If you’re not familiar with project management then you may believe that it’s a complicated process full of large teams, over-the-top presentations, and thousands of dollars invested in white boards and spreadsheets. The thing is, project management is rooted in simplicity. And, while it’s not a process that is going to be completed overnight, it doesn’t have to be as complex as you imagine.

Remembering that it doesn’t have to be complex is especially important to keep in mind when just starting out as a new business owner – when you have a tight budget and small team. In fact, no matter what you need to focus on, whether it’s a new website, hiring a new employee or designing a new product or service, you can use the following simple project management process to guarantee its success.

Lay the foundation.

Before you start any project, you first need to lay down the foundation of the project, aka the goals and “why” of the project. That typically includes;

  • Defining the success of the project. Make sure you get all of the stakeholders on-board by knowing the criteria of what will make this project a success by their definition as well as your thoughts on the subject.
  • Identify project driver, constraints, and degrees of freedom. Define the project’s functionality, staffing, budget, schedule, and quality objectives.
  • Define product release criteria. Determine the criteria on when the project will be ready to be released.
  • Negotiate commitments. Be 100% that you and your team can commit to the project at this time.

Having a strong foundation in place will ensure that the project will be successful since these foundational plans will guide you and your team through the entire journey of the project.

Clarify the scope and requirements of the project.

After laying the foundation, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of the project by clarifying the scope and requirements of the project, which begins with;

  • Understanding the project objectives. In other words, this is the “what,” of the project. For example, if you were developing a new app, then that would be the objective. You can have more than one objective.
  • Defining the scope. CIO states, that the “scope of the project outlines the objectives of the project and the goals that need to be met to achieve a satisfactory result.” In order to define the scope you’ll need to identify and write down in categories the project objectives, goals, sub-phases, tasks, resources, budget, and schedule. This doesn’t have to have every single detail.

CIO adds that after you’ve established the above, “you’ll then need to clarify the limitations or parameters of the project and clearly identify any aspects that are not to be included.” This will “make clear to the stakeholders, senior management and team members involved, what product or service will be delivered.”

Plan accordingly.

Next-up is the planning stage where you cover;

  • Assign who are the members of this project. Make sure that each individual brings something unique to the table.
  • An estimation on which objective of the task will be completed, specifically important deliverables and milestones. Putting this in a timeline allows everyone to quickly visualize any upcoming deadlines.
  • Plan for any potential risks so that you aren’t caught off-guard when you and your team run into problems.

Open-up lines of communication and find the right tools.

It’s imperative that everyone involved in the project communicates at every stage of the project. It ensures that everyone is on the same-page and on the same track by addressing any problems and keeping them all in the loop.

While sending emails can work, there are more more effective tools to communicate with stakeholders. Slack, for example, is currently one of the best communication tools in my opinion since it’s essentially a private message board for your business. You can set-up group chats, send direct messages, and share files from one convenient location.

However, this is actually where project management tools can come in useful since they will automatically notify everyone when a task has been completed.

If you’re unfamiliar with any project management software, here are some tools that I’ve found to be the most useful.

  • Zoho Projects is a straightforward project management tool that integrates with tools like Google Apps. There is a free version, but plans begin at $25.
  • Basecamp is the original project management tool and remains a popular option because of it’s ease-of-use and affordability, only $20 per month.
  • LiquidPlanner may be more complex than most other project management tools, but it is effective in organizing your work and visualize the day-to-day progress of your team. Monthly plans start at $29.
  • Teamwork Projects is one of the tools for smaller teams and includes items like visualizations of progress and file management. It also integrates with Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox. Plans are just $12 per month.
  • Wrike is quickly becoming one of the more popular project management tools since it’s easy to set-up, can convert emails into tasks, and integrate with Google Apps, Microsoft Excel, and Dropbox. It’s free to use, but plans start at just $9.80 per month.
  • Trello stands out because you can visually glance at everything that’s going on with a project. It’s also free.
  • ActiveCollab comes equipped with features like time tracking, task management, and to-do-lists. Not bad for $25 a month.
  • Podio can be used to assign tasks, communicate with team members, store files, and even be used as CRM. Plans start at $9.
  • Asana essentially replaces your email by providing status updates so that you can easily keep track of what’s going automatically. There’s a free version, as well as a Premium version for just $8.33.

Project execution.

Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to start getting to work. This was will be the meatiest part of your project since it will contain everything from status reports, development updates, performance reports, and meetings.

To “kick-off” the project, make sure that you have the following covered;

  • When a task will start and ending target date.
  • Who is responsible for the task.
  • What information should be updated and when.

It’s important that you don’t stray far from your original plan during the execution phase, however, you have to anticipate that problems will arise. This is why you and your team need to update the tasks frequently so that everyone can stay on track.

Monitor and review results.

Now that the project has officially “kicked-off” it’s the responsibility of the project manager to track its progress, communicate that progress to stakeholders, gather feedback, and make sure that the team is on track to complete the tasks by the project deadline.

By monitoring and reviewing the project as it progresses and as your team works on it gives you a chance to better understand what is working all along the way.

Remember, don’t forget to use your KPIs to determine if everything’s on track. These include your project objectives, quality deliverables, effort and cost tracking, and project performance.

Project closure.

Once the project is completed, the final phase is to review the success or the failure of the project. In other words, you want to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This project closure will give you a guide for other work and projects which will come up later.

This phase should include the transfer of deliverable goods. For example, if the project was an app for your small business, then your developers need to hand-over the final version of the app to you by the deadline.

You need to carefully analyze the final product. It would be beneficial to conduct a meeting consisting of the team who worked on the project. Don’t forget to compile all of your documents and data at this point as well so that you can easily locate it for future reference.

Finally, you have to reassign resources. If you have a full-time staff, then you’re going to have to find a new project for them to work on. If you hired freelancers or outsource help, they will be finished until your next project.

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I'm Chalmers and I'm the Co-Founder and CTO of Due.com.

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