Entrepreneurs are great at coming up with business ideas, but when it comes to actively managing the projects their businesses bring in, they are at a loss about how to deal with them.
Project management is a crucial part of starting a business and can make or break a fledgling company. Without implementation a good idea is just an idea. Having effective project management skills helps an entrepreneur maximize resources, streamline processes, control costs and deliver results.
Good project management is essentially about asking the right questions: what, where, who, how, when, and how much. It also requires setting specific deadlines and ensuring committed participation form the team members. The key to success for an entrepreneur is maintaining a level of enthusiasm that motivates the team, and utilizing correct tools and resources to save time, energy and cost.
Each project has five basic parts for the business owner to keep an eye on:
- Post-Project Analysis
With project management the challenge is to keep each project on track and within budget. Here, several factors are to be considered, including internal as well as external elements that may cause a project to derail.
However, a strong action plan and an efficient team can be half the battle won. Each project has its own unique requirements and details. Conveying these to the team is one of the most important aspects of project management.
Key Planning Points
- Using cost-benefit analysis, or ROI, and looking at the opportunity cost make sure your project gives you the biggest value for your effort and is most aligned with your company’s strategy.
- Make sure the scope is clearly and precisely defined for everyone including the client.
- Divide the big project into small steps. This helps you navigate a complex landscape and avoid pitfalls of forgetting important steps. It also keeps employees motivated as progress is visible regularly.
- Work to bring the team together on the project. Bring together varying perspectives and bring them to a common denominator, i.e. contributing and being committed to the project.
Get an Effective Team
- Get a team that can gel well together by making sure you ask the right questions during the interview. This will make sure that they stay receptive to you during their subsequent training and when they are handling projects by themselves.
- Get the expertise your project needs. People who are experts in one field may or may not be experts in others. Identify what expertise your project needs and allocate, or acquire, resources accordingly.
Cover Your Knowledge Bases
- Scope – Once you have clearly defined the scope, teach your clients and your team the cost of changes to reduce the number of change requests. Manage all the changes and add to the project only when necessary.
- Time and cost – Use accurate estimation techniques and set up systems to gather, track and analyze data and keep time and cost under control.
- Quality – Focus on quality at each level of the project. Make sure at the technical level, trace requirements and design checking and testing are conducted throughout your project to reduce errors. Once thorough testing is done you must also allow time for rework and retesting. Include the customers in the testing stage and make sure they know how important quality is to you.
- Risk – Prepare for the worst. Plan for all kinds of uncertainty. Make sure you and your team perform risk management every week of the project.
- Human Resources – Help each team member rise in self-management and technical expertise.
- Procurement – Get the required supplies and resources. If your project involves contracts, be sure to keep the contracts in alignment with the project value and specifications.
- Communication – Have an effective communication plan and follow it to keep in touch with all the stakeholders throughout the project. Create status reports to know where the project stands and be prompt and decisive when dealing with unforeseen situations.
- Integration – Constantly direct corrective action and evaluate all the events that can change a project schedule and all the scope change requests. Review the effects of change on all areas before making a decision. Then implement a revised plan.
Stay on Track
- Make a clear system indicating the life cycle of the project. Highlight gates or check-points where things can possibly go wrong and keep an eye on those points for red flags. Follow the critical path of the project and make sure all your check points are tested.
- Evaluate the project at each check-point making sure deliverables, product documentation, technical documents, project plan and supporting documents are up to scratch. If a project is not delivering value, be willing to cancel it.
Work with the Feedback
- Use feedback to help your team stay on task and on schedule. Keep giving and taking feedback on delivery of key milestones to minimize project risk. Work with project changes, where necessary and communicate the necessity or lack of it articulately.
- Keep your and the team’s focus on scope and quality.
- Seek to exceed your customer’s expectations. Use successes and errors as a chance to do a better job.
- Remember the lessons learned from ROI. Compare the actual ROI to the planned ROI and be honest about your success. Compile project information and lessons learned for future projects.
Each project represents a chance to perform better than the previous one. Keep yourself and the team invested in the project throughout its life-cycle. Do not be shy of learning from other entrepreneurs who have walked this path before you. Remember, the momentum is often lost in the last 10% of the project. Make sure your team knows the importance of following through with the same intensity with which the project commenced.
Keep your employees and clients posted on the progress, the expected benefits as well as the potential problems related to the project. Remember, the more time you spend developing and planning the project the more likely you are to anticipate issues and resolve them in time. Keep your eye firmly on the critical path your project must follow, and see it through to the end. The ability to keep projects under control is crucial to the long-term success of an entrepreneur and his ventures. However, entrepreneurs must realize that this is more about strategy, planning, and man-management than just technical knowhow.