With technologies and engineering methodologies changing radically, project management has become more complex.
As a project manager, you can easily understand the complexity and importance of the whole process. As per the reports, 41% of the projects executed in 2017 were highly complex projects.
Complex or simple, projects play an important role in marching towards success for any organization. With increasing competition, companies want to deliver projects before the deadline to provide a delightful experience to stakeholders.
A general approach from project managers to ensure a project’s success is to efficiently plan, execute, and complete projects by managing resources to maximize productivity. However…
You will be surprised to know that 75% of the executives of IT departments anticipate their software projects to fail.
This might bring several questions in your head about the failures in the process:
- Why do you think complex projects stand a high chance of failing?
- How to manage a project successfully?
- What are the top tips for managing complex projects?
- What are the best practices and standards to get your project to close successfully?
To address several questions like these, we have put together a guide to discuss the best project management practices in detail.
Let’s Discuss the Best Project Management Practices
You’re well-prepared and well-read in various project management methodologies, scope management, stakeholder management, risk management, and more. But what are the essential project management best practices that help you manage projects successfully?
1. Create a Risk Response Team
Refer to any project management best practices guide, and you will find that risk management is a must. Risks are uncertain events that are likely to occur in a project at different levels.
Most projects fail because of risks that are not handled in the right way, and this is why projects need a risk response team. A project’s risk response team is the first line of defense for the project. The team helps the project manager to keep the project under control even if unforeseen events occur in the project.
The responsibilities of a risk response team include planning the risk responses, including the mitigation plans and workarounds that are to be executed if the risk occurs. This is a part of proactive management and is planned so efficiently that when the risk occurs, all the response plans are ready, and they need to be performed by the project team to keep the project under control. Having a risk response team is more of a mandatory practice than a best practice.
- Have a different active risk response team working parallelly with the project team to avoid unnecessary project delays.
- Make sure to provide necessary training to the risk response team to save projects when things go sideways.
Realted Read: Ultimate Quick Guide To Building a Risk Management Plan
2. Hold a Project Kick-off Meeting
A project manager must ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the streamlined events of the project from the beginning. This is one of the most important project management best practices. Kick-off meetings should be a mandatory practice to declare the existence of the project and its objective to a broad audience of stakeholders.
Kick-off meetings are held right after the planning, and just before the execution phase. All stakeholders are a part of this meeting and it helps in smooth communication of bottom-line tasks to the team and other stakeholders. Kick-off meetings are also a healthy way to drive projects to a successful closure.
- Ensure that all stakeholders clearly understand the requirements.
- Make a list of available resources, budget, and let everyone know about the project deadlines.
Related Read: Best Ice Breaker Games for Your Team Meetings
3. Use a Detailed Project Definition Document
Many projects fail because there are no clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Such uncertainties and confusions lead to significant conflicts in the project down the line. A project definition document is the best answer to the question of how to manage a project successfully.
A Project definition document gives complete clarity on what piece of work needs to be done by whom. These documents are usually prepared along with the whole team in the planning phase. It creates a sense of ownership and accountability when names are mentioned against tasks. It also brings clarity on the level of effort required from each team member and also the total effort needed on the project.
Tips for project definition documentation
- The core essence of the project
- A clear shared understanding of the project
- Details about targets, risks, solutions, escalation
A detailed and comprehensive document shared at the beginning of the Project reduces the scope of mistakes and delays in the overall delivery of the project.
4. Streamline the Process
One of the core responsibilities of project management includes streamlining the process of execution of the project. This process includes all the measurable baseline aspects like scope, schedule, cost, quality, and resources.
The project management plan is the baseline against which the progress of the project is measured. The detailed work plan is usually created by the project manager along with the team. Once developed, the approval of key stakeholders is taken. During project execution, any variances serve as an indication of the chances of the project going out of hand. All variances are treated and worked upon with utmost caution so that the project remains as per the work plan.
- Have a work plan in place for all the stages of the project.
- Document all the relevant project information for better decision making.
Related Read: Best Workflow Management Tools
5. Task Scheduling and Documenting
Documenting everything and scheduling all the tasks helps to make every discussion and decision written. A written form of communication is considered the most trusted form. Documenting converts verbal communication to written communication and helps to bring the entire team on the same page.
The documented taks can be stored in a shared location, such as SharePoint or a shared drive to make it accessible to the relevant team members and stakeholders or can be sent out as an email to the appropriate people. To reduce the effort of sending emails for every task, you can use efficient project management software like ProProfs Project.
