The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Project management is one of the most important transferable skills every professional should have in their arsenal. It’s more than just seeing a project through from start to finish; it’s doing so in the most efficient and effective way possible.
If you’re a new project manager or just want to improve your skills, then here are some of the project management best practices you should know:
Perhaps the most essential part of starting a project is setting the goals and objectives. Answering questions like “What is this project’s purpose?” and “What problem are we solving?” is important if you want to start on the right foot as a project manager.
Leading a team is better if you have that proverbial north star to guide you. And that “star” or goal should be SMART in nature.
Specific: SMART goals must not be vague. At the very least, the goals must address the basic who, what, and why questions.
Example: We will update our company website to improve user experience and increase traffic.
Measurable: You should have quantitative standards or key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and success.
Example: We aim to improve user experience by 20%.
Achievable: Setting achievable goals does not mean being mediocre. Instead, you should challenge and stretch yourself, but still ensure that your goals are feasible. You should also consider that you as well as the rest of your project team have other work responsibilities to deal with.
Example: We believe this goal to increase traffic through an updated company website is achievable given historical data and competitive reports.
Relevant: A SMART goal must be relevant to your company and its stakeholders. It must be aligned with the company’s short- and long-term goals as well as corporate values.
Example: The goals of this project are aligned with the company’s goal of improving customer experience in all our touchpoints.
Time-bound: Every project goal must have a defined start, checkpoint, and end dates. Without specified time frames, projects can be put in the back burner. Worse, they may soon lose their relevance.
Example: We aim to have the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) completed by January 15 and launch the updated website by January 22.
Getting the right talent on your project team is key to project success. For the above example, not having customer experience and web development experts will cause your project to crumble. You will need to find the right people in your organization. On top of that, you must be aware of their current workload to ensure that they can commit to your project on top of their daily responsibilities. You must be considerate in ensuring that the members of your team are not taking on too many tasks, or else you may risk burnout.
Project managers are the “spokesperson” of their team when communicating with the company’s stakeholders. You need to be transparent when presenting project updates. Stakeholders are the ones who are funding and supporting your project, so it’s important to maintain their trust.
Take advantage of online team collaboration platforms and open-source project management tools for both project and resource management. Whether you’re working with a large team to increase Salesforce implementation in non-profit organizations and SMEs or with a smaller group to streamline an online customer’s sales journey, a project management tool can help keep you and the rest of your team aligned.
Project management tools and asynchronous communication apps are great ways for the project team to stay aligned. However, you still need regular checkpoint meetings to ensure that the project is running smoothly. Checkpoint meetings are useful for checking the progress of each step or each individual. It’s also a channel for your team members to raise urgent concerns that can affect your timelines. Use these meetings to evaluate each phase of your project before progressing to the next one. Doing so ensures that you’ve ironed out possible issues before taking on a new challenge or task.
Your project may be considered done once you’ve achieved the final goal. However, your role as a project manager should also include a post-project evaluation, or “post-mortem.” It’s not enough that the final goals were met; you need a project evaluation report to see if your team was able to meet the KPIs, identify what went well, find gaps that can be improved upon on your next project, and identify other key learnings.
Aside from excellent organizational and analytical skills, you also have to hone your leadership skills. It’s important to value teamwork as well. A project manager knows that they do not have to know it all to spearhead a project, but instead recognizes the importance of bringing in the right mix of talents and leading them towards a common goal.