Project management is rarely an easy task. Whether you’re designing new software or building the next great consumer electronics device, making sure your project is completed on time and to your desired quality level can be an incredibly challenging job.
Thankfully, modern project management software and collaboration tools make it easier than ever to successfully complete detailed projects. In this guide, we cover the nine most effective project management tips for completing projects on time.
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Prepare a detailed, actionable plan before you start
Without a detailed, actionable plan, even the most qualified and experienced team is unlikely to meet its deadlines. Before you even start your project, you need to create a detailed plan that breaks your project down into smaller milestones.
A good project plan should clearly identify the scope of the project, lay down each of your team member’s responsibilities, and include measurable goals that you can use to determine how much progress is being made on your project.
The two key words here are actionable and measurable. Vague goals have no place in a project development plan. Instead, you need to focus on creating goals that you can measure using a binary yes-or-no approach to track your progress.
Do you need help creating actionable, measurable milestones for your project? Our course, The Basics of Project Planning, is designed for beginner managers that want to learn how to break down their projects and achieve their goals.
Break large elements down into small, achievable goals
Every successful project is broken down into small, achievable milestones. You may want to break down your project even further than this – into small, daily tasks – to more accurately track how much progress is made on a daily or weekly basis.
This is a particularly important aspect of technical project development, especially for software and web applications where small additions make a huge difference to the level of progress being made on the project.
If you’re outsourcing various aspect of your project, the importance of setting small, day-to-day goals becomes even greater. Enroll in our Business Process Outsourcing course to learn more about how to become a great outsourced project manager.
Focus on achieving one project milestone at a time
When you’re completing a large project, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. Success in the early stages of a project can make you optimistic and inspire your team to move on to later aspects of the project before the fundamentals are completed.
In order to keep your team focused and driven, it’s vital that you approach a project on a milestone-by-milestone basis. Develop the backend of your software before the frontend, or the kitchen of your restaurant before you worry about the seating.
Being able to make progress on small goals while remaining focused on the greater picture is one of the most important skills in project management. Learn about the importance of big picture thinking in our course, Project Management Training.
Use project management software to keep track of things
It’s difficult to manage your projects without a centralized source of information for your team to access. Modern project management software like Basecamp or Trello makes it easier for your team to remain connected while working on your project.
Although web applications like Trello look simple, they can be used to manage an incredible range of projects. From web development to construction, using online project management software effectively can give you a huge advantage.
Have you never used online project management software? Our course, Project Management, teaches you how to use Trello – one of the most powerful online project management tools – to keep track of progress on your projects.
Be flexible, but don’t allow scope creep to delay your project
Scope creep is the bane of every great project manager. Also known as feature creep, the term scope creep refers to the growth of a project’s scale through the addition of new features and functions that weren’t in the original project plan.
Since you’ve probably determined your budget based on your original plan, even a small amount of scope creep can result in issues with project completion. A feature that wasn’t originally budgeted for can increase the cost of your project.
In order to combat scope creep, it’s important to be flexible when creating a budget for your project. You should also clearly define your expectations and objectives in advance to prevent new ideas from changing your milestones during your project.
Test each deliverable as it’s ready to find and fix problems
When you rush through a project, it’s easy to fail to notice mistakes until it’s too late – or too expensive – to fix them. This is particularly true in web development, where a small mistake can cost far more to fix after release than to fix prior to release.
Every deliverable in your project, no matter how small it may be, should be tested prior to release. This often means carrying out detailed alpha and beta testing as a method of finding bugs and glitches in your software, or issues with your product.
Are you developing new software? Effective pre-release testing can be the difference between success and failure. Our course, The Basics of Software Testing, guides you through the process of carrying out detailed tests to debug software prior to launch.
Remain in communication with the team you’re managing
The key to effective project management is communication. Unless you know what your team is working on and how this brings you closer to your milestones, you’re unlikely to finish your project on time and within your budget.
Are you completing your project online using a virtual team? Our course, Managing and Influencing Virtual Teams, shows you how to effectively manage employees and team members over the Internet, no matter where they’re located.
Ask for feedback from your team when you’re uncertain
It’s hard to be an expert in every aspect of your project. Software development, for example, can often require a diverse team with knowledge of design, development, product distribution, marketing, and more.
Because of this, you might feel uncertain about aspects of your project, from code to pricing. Smooth out your uncertainties by asking your team for targeted feedback in order to learn more about how each part of your project relates to the others.
Set realistic, achievable deadlines to encourage your team
Without deadlines, it’s easy for your project to bog down and end up in development hell. In contrast, setting deadlines that are too strict can compromise your project’s quality and result in a rushed, ineffective, and poorly received final product.
In order to create accurate deadlines, it’s important to communicate with each part of your team and understand their role in the project. One aspect of a project could require more time than another, resulting in expanded or modified deadlines.
One of the most important aspects of achieving deadlines is motivating your team to work together on important milestones. Our course, Effective Time Management for Professionals, offers detailed advice on achieving key milestones on time.
Are you ready to start your project?
Becoming a great project management takes time and experience, and transitioning from an individual role into a leadership role is always challenging. Using the tips in this guide, you can smooth the process and take an active role in your next project.
Would you like to learn more about project management? Our blog post on running projects efficiently offers more helpful tips and actionable tactics for succeeding as a project manager.