- Mention all information related to the project tasks like steps, bottlenecks, task dependencies, and deadlines.
- Use a project management tool to centralize your project and make it feasible for stakeholders and team members to productively finish the project.
6. Segregate and Plan Technical Tasks
Most projects that involve technical tasks face delays because not all the managers are completely aware of the detailed technical aspects. In that case what works best is the segregation of technical specifications and evaluating their deliveries on the basis of developer inputs at the very onset of the project.
Developer-based scheduling and inputs ensure that the project doesn’t slip out of hands and it doesn’t fail.
- Use IT project scheduling software to effortlessly handle various technical tasks.
- Trust your development team to create schedules and estimate deliverables.
7. Tracking and Reporting Project Progress
Once the project is underway, it must be monitored regularly, and the variance between actuals and planned must be calculated. The progress must be reported to relevant stakeholders appropriately. Any variance during the execution of the project will call for further analysis and implementation of corrective actions.
A close analysis of the project at every stage leaves scope for early identification of errors and remedial issues as and when the problems arise. This also ensures that the project is smooth and coordinated between the team members which reduces the efforts required in sudden micromanagement.
- Track project progress regularly to avoid derailing from originally conceived plans.
- Visualize progress reports to reassign tasks or reallocate resources.
8. Implement a Quality Assurance Process
For any project, quality must be planned in and not inspected in. Quality planning must be done early in the project and must be reviewed and replanned often.
Quality is tightly linked to the requirements and must be planned along with the requirements gathering phase. The quality assurance process revolves around defining and following policies and procedures to ensure that the project deliverables meet the set requirements from the team.
Not giving due attention to quality results in defects and rework. This can result in budget wastage and schedule goes out of hands. It’s the prime duty of the project manager to define the metrics to measure quality before the project execution begins. As a part of managing quality on the project, the deliverables are measured against the quality metrics, and any quality variations are taken for quality analysis.
- Make sure that team members and clients are on the same page when it comes to quality expectations.
- Always perform quality checks on the work being done in each stage of the project.
9. Determine Corrective Action Procedures
Variances in a project will deviate the project away from the baselines defined during planning. A project manager has to decide on corrective actions when there are variances so that the project remains under control.
For example, when the project has gone over budget, you may have to increase the scheduled duration. If the deliverable is getting delayed due to delays from subcontractors, you will have to push the deadline after consulting the key stakeholders.
You cannot plan everything, and plans may not always work out as expected. You pick up any project management best practices guide, you will notice that variations are an integral part of every process. Even expert project managers will have things slipping out of hands, and the only way out is to have corrective actions or workarounds. Implementing proper corrective actions can help define preventive actions to avoid similar issues coming up in the future.
- Plans do fail at certain times and you should be ready to prioritize some tasks and compromise others to produce your best outcomes.
- Make informed decisions to clear the roadblocks and come out on the top of the project.
10. Outline an Escalation Process
Escalation processes are required when things go beyond project managers’ control or scope. For example, if a conflict in the project team turns out to get so heated up that the project manager is not able to resolve it, then he/she has to escalate it to the upper management or the human resources department. Such issues that don’t stay in the project manager’s hands should be escalated in an appropriate time.
If the project manager doesn’t exercise his/her due diligence here, the impact of the problem will be devastating to the project. The escalation processes are also used when stakeholders lose trust in the project manager. In such cases, stakeholders have the right to escalate the issue to the project sponsor or upper management.
- Address the minor issues and escalate them to solve before they turn into a much bigger problem.
- Make it clear to the team to communicate and inform about any problem they encounter as lack of communication leads to project failure ⅓rd of the time.
11. Be Proactive About Change Management
Even when the project scope is well defined, and the cost and schedule are well planned, changes are inevitable to any project. Changes are usually needed when there are issues in the project or when customer requirements have changed.
A change management process keeps the team sharp to embrace changes and to notice the changes constructively. The change management process helps the team to assess the change, analyze the impacts on other constraints of the project, and then decide whether to move ahead or not.
- Assess the change, prepare a counter or recommendation, and present it to your team and stakeholders for their views on the same.
- While changing the scope or tasks or anything related to the project, keep your team members in the loop so that everyone moves forward confidently.
12. Manage Variations
No matter how strongly a project is planned, it has its own share of changes and variations. But it becomes the utmost responsibility of the manager to watch the process trends closely and analyze the reasons for the differences.
The approach implemented by the managers while managing variations should incorporate detailed feedback and reasons which will help the team members to understand the mistakes and avoid them in the future. If you let go of variance without analysis or taking action, the chances are high that it will pop-up again and cause the same variance.
