How To Manage A Project from Start to Finish
Regardless of the size of the project and if you’re hired as freelancer or in-house, project managers have the difficult task of not only launching a project, but also making sure that everything runs smoothly and collaborating with team members and the client. It can actually get stressful. But, if you properly plan and manage the project, things don’t get as hectic.
If this is your first opportunity at managing a project, here’s how you can efficiently manage a project from start to finish.
Plan Your Project
Each and every project manager will tell you that the success of your project comes down to planning. This may take some effort initially, but in the long-run having a clearly defined project plan will save you time, money, and a lot of headaches once the project launches.
To get started on creating project plan, focus on the following components:
- Identify your project. To get started, you want to breakdown the project by understanding what the project really entails For example, telling you team that you want to build a house is very broad. But, telling them that you want to build a vacation home on the beach provides a better understanding on what the project really is.
- Define goals and objectives. After you’ve narrowed down your project, it’s time to establish the goals and objectives you want to accomplish. Your goals are the ‘what,’ such as increasing the amount of visitors to your website. Your objectives are the ‘how.’ If you want to increase the amount the visitors to your website, you could accomplish that be launching a content marketing campaign.
- Define tasks. You’ll need to clearly define the tasks involved to complete the project. For example, if you’re planning on launching a content marketing campaign, key tasks would include starting a blog, hiring writers, researching the content that your audience finds relevant, and promoting and sharing your content.
- Build your team. Who are the people who are going to help you on the project? And, what are their roles and responsibilities? Typically, your team should include the Project sponsor, experts to define the scope of the project, the Project manager, the team responsible working on the project, and realizing who the people are you will by using the project. When building your team, try to keep it as small as possible.
- Be aware of any project killers. Are there any team members or distractions that will prevent you from completing the project on-time? If so, identify and address these project killers so that the project can run smoothly.
- Create a timeline. Break down tasks into stages and establish deadlines on when you want your goals and objectives to be completed. Knowing how long each stage takes to complete assists you in keeping the project on track.
- Get feedback. After getting your initial plan, seek feedback from your team, stakeholders, and clients before proceeding.
- Adjust your plan accordingly. Even the most efficient of project plans won’t account for the unforeseen problems that may arise. Have some flexibility with your plan so that you can adjust and plan accordingly.
Once you have your plan in place, and everyone involved is on board, write the plan down so that it can be used as your road-map during the course of the project.
Keep the Project on Track
Having your project plan clearly defined can help guide you throughout the project, but that doesn’t mean that you can completely neglect the project and expect it to be completed without constantly reviewing, revising, and monitoring the project.
To ensure that the project stays on track, make sure that you:
- Schedule regular intervals to check on the project. Whether it’s every other day or once a week, you need to make it a point to schedule an amount of time to review the progress of the project.
- Be flexible. Trust your team when working on the project. Even though you have a vision and a plan in place, your team are the experts that have the knowledge and experience to make it a reality. If they have suggestions, keep an open mind and listen to what they’re saying.
- Communicate with your team. Keep everyone in the loop and provide frequent status updates. Better yet, schedule weekly meetings so that everyone has the most recent updates and can address any issues. For example, if a deadline had to be moved up and your team doesn’t know this information, then how can you expect them to complete their work by the new deadline?
- Address any problems before they occur. Prepare for any obstacles in advance so that you can handle them before they become a problem. If you know that you need a writer to compose 3 daily blog posts, then make sure that you have a writer on board who can handle the workload.
- Provide direction. As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to keep the team informed and make sure that everything runs smoothly. To do so, you need to provide your team with the appropriate resources and information so that they can complete the project on-time.
Utilize Project Management Software
No matter how detailed your plan and prepared you are, you’re bound to run into a number of hiccups. Thankfully, technology has made managing everything from social media accounts to customer relationships more effective and convenient. Project managers also have access to software that has made their lives easier.
Here are a couple of suggested project management software providers to keep you organized and better communicate with your team.
- Basecamp: When it comes to project management, Basecamp is arguably the leader of the pack. With a simple interface, you can use this software to write to-do lists, create multiple projects, share files, schedule important dates, and have discussions.
- Trello: Unlike other software, Trello lets managers organize to-do-lists and discussions visually through the use of collaborative board.
- Wrike: This software can help you make sure that that tasks stay on track by allowing you to assign tasks to team members and making sure that they have the resources on hand.
- Asana: By integrating with your email, Asana is a great option if collaborating with remote workers or freelancers. The software gives you the chance to schedule tasks and share files via Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Zoho Projects: This powerful online project management tools comes equipped with tasks and milestones, calendar and meetings, time tracking, reports, forums, file storage, and even a chat-in app to improve collaboration.
- Podio: With Podio, you can communicate with your team, store files, and setup task management. What makes Podio unique is that it can also be used as an internal intranet for your team or even a CRM system.
- Due.com: Not to be be egomanaics here, but we have a solid platform (it has been named one of the powerful project management tools) that project managers could use if they want to track the time team members spent on a project. We also issue productivity reports to assist with productivity.
As the project management, you also have to be skilled at effectively managing your time. If not, how do you expect the project to be completed on-time?
While there there are variety of techniques that you could use to manage your time, here are some of the best techniques to follow:
- Delegate tasks. If you’re swamped, don’t hesitate to assign some other tasks to a skilled and trusted team member so you can focus on your most important tasks. You aren’t expected to do all the work. Your job is to make sure it gets done.
- Prioritize your tasks. Speaking of priorities, make sure that don’t procrastinate on your most important tasks. Complete them first, and then work on tasks that aren’t as emergent.
- Run more effective meetings. Keep your meetings short and make sure that they don’t get off topic. You also want your team to share their thoughts and provide feedback on the progress of the project.
- Learn to say ‘no.’ Sometimes you just have to inform people that you don’t have the time to talk or work on a new project. If not, you’ll get distracted and burnout.
- Write tomorrow’s task today. This will help you not only plan out your day, it will also help you deal with that crisis awaiting you first thing in the morning. For example, if you have your tasks outlined and you wake up to a crashed website, you could delegate those tasks while you work on getting the site back-up.
Celebrate Milestones and Victories
What happens when you and your team complete a milestone or victory, like completing the project ahead of schedule? It’s time for you and your team to celebrate.
One of the most popular ways to celebrate is by taking the team out to dinner and having a couple of celebratory drinks. You can also show signs of appreciation by knowing the team’s success during your next meeting, creating a brag board that highlights an exceptional team member, offering meaningful rewards, and simply just thanking them personally.