4 project management tips from the pros
By Karen J. Bannan
Successful project management doesn't just happen overnight. But if you can master the skill, it can improve IT decision-making and communication, and help foster an effective work culture. In fact, a 2008 study from the Project Management Institute found that the more mature the project management in an organization, the greater the number of intangible values that came out of it -- not to mention that companies at every level of maturity that used project management in the study saw tangible benefits.
No matter what the project, these strategies will help you be the best project manager you can be.
1. Streamline with simplicity.
Have a detailed breakdown of all the elements in a project -- data, products and services -- so you know you're not overlooking anything, suggests Ginger Levin, PMP, a consultant who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. "Assign each work package to a specific individual or organizational unit to complete," she says. "Then, list activities to be done to complete each work package, determine resource requirements, determine cost estimates, identify risks, and identify possible needs for outside procurements." Keeping track of every detail will help you stay organized and on top of everything that needs to be done.
2. Identify all stakeholders.
Don't procrastinate when it comes to involving stakeholders. When implementing a new project, you'll probably have a list of obvious stakeholders, but it's the people you leave off the list that can throw a wrench into it in the long run, says Albert Lee, lead analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, an IT research firm in Boulder, Colo. "It's not just the IT people or management you need to worry about," he says. "You also have to think about everyone who is going to interact with the project in the long run." End users should be consulted, he says, as should outside contractors who might be affected by the new project.
3. Set a vision for the whole team.
What will your project mean to the IT department? The answer is probably very different from what someone in customer service or finance would say. This is why you need to make sure everyone on your team, including customers, has the same vision for your project, says Levin.
"Ideally, it should be done at the kickoff meeting with the customer," she says. "Then, when a scope statement is prepared, include the vision and make sure everyone signs off on it."
This should include bringing together representatives from every department and making sure they communicate from the start with IT and with each other. "Recognize that communications represent 90 percent of the project manager's job," says Levin.
4. Keep an eye on time and budget.
Before starting any project, create time and cost estimates for your project. Make sure you're tracking progress of both on every task, even those that don't seem critical. The sooner you can spot time or cost creep, the sooner you can squelch both or readjust stakeholder expectations. "You've got to track everything to make sure the process is smooth for everyone involved," says Lee.
Karen J. Bannan is a writer with expertise in emerging tech and business. A former staff writer for PC Magazine and eWeek.com, Bannan has also written for The Wall Street Journal, Internet World, Windows Magazine and Businessweek.com.
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