools.
Keeping Project Management as Simple as Possible
Bottom line up front?
The project management solution a small or mid-sized business selects should only be as complicated as the project itself. In other words, keep the project management solution as simple as possible… in the end, it’s supposed to streamline your project management process, not add burden or complexity.
When running a team of 28 software engineers on a highly technical software security product, we found that sticky notes on a wall fit our agile process perfectly. Later, when expanding to multiple teams across multiple sites, we moved to a shared Excel sheet to track progress.
What matters isn’t the solution itself, but that
a) you have one,
b) it makes sense for your team, and
c) everyone uses it.
Necessary Benefits Any Project Management Solution Should Provide
The most significant benefits a project management solution provides should include:
- Team communication and sharing — allowing everyone to check progress against milestones, keep the scope of the project in mind, and check the critical path of project tasks.
- Visualization — It doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a basic ability to visualize progress can tell the team and the project manager at a glance whether they need to make adjustments and how drastic those adjustments need to be.
Of course, not everyone will implement a project management solution, but the risks are glaring and obvious. Without one, team communication suffers causing misunderstandings which result in quality issues or delays. Without one, it’s nearly impossible to monitor progress against milestones and goals, all but ensuring small delays add up massive failures as the project nears completion.
First time project managers should spend a little time picking the right solution for their needs. They should consider how big their project is, and therefore how complex their solution needs to be. For example, a two-week project with three team members probably can get by with sticky notes or a shared Excel spreadsheet. A five-year long project spanning multiple divisions in the company with dozens of team members may need something more in-depth like Microsoft Project.
Of course, many solutions fall somewhere in between sticky notes and Microsoft Project. Online tools like Basecamp provide excellent project management facilities for expanding teams. Trello is another fantastic tool which can be extended with plug-ins as your organization grows.
The key things to look for are:
- Can the project tasks, scope, charts, and other metrics be shared among team members?
- Are there visualizations to help understand key metrics at a glance?
- Does the tool have facilities for tracking tasks, milestones, and overarching goals? Do those facilities align with your process?
Project Management Solutions to Avoid?
Just stay away from the big, everything-included project management tools unless you need them. The complexity will quickly overwhelm nearly any team and drag the project down with additional, unnecessary weight.
Remember, the project management solution you choose should assist you in getting to your end goal, not create more work. Keeping that in mind when you make your selection will go a long way toward choosing a solution that works for you.
About the Author
CO-FOUNDER | CERTIFIED SCRUM MASTER AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT GURU
Michael Mehlberg helps businesses owners achieve their goals and live their passion, when he’s not glued to the television watching the Washington Capitals try to win the Stanley Cup. He is a certified Scrum Master and Project Management veteran of 12+ years, helping multiple small businesses get organized, deliver on promises, and turn their ideas into reality.