When studying project management, you've probably come across lots of tools and tips that you've wanted to try out, only to forget them a few weeks later.
This article and infographic lists 10 essential best practices for project management in professional services. Every time a new project starts, review this list to make sure you’re not neglecting a little detail that could go a long way toward project success.
1. Communicate with all project stakeholders
From the first day you kick the project off you need to be communicating the goals and objectives. Not to just a select few, but to all the project stakeholders. Take a client-centric approach and include them along with key people like team members, managers, project sponsors, and valued users.
2. Create a risk response team
Projects and tasks are all subject to different levels of risk. That’s why you should always have a risk response team. They can help a project remain in the green and avoid going in the yellow… or the dreaded red. Think of a risk response team as the first line of defense when problems occur.
3. Hold a project kick-off
In order to manage a successful project, you need to align all your stakeholders with an initial kick-off meeting. You should include everyone that is going to have a stake in the project, so expectations are managed upfront. The earlier you get on their radar the better.
This will help with communicating smaller tasks and assignments to various team members down the line. Making sure everyone is aware of the project from the beginning is a simple, yet effective way to drive a healthy project to production.
4. Use a detailed work definition document
A common issue with managing projects is clarifying who is responsible for what. A detailed work document takes care of the uncertainty and confusion. It clearly documents what level of work needs to be done by what group or individual, so everyone has a clear understanding of the level of effort involved. To create accountability within your project, use a detailed work definition document and make all your stakeholders sign in agreement.
5. Create a detailed work plan
Formalizing your project's work plan is key to meeting deadlines and hitting milestones. Without a detailed work plan, there isn’t a documented plan for all the various stages of the project. What gets measured gets done, and a detailed work plan is a simple way to measure all the different moving parts of a project.
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6. Document everything
As a project manager, have you ever seen an assignment slip by a few days, or worse, a few weeks? Why did this happen? What caused this to happen? How do we prevent it from happening again?
In order to answer these questions, you need to draw on evidence. Documenting everything that happens in your project is a sure-fire way to ensure sure you have all the data you need to make better decisions and learn from previous challenges. So write everything down! Project steps, bottlenecks, scope changes, task dependencies. Even having stakeholder PTO times accounted for come in handy.
7. Ask for feedback
None of us are perfect, and there will be good and bad every step of the way, even regarding the project manager's performance. Being aware of personal room for improvement is an extremely powerful tool to harness. Especially if you are willing to take criticism from your team.
As a project manager, your job is to ensure the success of the project. And remember that humans are at the other end of the project assignment. Asking for feedback is a great way to increase the chances of success and better your management skills. Knowing how to teach project management best practices to your team members will only improve your next project as well.
8. Communicate the impact of project add-ons
It’s good to practice Agile methodologies and sometimes saying "Yes" to every new project or task that comes up is tempting. However, this is a good way of getting yourself into project overload. Anytime you have a new request within your project, it’s your responsibility to show how this will affect your timeline or budget.
9. Manage new agreements
New requests often mean a change in the original project scope. If this happens, then it’s a best practice to have everyone sign a new agreement document. This will give the various stakeholders a clear understanding of the new scope of work and what the impact is on the overall project. It also creates a documented agreement, so there is minimal confusion if deadlines need to be moved.
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10. Hold a wrap-up meeting
Once your project has been completed, it’s time to reflect and see how you can optimize your project management processes for success. Holding a wrap-up meeting is a perfect opportunity to get all of the project members together for discussion. Go over lessons learned and ways to improve for next time. Following a similar or the exact same flawed process over and over won't help you succeed. Continuously optimizing your work management will go a long way in saving you time and money.
Following these 10 best practices will ensure you'll develop invaluable project management experience and continuously strive for project success.
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