5 Tips to Project Management Success

What does it take to make your project successful? Ensure success of your latest Lean Six Sigma or BPM project with some simple steps. Avoiding the common pitfalls of project management is not rocket science, it is simply a case of taking some sensible measures. Here are five tips to success.

#1 Ownership

Make sure you have the top down backing from senior management. There must be direct communication from the sponsor to the stakeholders. The message must be, "we are serious, this thing is going to happen so you are either with us or you are not" and beware those that are not.

Be careful as project manager to make sure the sponsor does not take the project over and become the de-facto project manager.


#2 Interaction

Interact with your team, not only for updates on the project, but to brainstorm ideas in progressing or improving projects. Set up working groups if you need to be more specific on certain issues or if it’s more technical and then provide reports on the outcomes of these meetings in future meetings or briefs.

If it’s an IT project, the IT department must take time to understand the customer's requirements before proposing any technical solution. Often IT is blinded by the latest, newest thing available and try to shoehorn the requirements into it. On the other hand, customers must devote the time and effort necessary to ensure a successful project by interacting with the IT department and making sure all requirements have been fully defined. Ensure you have spoken to all stakeholders to gathered their requirements and that they continue to work with you for the duration of the project.

#3 Project Management

Ensure that the business case, requirements and scope are clearly defined and documented. Make sure the stakeholders understand them and sign them off. Stick rigidly to the scope and if changes are required then put them through a change management process where they are documented, justified and then agreed.

By creating a solid plan and strategy for the outset, everyone knows what they are doing and what milestones they have in their sites to focus on. By doing this, time management is optimized, and it also means that as a project manager you will spend a lot less time micro managing or indeed dealing with issues brought about through a lack of clarity. Leading on holistically, time management is a basic skill for project managers. If you can't manage your own time, how can you expect to manage your teams? Ask each day what you did to move the project forward. Plan your next day, what will you do to ensure your project continues along the straight and narrow. Plan your time, manage your resources with a light touch and communicate effectively. With a little time management, project success should come easier.

#4 Manage Expectations

One way to avoid this is to break a project into smaller pieces or phases. Equate this to a sausage machine, where you feed in the raw material at one end and out it comes as small, perfectly formed, packages or sausages at the other end. The same can happen with IT projects where you take small packages of requirements and push them through the machine, producing several deliverables over the life of a project. This way you manage expectations by making frequent deliveries to demonstrate what the technology can really deliver. This approach ensures the project delivers to the customers’ expectations by giving them early visibility of what you are building.

#5 Communication

Any project is doomed to fail if it lacks a good communications plan. You need to figure out the best way to work with your team or partners. Interaction and collaboration is vital. Create a good flow of reporting, calls and meetings. This not only ensures that you keep track of your project’s next steps, action points and risks, but also it keeps the project deliverables transparent for all involved… including finance! Keeping an audit trail of the progress not only means that you can map out if you’re on track, but also potential risks to your project.

Communication problems are the hardest to resolve as often it is only looking back that the problem is identified. Regular communication and a close working relationship with the customer will help.

What you really need is a person with a foot in both camps, someone who understands the business and the IT equally well. If you can identify this person make sure you keep hold of them, they are hugely valuable. If you are unable to find this person, the next best option is to have two people, one from the business and one from IT. By working closely together and sharing information they can minimize any communication problems.

Stay in touch with all stakeholders throughout the project. Make sure everyone knows what they need to know to make decisions and get work done. Analyze status information to create status reports. Be prompt and decisive.