Keep Your Project on Track with These 5 Project Management Tips

Written by Shelby Holton, PMP, CSP

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At SparkOrange, we love creating exceptional relationships with our customers to co-create strategic advantages utilizing the Salesforce platform. But managing any project can sometimes be tricky. Creating a partnership with the customer, regardless if they are within the enterprise or external, leads to agreed flexibility in timeline, scope and even resources.

To ensure your project stays on track with the stated goals, delivery, and budget, use the 5 following key project management tips. Apply the recommendation at the end of each tip to take a step further and take action now!

1. Communication
Communication in a project is essential. Did you know an effective project manager spends up to 90% of their time on communication? Exploit the various forms of communication available to ensure that not only are the customers are always up-to-date with the project’s progress so there are no surprises, but also so the project team is aware of feedback and next steps.

Take action now: Create a list of the possible channels of communication that can be used with your customer and project team. Are you utilizing all the possible methods? Now create a list of how often you interact with your customer and team. Are there areas where there are possible communication gaps that can immediately be addressed?

2. Transparency
Transparency is often avoided in fear of encountering issues – such as misunderstandings about the process or when everything doesn’t go to plan – but it should be embraced. The concept of transparency is all about access to information and being open and honest about the project. A project managed transparently is one in which there is visibility to every task of the project, and everyone always has insight into the status of the project.

Increasing transparency decreases risk by enabling everyone involved to make well-informed decisions. It also provides the opportunity to address unclear or hidden issues and respond quickly and effectively.

Take action now: Reflect on how transparent you are in your project. Could you share more information? Open up to the people working on your project to start promoting transparency so they in return open up to you.

3. Clearly defined scope and requirements
Projects must have a well-defined scope from the outset. Otherwise as planning is elaborated, scope creep is likely to occur. This is why it’s essential to work with the customer to make sure they have clear goals and objectives for what they are trying to accomplish. These goals can be realized by clearly defining deliverables, required functionality, and the data that is expected to be produced.

All requirements don’t have to be detailed ahead of time. However, make sure that before the team is ready to take on work items, they are clearly defined. Use a technique called “rolling wave planning” which focuses on detailed planning for upcoming tasks. This way details can be added at an ongoing basis as the planned start date of the work item approaches, instead of investing large amounts of time collecting requirements up front (which may change by the time work begins).

Take action now: Make sure the project scope is published to everyone involved with the project and can be referenced at any time to keep focus. Encourage adaptability by introducing rolling wave planning into your project if it’s not used already.

4. Use a hybrid of Project Management methodologies
There is no “end-all-be-all” methodology in project management. Predictive project management works well for certain projects while agile practices works well for others. Most times the optimal approach is a mix from difference practices of XP, Kanban, Scrum, Waterfall, etc. to create process efficiency and deliver maximum project value.

Take action now: Are you familiar with more than one project management approach? Are you incorporating various methodology practices into your project process? If not, identify a couple methodologies to learn more about (this week!) so you can develop and implement a hybrid approach to best optimize your project processes.

5. Track everything
Having project work and information in one central location is key to maintaining an organized approach for executing on project deliverables. Whether it is planned user stories, break/fix work or action items that arise from a customer interaction – everything needs to be tracked in your project management tool of choice. This way work is proactively managed and doesn’t end up falling through the cracks.

Additionally, if project actions aren’t tracked, project performance can’t be measured. By having everything centralized, insight into project progress is gained by being able to pull metrics such as:
• Planned work items vs. unplanned work items
• Amount of time spent on specific types of work items
• Identify bottlenecks in the project process
• Variance in estimated time vs. logged time
• Burn-down rate of completing work items
• Throughput
• + Other metrics specific to the project

Analyzing and transforming project data points into consumable work performance information creates actionable outputs that can be used to further manage a project to success.

Take action now: Take all the conversations from email threads, internal chats, meeting notes and other sources and put the actionable items into your project tracking tool. No matter how small or big those items may be, bring awareness to them so everyone on the project team has insight into the work they should be focusing on.

Did you notice certain interdependencies when reading through the tips? The use agile practices as well as tracking everything promotes transparency, while transparency enables more effective communication within a project. In return, open communication within a project can ensure that the team has clearly defined scope and requirements. There are a many other ways these tips are related so don’t just reference them on their own – connect and build off each one to be the most effective at keeping your project on track!

 

 

 

 

   

Shelby Holton PMP, CSP is the Senior Project Manager, PMO Lead for SparkOrange.  She specializes in  project management, agile coaching and adoption. Her global agile project management experience comes from working with Fortune 20 companies in a range of industries including manufacturing, software and cybersecurity.

Shelby has been working in project management for over 7 years, is a Certified Project Management Professional, Scrum Professional, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and also holds certifications in Agile Coaching, Team Facilitation, and Change Management. She holds a B.S. in Management Information Systems from Miami University.