Tip 1: Nail Down Project Details. Before you ever start the project, make sure that it is based on a solid foundation and that you have the buy-in from all key stakeholders. Understand their interests and expectations and be aware of how they will determine whether the project is successful or not. You will also need to ensure that the project scope is distinctly identified, including the roles and responsibilities of the various project team members. Develop the project plan and verify that the goals of the key elements are clearly defined and closely aligned. You should also establish measurable and trackable success criteria, including accomplishing tasks on schedule, achieving budget targets, confirming product functionality is satisfactory to the customer, and ensuring government and/or industry regulations are met. Take care of all of the details to lay the groundwork for your project’s success.
Tip 2: Set expectations -and milestones – up front. “Set relatively (based on risk) frequent milestones and check in often to ensure projects stay on track,” advises Pat McGuinness, chief technology risk officer, GE Capital. “If you only set longer-term or high-level milestones, you won’t realize a project is in trouble until it’s too late. My team at GE Capital schedules multiple project benchmarks and iterative reviews to make sure the money being invested in an IT project is being used efficiently and that project goals are being addressed.”
“When [everyone] on the team clearly understands the [scope] from the beginning, you eliminate the ambiguity that can derail a project,” adds Juan Velasquez, marketing specialist, Do It Wiser, a provider of toner cartridges and green office supplies. A good way to do this,” he says, is to hold a kickoff meeting, where everyone involved attends. Kickoff meetings “help to set expectations,” where you can “discuss the project in detail,” create a workable roadmap and assign people roles and responsibilities.
Tip 3: Identify Project and Team Requirements. Once you have a strong plan in place, you can start implementing it by assembling an effective project team. As noted in an article released by ITToolkit.com, “The project team is a working unit of individual parts, sharing a common goal, achieved through the structured application of combined skills.” The article also states that, “The first step to team success begins with initial organization: to assemble and organize available resources capable of working together as a whole through the integration of individual skills, talents, and personalities.” As a project manager, you’ll need to align those skills, talents and personalities with the appropriate project needs and tasks. Make sure that each individual working on the project is clear about their task and what they are providing for deliverables upon completion.
Tip 4: Keep the Communication Lines Open. One of the most critical steps in the project management process is to ensure that the communication lines are open. As the project manager, you will need to be the operator of this communications system. Keep a communications plan and stick with it. Throughout the entire project, communication should be consistent, open, honest and clear. Make sure you keep in touch with all key stakeholders and team members during the project process. Ensure that everyone has the information necessary to make decisions and proceed with the project. You can also keep everyone on the same page by creating status reports based upon the project information and updates. Not all projects are the same, some may require more frequent status reports (weekly) and some may only require less frequent status updates (monthly).
Tip 5: Reward your team for a job well done. If you’re working on a fast-paced project with changing requirements and ever-increasing scope, chances are you’ll be awash in relief when the project is finally complete. As a project manager, make sure you recognize the great effort it took to get from day one to the end. Celebrate the skills, problem-solving, and high energy your team exhibited during the project before moving on to the next. If your team knows you appreciate and recognize them, it will fight low morale and burnout, as well as motivate your team for the next challenge.
Tip 6: Stop Micro-Managing. Avoid delving into the detail of the work. With software development projects, it’s not necessary for the project manager to get involved at code level, leave this to the developers. You’ve selected the right team for the job. Let them get on with what they are best at, while you concentrate on steering the project to a successful conclusion.
Tip 7: Record Lessons Learned. During the project, you may come across things that could have been done differently that would have affected the project in a positive way. Keep track of those lessons learned throughout the project and use that information to streamline the next project. Also, take time during a project close-out meeting to discuss lessons learned with the project team; there may be some additional items that you were not aware of that other project team members noted. As a side note, if you make note of something that could be changed in the middle of the project, don’t wait until the end of the project to fix that item, fix the problem and move forward.