Being a project manager comes with a lot of responsibility. To succeed, you need to be continually developing your skills in leadership, goal setting and communication.
But it’s also highly rewarding. The ability to see a complex project through from start to finish is an excellent way to boost your career and add value to your organization.
Whether you've been assigned a project manager role or simply want to help your business's projects to stay on track, here are our top tips for project management to help you and your business to thrive.
Top project management best practices
- Identify key requirements
- Choose your people
- Pick the right apps
- Avoid software bloat
- Maximize collaboration – and make it remote
- Break down your goals
- Radically reduce distractions
- Manage potential risks
- Test all your deliverables
- Define standardized processes
- Introduce automation
- Evaluate your project
1. Identify key requirements
Before you can define the scope of the project and fine-tune day-by-day tasks and goals, you’ll need to identify the key requirements and have a thorough understanding of what you want to achieve and why.
Perhaps it’s something as broad as boosting your marketing output or as complex as developing and launching a new product in your organization.
Before starting the project, identify all relevant clients and stakeholders to build a clear picture of their requirements and expectations. You can then make a shortlist of the resources you’re going to need, such as people, time, money and tools.
2. Choose your people
It’s people, not technology and process, who need to come first when planning a project.
When you're managing a project, regularly ask yourself what skills and experience you need to have on board to make the project a success.
In the early stages of planning a new project, identify if you need to hire a new candidate or outsource some tasks to a freelancer.
Make sure everyone involved has sufficient background information about your organization and the project goals so they can deliver the most value and champion your cause.
3. Pick the right apps
To help your team to work together, cloud-based project management tools like Teamwork can be a real asset:
You can also connect your apps with your other business tools to give everyone in your team access to the data they need and reduce silos.
Some of our other favorite project management tools include:
- Podio, the project management tool from Citrix that also connects to PieSync
- Trello for a Kanban view of projects and an easy way to drag and drop tasks between stages
- Collaborative platforms like G Suite or Microsoft Teams
4. Avoid software bloat
Many projects are unnecessarily complicated, which is often due to having too many tools and features at your disposal.
So-called software bloat is a serious problem that can quickly get in the way of success. That’s why it’s so important to choose your tools carefully and avoid all the unnecessary distractions that come with having a larger software portfolio than you really need.
To ensure everything goes smoothly, you’ll want to make sure everyone is using the same software and that you're making the most of integrations and syncs wherever possible. Remember – less is more!
Keeping a curated and integrated software stack also helps you to avoid another common enemy of effective project management: data silos.
5. Maximize collaboration – and make it remote
Effective collaboration is a key factor behind fantastic project results, but the inverse is equally true.
To produce the best results as a project manager – including timely launches, staying within budget, and achieving high KPIs from completed projects – you need to optimize your collaborative processes.
Block off a few hours in your calendar, mute Slack and other distractions, and focus on honing your project management strategy.
To create the best project management strategy, build a plan for:
- How often you will have project management meetings, what format they will take, and who needs to attend
- How to keep project members accountable for goals, including regular check-ins, performance reviews and a tailored rewards system
- Making documents, systems and dashboards the most user-friendly and accessible (top tip: condense wherever possible and avoid asking your team to stay on top of multiple appliations or spreadsheets)
- Project management tracking systems, whether using a dedicated project management cloud app or a simpler Google Sheet
- How to use cloud apps to enable remote collaboration and allow stakeholders to check how the project is performing
Even if you do have everything you need internally, you’ll still want to enable effective remote collaboration so that people can work together no matter where they are.
While remote work is already the new normal in many enterprises, it’s quickly becoming essential to future-proof your business. How can you maximize your project management strategy for remote work and collaboration?
6. Break down your goals
Every project has an overarching goal. Whether it’s developing a mobile app for customers, deploying the latest enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, or something else entirely, these goals aren't sufficient alone.
To turn your big goals into action points, make sure to break them down into milestones, assign someone for each defined task, and create a lifecycle for the project with clear deadlines.
Defining and regularly assessing critical milestones will help make your goals far more attainable and set the next steps into motion.
7. Radically reduce distractions
Once the time comes to get down to work, it’s important to establish the right tools and get rid of any common distractions.
Every project has its deadlines, and an inability to focus can fast derail your progress and result in burnout as well as reduced productivity and morale.
Identify the tools you need, establish a timetable with your team, and provide everything your team needs to get the job done without unnecessary distractions.
8. Manage potential risks
Risk management is an imperative part of project management since there are always things that can go wrong and cause unforeseen delays. Every project carries a degree of inherent risk, for which you’ll need to take corrective measures from the outset.
For example, if a project involves migrating apps and data to the cloud, you’ll need to account for the security risks that come with it. Other risks include potential threats that can creep up without any warning and put the whole project in jeopardy. These might include key team members being off sick or problems with funding.
With riskier projects, create a robust backup plan in case things go wrong. This can include asking "what if?" for worst-case scenario eventualities, such as a new website causing downtime.
To manage potential risks in each project, ask yourself:
- What are the worst-case scenario risks in this project?
- What can you do to avoid risk?
- How can you plan to mitigate unwanted outcomes?
- Who has the expertise and valuable perspectives that can help you to achieve the best outcomes?
9. Test all your deliverables
The milestones you define can be translated into deliverables, all of which need to be tested thoroughly before you continue with the next phase of the project.
For example, if you’re developing a new mobile app for your customers, the first phase might be to create a minimum viable product (MVP), in which case you’ll want to test it before you go any further. After all, it will be much harder to iron out any serious shortcomings later on.
Taking corrective measures early on will help keep your project on track and minimize any unexpected delays.
10. Define standardized processes
Every project depends on an established and unified way to collaborate and communicate, which is why it’s so important to choose the right tools from the outset.
For example, if you’re using a project management tool like Asana or Trello, everyone on your team should be well-versed in using these tools according to the standardized processes you define from the start.
Standardization is critical for enabling project managers to maintain complete visibility into the status and progress of their projects.
11. Introduce automation
Automation is a project manager's best friend. It enables you to streamline the busywork and free up your focus for in-person collaboration and a 360-degree oversight of how each project is going.
Take time to step away from the ins-and-outs of individual projects and look at how you manage the process itself. What can you automate to free up your time and your team members'?
Sample automations to create more effective workflows:
- Notifications to team members who have a new, pending or overdue task
- Reporting dashboards to give all stakeholders the latest project status
- Slack reminders for team members to compile project updates ahead of a meeting
- Automated to-do lists for recurring tasks
To begin automating your project management processes, think about the if-this-then-that rules that already exist in your workflows. This will give you some starting points to automate.
12. Evaluate your project
Completing the last major milestone of your project might be a cause of celebration, but before you crack open the champagne, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate it.
Each project is a valuable learning experience (even if they give disappointing results), which is why they need to be reviewed as a whole as soon as they’re complete.
Project managers can note down the successes, as well as anything that went wrong. This will improve the chances of success for future projects and drive a culture of continuous improvement.