The importance of using formal techniques for project management is becoming increasingly recognised throughout all areas of business as a well to improve quality and efficiency whilst reducing overall costs. Demand for project management qualifications is almost the norm in certain areas of recruitment; and our PRINCE2 project management courses have never been so popular!
For businesses who have not yet adapted to this new, structured way of thinking, here are ten ways to get started with project management.
1. Understand what defines a project
It’s very important to start by identifying projects within your institution that could benefit from being formally managed. This could be anything from tasking someone to make a process more effective to developing a whole new product.
It’s also important to be aware of over-using the term ‘project’ – for more on this topic, have a look at our blog post on defining projects.
2. Pick the right methodology for you
There are several different frameworks/processes of project management, some of which are more adaptable to different size projects and different industries. Each one defines the roles within the project differently, so it’s worth thinking in advance of how their structure can be integrated with your existing set up.
As a minimum, you should be looking into:
- PRINCE2 – the method used by the UK government for project management, and can be applied to different scales and types of projects
- SCRUM – usually used in project or software development, and is best applied to projects where is it harder to plan ahead
- Agile – usually applied to projects in engineering and software development, and works best with small scale projects or by being applied to different parts of a more complex process
3. Get some training
As mentioned above, formal qualification in Project Management techniques are now normally required – it’s not enough to have read and understood the basics.
Most of the project management frameworks mentioned above offer various levels of qualification. Most project managers will need to take at least the Foundation training, and if your organisation will be running multiple projects than at least one person will need to gain higher levels of qualification (such as PRINCE2 Practitioner) to make them capable of overseeing these.
Anyone working on a project within a particular framework should be trained in the same techniques. This prevents misunderstandings about structure and processes.
4. Understand the importance of soft skills
Project management training will teach you the tools and techniques to pass the exam and to apply the learning to real-world projects. Project managers, in particular, may also need training in the importance of soft skills such as team management, active listening and giving appraisals.
5. Analyse your communication
Speaking of soft skills, effective communication is key to project management. If you are thinking about employing project management techniques then you need to be addressing the way you communicate now.
Project management depends on effective, timely and accurate communications by people at all levels of the project.
6. Assign responsibility
As early as possible, you’ll need to identify someone who will manage your project(s), and formally appoint them to the position. It really is a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” – accountability is crucial to project management, and having too many people with the same role can cause diffusion of responsibility.
Here’s some more information on what to look for in a project manager.
7. Get organisational buy-in
Improving any kind of best practice in an organisation can be expensive and time consuming – but better for the company in the long run.
If you are working for a large-scale organisation, and want to bring some formal project management into your department, you will need buy-in from above. This is more than just getting the ok for training as project management focuses on the business case and making each project fit with the company vision.
Using the right project management software can make life much easier for a project manager – and, in fact, everyone working on the project. There are different project management software options on the market, the most widely used of which is Microsoft Project.
9. Open yourself up to tolerances and failure
PRINCE2, as an example, recognises that projects will go off course during execution and gives you control over how to get them back on track in the most efficient way. You will be asked to define tolerances for time and financial budgets – which feeds back to organisational buy-in.
Project Management doesn’t end when the software or process is released, there are further steps that analyse what was done and lessons to be learned.
Understanding and responding to project failure is crucial, so you’ll need to be open to critique and make sure there’s an open and supportive atmosphere to encourage people to come to you with issues sooner rather than later.
10. Look at the big picture
It may seem like opening a can of worms, but that’s nothing to be afraid of. By employing project management practices, you may find the need for formal programme management, portfolio management, or the complementary practice of Lean thinking.
Once implemented, these practices will become a matter of course – and a massive asset to your company.
Similar posts you may like:
- Project Management Software
- Project Management Tips: Finding Work Part 2 – How to make yourself a better candidate
- Communication Skills in Project Management
- Adapting PRINCE2
- Evaluating a PRINCE2 Project