Project management is a fundamental skill that is required for the effective execution of a range of roles in the modern workplace. The ability to do so is critical to successful delivery in most sectors, and employers are increasingly looking for people who can demonstrate expertise in this area.
Project management techniques
Here are some hints and tips for how to manage projects to deadlines in the most efficient way:
- Define the outcome. Successful project managers start with the end in mind and ensure they understand entirely what they need to deliver through detailed analysis of the intended goals. The outcomes of this analysis, including objectives, scope, risks and costs, are recorded in a project definition document. Goals may change over time, but this essential first step provides a solid foundation for any changes.
- Plan the route. A detailed work plan is the next step. Breaking down the project into parts and assigning each the required resource, time and attention is the best way of ensuring that deadlines are met. This also allows for the management of multiple projects. Again, circumstances may change, so this approach should always be adopted with a flexible mindset.
- Predict the future. This is obviously difficult to achieve with total accuracy, but it is still essential for project managers to identify potential risks and mitigate against them as far as is practical. Once the project is underway, managers must also look out for warning signs that these risks might be about to become a reality. Variances in budget or schedule, unexpected external events or a change in the agreed goals must all be quickly acted on.
- Stakeholder management. Every project will have a range of people involved, from those who have commissioned it to supporting teams offering specialist support. It is important to map out exactly who these people are and what their role is to ensure that they receive exactly the right level of communication and engagement so that the project progresses successfully.
Excellent project management is not just about skills and techniques. It is also about knowing where to go for help and support and understanding what tools and systems to use. Without efficient and effective systems to support the management of projects, the chances of failing to meet deadlines, delivering poor quality outcomes or going over budget are all significantly increased.
Project managers should ensure they are familiar with ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, for example. ERP systems provide managed access to standardized data, enabling greater scope for streamlining processes and driving efficiency as a result.
Meeting and exceeding expectations
Project management is essentially about meeting, or exceeding, expectations by delivering what has been asked for to an agreed deadline. We all do this in our everyday activity, but turning this experience into a professional skill requires an investment of time and effort. Such investment is worthwhile, however, as the ability to demonstrate project management expertise is an invaluable professional advantage in almost every sector.