Professional services teams are constantly fighting to hit deadlines and ensure projects and KPIs are delivered on time. But, when you’re working on multiple timelines, hitting every deadline can be challenging. Here are six tips for ensuring your team has a solid project management delivery plan, and that no deadline is ever missed again.
Tip #1 – Create a realistic project management delivery plan
The first step toward ensuring your team never misses another deadline is to make sure their deadlines are realistic. Whenever you’re planning a project with fixed deadlines, it’s critical to put the upfront effort into planning out an achievable schedule.
Creating an attainable project management delivery plan requires the following:
- Use a proven project management delivery methodology to map out your project structure.
- Create a WBS (work breakdown structure) and a complete list of tasks and activities that are needed to meet the project deliverables and goals.
- Sequence each task and note any dependencies.
- Gather estimates for how long each task will take by reviewing past, similar projects, and talking to SMEs (subject matter experts).
- Use PERT or the critical path method to identify which tasks cannot slip without the whole project being delayed.
- Include a contingency buffer to help mitigate risks to the schedule.
Don’t forget to involve your key project stakeholders. Having their input into timelines will help keep them engaged and reduce the chances of something being overlooked or forgotten.
Tip #2 – Plan out your goals and processes
Once you have a project management delivery plan in place, it’s important to be proactive about monitoring and controlling it. After all, if you don’t know something is going to be late until the due date arrives, you have no time to recover the schedule.
You will need to determine how you can monitor your team’s progress without micromanaging their work. This will give you enough time to come up with a ‘Plan B’ if something runs into trouble.
Some helpful goals and processes include:
- Creating interim deliverables or progress milestones
- Scheduling regular check-ins with your team to review progress and issues
- Adopting project management software that will enable you to oversee development without having to ask for updates
Tip #3 – Ensure to manage your resources
When creating your project management delivery plan, it’s easy to assign generic resources such as ‘graphic designer’ and plan to assign the actual people later. Unfortunately, this practice can play havoc with your schedule.
For instance, what happens if all the graphic designers are already assigned to other projects? If you wait too long before assigning people to tasks, it can be too late to juggle things around.
If your team has project software, shared project calendars, or reports that show resource allocations, check to make sure the person you want isn’t already over-allocated or scheduled to be out of the office when you need them.
Tip #4 – Allow for perfect communication
Everyone on your team must understand the project timeline. Using a visual like a Gantt Chart can help people understand when their portion of the work is required, as well as whose work comes before theirs, and who is waiting on them to finish.
What if work had to be sent back to the creator, and rework was not in the schedule? In scenarios like this, your team will need reliable processes in place for knowing who to move tasks to when their part is complete and how to notify others they now have work to do.
Open communication with all stakeholders is necessary for managing deadlines. You can communicate with the customer to discuss moving around deliverable dates. Or you may reach out to other executives to see if you can pull in extra help. Not only does communication broaden your options, but it also helps stakeholders feel involved in crucial parts of the project lifecycle.
Tip #5 – Focus on improving time management
Time planning and management is a significant part of ensuring that deadlines are met. After all, if a task is estimated to take four hours, but the team member assigned keeps getting distracted, it could take much longer. By helping your team improve their time management skills, you can boost productivity and make sure they meet or exceed their planned timelines.
One way to improve time management is to cut down on distractions. This may mean eliminating non-value-added meetings, providing quiet work areas away from interruptions, or banning social media and other non-work applications. Another option is to keep a project deadline tracker where employees can see which tasks are priorities and create or manage their to-do lists.
At times, you may also be called upon to help delegate less essential work, or coach and manage employees about task avoidance (when team members avoid something unpleasant because they don’t want to tackle it).
Tip #6 – Have the right tools for the job
Having the right tools for the job can make all the difference when it comes to project success or failure. These tools give you high-level visibility into any scheduling roadblocks that might occur.
Project management software and reporting enables you to manage without micromanaging. You can keep an eye on progress and quickly see where bottlenecks or delays are starting to appear, while there’s still time to make adjustments.
Plus, with software capable of tracking and managing dependencies, you can play with different scenarios to figure out what the best solution is. For instance, if one task is slipping, you can see the potential impact of pulling resources away from other jobs or rearranging timelines.
How to manage deadlines in project management software
According to PMI’s “Pulse of the Profession” survey, just over half (51%) of global projects were completed on time in 2019. By following the above tips and using project management tools to help ensure there is collaboration, insight, and smart working, you can keep your future projects on track and avoid missing deadlines.