With technologies and engineering methodologies changing radically, project management has become more complex.
If you are into project management, then you would understand the complexity and importance of the whole process. As per the reports, 41% of the projects executed in 2017 were high complexity projects.
You will be surprised to know that 75% of the executives of IT departments anticipate their software projects to fail.
This might bring several questions in your head about the failures in the process:
Why do you think complex projects stand a high chance of failing?
How to manage a project successfully?
What are the best practices and standards to get your project to close successfully?
Let's Discuss the Best Project Management Practices
#1 Create a Risk Response Team
Refer to any project management best practices guide, and you will find that risk management is a must. Risks are uncertain events that are likely to occur in a project at different levels.
Most projects fail because of risks that are not handled in the right way, and this is why projects need a risk response team. A project's risk response team is the first line of defense for the project. The team helps the project manager to keep the project under control even if unforeseen events occur in the project.
The responsibilities of a risk response team include planning the risk responses, including the mitigation plans and workarounds that are to be executed if the risk occurs. This is a part of proactive management and is planned so efficiently that when the risk occurs, all the response plans are ready, and they need to be performed by the project team to keep the project under control. Having a risk response team is more of a mandatory practice than a best practice.
#2 Hold a Project Kick-off Meeting
A project manager must ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the streamlined events of the project from the beginning. This is one of the most important project management best practices. Kick-off meetings should be a mandatory practice to declare the existence of the project and its objective to a broad audience of stakeholders.
Kick-off meetings are held right after the planning, and just before the execution phase. All stakeholders are a part of this meeting and it helps in smooth communication of bottom-line tasks to the team and other stakeholders. Kick-off meetings are also a healthy way to drive projects to a successful closure.
#3 Use a Detailed Project Definition Document
Many projects fail because there are no clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Such uncertainties and confusions lead to significant conflicts in the project down the line. A project definition document is the best answer to the question of how to manage a project successfully.
A Project definition document gives complete clarity on what piece of work needs to be done by whom. These documents are usually prepared along with the whole team in the planning phase. It creates a sense of ownership and accountability when names are written against tasks. It also brings clarity on the level of effort required from each team member and also the total effort needed on the project.
- An ideal Project definition document should contain:
- The core essence of the project
- A clear shared understanding of the project
- Details about targets, risks, solutions, escalation
A detailed and comprehensive document shared at the beginning of the Project reduces the scope of mistakes and delays in the overall delivery of the project.
#4 Streamline the Process
One of the core responsibilities of project management includes streamlining the process of execution of the project. This process includes all the measurable baseline lines like scope, schedule, cost, quality, and resources.
The project management plan is the baseline against which the progress of the project is measured. The detailed work plan is usually created by the project manager sitting along with the team. Once developed, the approval of key stakeholders is taken. During project execution, any variances serve as an indication of the chances of the project going out of hands. All variances are treated and worked upon with utmost caution so that the project remains as per the work plan.
#5 Task Scheduling and Documenting
Documenting everything and scheduling all the tasks helps to make every discussion and decision written. A written form of communication is considered the most trusted form. Documenting converts verbal communication to written communication and helps to bring the entire team on the same page.
The documented taks can be stored in a shared location, such as SharePoint or a shared drive to make it accessible to the relevant team members and stakeholders or can be sent out as an email to the appropriate people. To reduce the task of sending emails for every task, you can use an efficient project management software like ProProfs Project.
#6 Segregate and Plan Technical Tasks
Most projects that involve technical tasks face delays because not all the managers are completely aware of the detailed technical aspects. In that case what works best is the segregation of technical specifications and evaluating their deliveries on the basis of developer inputs at the very onset of the project.
Developer based scheduling and inputs ensure that the project doesn’t slip out of hands and the project doesn’t fail.
#7 Tracking and Reporting Project Progress
Once the project is underway, it must be monitored regularly, and the variance between actuals and planned must be calculated. The progress must be reported to relevant stakeholders appropriately. Any variance during the execution of the project will call for further analysis and implementation of corrective actions.
A close analysis of the project at every stage leaves scope for early identification of errors and remedial issues as and when the problems arise. This also ensures that the project is smooth and coordination between the team members and reduces the efforts required in sudden micromanagement.
#8 Implement a Quality Assurance Process
For any project, quality must be planned in and not inspected in. Quality planning must be done early in the project and must be reviewed and replanned often.
Quality is tightly linked to the requirements and must be planned along with the requirements gathering phase. The quality assurance process revolves around defining and following policies and procedures to ensure that the project deliverables meet the set requirements from the team.
Not giving due attention to quality results in defects and rework. This can result in wastage of funds and cause the funds to get wasted with cost and schedule goes out of hands. It's the prime duty of the project manager to define the metrics to measure quality before the project execution begins. As part of managing quality on the project, the deliverables are measured against the quality metrics, and any quality variations are taken for quality analysis.