- Track and analyze variances to help your team understand the root cause of the timeline adjustments so that these can be avoided in the upcoming projects.
- Always address the problem head-on with a suitable resolution to save valuable time.
13. Ask for Feedback
Though project management is based on methodologies, frameworks, and standards, most things are under the decision of the project manager. There will undoubtedly be good and bad steps taken by the project manager along the way.
Regular feedback from the team regarding the management strategies, solutions, and the entire process can be used as an integral component of the process of transformation. The project manager should always ask feedback from his/her team about himself/herself, as well as the management styles and methodologies used. Even the project manager has his/her room for improvement, which only works when the team genuinely gives feedback.
- Create an online feedback survey for team members and stakeholders to gather positives and negatives for improvement.
- Be open for criticism and share the feedback received from the clients to your team members to increase the chances of success in future projects.
14. Manage new Agreements
Evolving requirements are an inevitable part of every task and the project scope. Such changes go through the change management process, and if everyone agrees to it, then it is acknowledged as a new addition to the process with the due involvement of all stakeholders.
For a smooth transition and easy integration, it is best to involve the team in the changes and create a separate stage for this process. This creates a sense of responsibility in the entire team and the changes are embraced in a hassle-free manner.
- Create an agreement document as per the changes in the project and share it with team members and stakeholders to reduce the chances of confusion.
- Make sure to mention the updated deadlines and impact of the changes on the project for clear understanding.
15. Conduct a Closure Session
Conducting a closure session can be a great way to end a project on a positive note and to takeaway great tips for the upcoming projects. In fact, a closure discussion should be utilized as a great session to discuss all the flaws and errors encountered during the whole process in a healthy and solution-oriented manner. Project managers may choose to record them into lessons learned registers, which can be used for the success of future projects.
- Make sure to assign someone to take notes during the wrap-up meeting to record new information and useful data related to the project.
- Send out a proper agenda in advance so everyone comes prepared with their questions or concerns.
Managing a project is literally difficult, but using a structured approach with the standards and best practices for effective project management can make a lot of difference. According to the Project Management Institute, 37% of projects fail due to a lack of milestones and clarity of objectives. These are a few effective project management practices you can use to drive your project in a better way.
To make the whole process smooth and efficient, shift to a project management software like ProProfs Project. You won’t miss a deadline and the team will be able to collaboratively complete the project well within budget.
After going through these strategies, there might be some questions that might be confusing you. Let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions:
Q- What are the key elements of successful project management?
Each project has its own set of requirements and outcomes, but that being said, there are a few key elements that form an essential base of every project. The key elements of successful project management include:
- Defined project scope and goals
- Clear communication within the team members and with the managers
- Streamlined process with clearly defined task segregation and allocation
- Proactive management-ability to foresee problems and devise solutions
- Project closure discussion sessions
- No matter how unique each project is, the above-stated elements form the key components of every project.
Q- How can project management practices be improved?
Being proactive is one of the best practices for effective project management to improve overall project management. However, the following are some of the ways that can be implemented to improve overall project management:
- Conduct regular team discussion sessions
- Delegate the tasks to the team and create a sense of responsibility in the team
- Identify the project errors and implement strategies for improvement
- Adhere to timelines and set a similar pattern for the entire team
Using project management software is one of the best practices in project management. A project management software helps you streamline the entire process smoothly.
Q- What are some of the effective practices in project oversight?
Project oversight is the practice implemented to minimize project risks and to assure the project quality and delivery. Here are the most effective practices in project oversight:
- Regulatory strategies to ensure project quality at all stages
- Performance management to assess the performance criteria across the organization
- Monitoring process communications to assess the project performance
- Implementing changes in the processes to avoid reckless change management
- Assessing risk damage and implementing a smooth process to deal with risks to avoid project failure
Q – What are the key components of a project plan?
Creating and working with a flawed project plan is worse than working without one. It is essential to consider the key elements of a project plan to get it right.
- Outline the requirements and objectives transparently
- Record the project scope statement
- List deliverables and deadlines
- Plan risk management strategies
- Define roles, responsibilities, and allocate resources
- Decide the medium to collaborate and communicate
Q – What are the 3 things a project manager needs to succeed?
The skill-set a project manager needs is very critical for project success. The project managers have a lot on their plate and they need to manage the plate effectively.
- Clear communication and interpersonal skills
- Building trust and commitment within the team to boost confidence
- Ability to negotiate and resolve issues by making smart and informed decisions
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