However many projects you manage, no two will ever be the same. Even where projects share some aspects, they are unlikely to be totally alike. For example, the project team, stakeholders, funding streams or key targets could all be different.
However, some areas of best practice apply to all the projects you manage. Have a look at our top ten tips and make them part of the way you work. You’ll find your job will become easier and your projects will be more likely to succeed.
1. Plan your project properly
Thorough planning before the project starts will help you be clear and realistic about what the project is meant to achieve. This means you can set well-defined success criteria that you can measure and report on.
You’ll be able to make sure you have the right budget, the right resources and the right skills on the project team. It will also help you identify and plan for potential risks and set realistic timescales.
2. Start your project properly
To help set the tone for your project and create some energy around it, start it formally with a meeting or event.
Invite all your stakeholders and use it as an opportunity to remind everyone of the project’s aims and the part they’ll all play in its delivery – and ultimate success.
3. Keep in touch with all your stakeholders
Once your project is up and running make sure you communicate regularly with everyone involved. Let them know what’s going on, including any problems, risks and delays. Be sure to share successes too, like when milestones are reached, to acknowledge people’s input and say thank you.
How you share information can include anything from a simple message to one person right through to a formal report to the project board. What’s important is to make sure everyone is as up-to-date on the project as possible.
4. Ask for feedback
Alongside keeping in touch with everyone involved in your project, ask them to share information with you too. Encourage people to give their feedback, as this will help them stay involved with the project and keep you in touch with what’s going on.
You can also use feedback to help you learn and improve your own performance.
5. Keep an up-to-date and detailed work plan
A detailed work plan will help everyone know what they’re responsible for and will make it easier for you to measure progress, hit milestones and meet deadlines.
These days, cloud-based applications make it easy to share documents. So update your work plan regularly and store it in the cloud so everyone can work off the current version.
6. Record everything that happens
Make sure you record everything that happens on your project and use it to improve performance across the board. You can learn from what has worked as well as from what hasn’t. You’ll also build a valuable source of data to help with your reporting and future planning.
7. Learn to say no
When someone asks you to take on more work or responsibility it’s tempting to say yes, especially when you know that’s what they want to hear. But always saying yes can easily lead to overload and a reduction in performance across the board.
So only say yes to new tasks or commitments when they won’t have an adverse effect on the priorities you’ve already agreed. Even small changes can accumulate over time and have a significant impact on your project.
8. Always document and agree any changes to the scope of the project
It’s likely that at some point in the life of your project, its scope may need to change. This may improve the overall benefit of the project but it can also have a negative impact.
So, before you go ahead with changes to the scope of your project, make sure the project board understands their potential impact and agrees to them. Finally, make sure you document the changes and update your project plan.
9. Be ready to respond to risk
Risk is a normal part of any project so you should build risk analysis in from the start. You can manage risk and minimise its effect by having a clear view of all the project’s potential risks, and mechanisms in place to let you know as soon as one arises.
The quicker you respond to risk the less impact it will have and the more likely it is that your project will stay on track.
10. Take time to reflect on the project when it’s ended
When your project has ended, involve the whole project team in reflecting on how it went. Look back in detail on how the project ran, its key events and issues. Learn both from what went well and what could have gone better.
Ask, for example, if the project delivered what it set out to achieve? Could it have done more and delivered bigger benefits? What went wrong and how could you have avoided these problems?
Use this learning to improve your own practice and share it with others to help future projects succeed.
Verto’s cloud-based software makes managing projects easy for you. For example, its instant messaging tool, flexible reporting, instant updates, inbuilt version control and instant access to your documents and lessons learnt will all help you put these best practice tips into action.