#9 Determine Corrective Action Procedures
Variances in a project will deviate the project away from the baselines defined during planning. A project manager has to decide on corrective actions when there are variances so that the project remains under control.
For example, when the project has gone over budget, you may have to increase the schedule duration. If the deliverable is getting delayed due to delays from subcontractors, you will have to push the deadline after consulting the key stakeholders.
You cannot plan everything, and plans may not always work out as expected. You pick up any project management best practices guide, you will notice that variations are an integral part of every process. Even expert project managers will have things slipping out of hands, and the only way out is to have corrective actions or workarounds. Implementing proper corrective actions can help define preventive actions to avoid similar issues coming up in the future.
#10 Outline an Escalation Process
Escalation processes are required when things go beyond project managers' control or scope. For example, if a conflict in the project team turns out to get so heated up that the project manager is not able to resolve it, then he/she has to escalate it to the upper management or the human resources department. Such issues that don't stay in the project manager's hands should be escalated in an appropriate time.
If the project manager doesn't exercise his/her due diligence here, the impact of the problem will be devastating to the project. The escalation processes are also used when stakeholders lose trust in the project manager. In such cases, stakeholders have the right to escalate the issue to the project sponsor or upper management.
#11 Be Proactive About Change Management
Even when the project scope is well defined, and the cost and schedule are well planned, changes are inevitable to any project. Changes are usually needed when there are issues in the project or when customer requirements have changed.
A change management process keeps the team sharp to embrace changes and to notice the changes constructively. The change management process helps the team to assess the change, analyze the impacts on other constraints of the project, and then decide whether to move ahead or not.
#12 Manage Variations
No matter how strongly a project is planned, it has its own share of changes and variations. But it becomes the utmost responsibility of the manager to watch the process trends closely and analyze the reasons for the differences.
The approach implemented by the managers while managing variations should incorporate detailed feedback and reasons which will help the team members to understand the mistakes and avoid them in the future. If you let go of variance without analysis or taking action, the chances are high that it will pop-up again and cause the same variance.
#13 Ask for Feedback
Though project management is based on methodologies, frameworks, and standards, most things are under the decision of the project manager. There will undoubtedly be good and bad steps taken by the project manager along the way.
Regular feedback from the team regarding the management strategies, solutions, and the entire process can be used as an integral component of the process of transformation. The project manager should always ask feedback from his/her team about himself/herself, as well as the management styles and methodologies used. Even the project manager has his/her room for improvement, which only works when the team genuinely gives feedback.
#14 Manage new Agreements
Evolving requirements are an inevitable part of every task and the project scope. Such changes go through the change management process, and if everyone agrees to it, then it is acknowledged as a new addition to the process with the due involvement of all stakeholders.
For a smooth transition and easy integration, it is best to involve the team in the changes and create a separate stage for this process. This creates a sense of responsibility in the entire team and the changes are embraced in a hassle-free manner.
#15 Conduct a Closure Session
Conducting a closure session can be a great way to end a project on a positive note and to takeaway great tips for the upcoming projects. In fact, a closure discussion should be utilized as a great session to discuss all the flaws and errors encountered during the whole process in a healthy and solution-oriented manner. Project managers may choose to record them into lessons learned registry, which can be used for the success of future projects.
Managing a project is literally difficult, but using a structured approach with the standards and best practices for effective project management can make a lot of difference. According to the Project Management Institute, 37% of projects fail due to a lack of milestones and clarity of objectives. These are a few best practices you can use to drive your project in a better way.
After going through these strategies, there might be some questions that might be confusing you. Let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions:
Q- What are the key elements of successful project management?
Each project has its own set of requirements and outcomes, but that being said, there are a few key elements that form an essential base of every project. The key elements of successful project management include:
- Defined project scope and goals
- Clear communication within the team members and with the managers
- Streamlined process with clearly defined task segregation and allocation
- Proactive management-ability to foresee problems and devise solutions
- Project closure discussion sessions
- No matter how unique each project is, the above-stated elements form the key components of every project.
Q- How can project management practices be improved?
Being proactive is one of the best practices for effective project management to improve overall project management. However, the following are some of the ways that can be implemented to improve overall project management:
- Conduct regular team discussion sessions
- Delegate the tasks to the team and create a sense of responsibility in the team
- Identify the project errors and implement strategies for improvement
- Adhere to timelines and set a similar pattern for the entire team
Using project management software is one of the best practices in project management. A project management software helps you streamline the entire process smoothly.
Q- What are some of the effective practices in project oversight?
Project oversight is the practise implemented to minimize project risks and to assure the project quality and delivery. Here are the most effective practices in project oversight:
- Regulatory strategies to ensure project quality at all stages
- Performance management to assess the performance criteria across the organization
- Monitoring process communications to assess the project performance
- Implementing changes in the processes to avoid reckless change management
- Assessing risk damage and implementing a smooth process to deal with risks to avoid project failure
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