Logical and sound best practices help the project manager and team get from the beginning to end successfully more often than not on the project engagement. Staying focused on good forward progress and relevant actions to get you there will help keep the project on track, the team and all players full engaged and accountable, and the project customer satisfied and working cohesively with the project team and project lead throughout.
We spoke to ten PMs and PMO leaders and here are their top 10 helpful tips to help you get your projects delivered successfully on time, on budget, and with the highest customer satisfaction possible…
1. Delegate well
Don’t try to do everything yourself. Sometimes it seems easier with short tasks to “just do it” but that is a fallacy and your team is there to be put to use. The project lead can’t do everything. So communicate well and delegate often so the project lead can remain focused on overall project delivery and status – making key decisions and keeping project stakeholders aware and accountable.
2. Communicate effectively
Project managers should sharpen and hone their communication skills to be professional and effective. The key is to ensure a proper understanding of all assignments, decisions, and responsibilities of the team, stakeholders, and the customer. The best way to ensure that all project players are on the same page throughout the project engagement is to maintain communication excellence with proper follow-up from start to finish – especially after key decisions and important meetings.
3. Stay on top of the financials
One of three key ingredients to project success is on-budget delivery of the project. The best way to ensure that is to continually – weekly at a minimum – monitor and re-forecast the project financials. In doing so, the project will likely never go more than 10% over budget – a very recoverable number. If the budget is left unmonitored for longer it could easily slip to 50% over and that is a nearly impossible overage to recover from.
4. Engage the customers
It may seem like a dream to be able to run with a project and have little to no interaction on engagement with the actual project customer. However, that is most likely not going to be a very successful outcome. A much more likely scenario is to be very frustrating when your project client is not attending meetings regularly and is difficult to connect with when key information needs to be discussed or key decisions need to be made. You can often avoid this issue by keeping the project customer assigned to tasks throughout the engagement meaning they are also accountable for regularly reporting on the progress of those tasks on their plate. That way they stay involved and it’s a win-win for the project.
5. Don’t procrastinate, don’t multi-task
Seems obvious to say not to procrastinate but trying to “multi-task” sets you up to neglect the more important tasks at hand. Never is that more true than in the area of project management where timing can mean everything and procrastinating key responsibilities can lead to customer frustration, loss of team respect, and potential re-work and missed deadlines. Also, at the other end of the spectrum, multi-tasking is overrated. You can do one thing at a time very well or two+ things at a time while lacking attention to detail. Which do you think it takes to be a great project manager?
6. Involve senior management
One trick to really help the project is to get senior management involved. Having a key C-level or another senior manager on the project manager’s side and interested in the project can help knock down roadblocks quickly, aid in critical decision making, and give the project manager the ability to obtain more skills and resources for the project quickly should the need arise.
7. Manage scope closely
Scope management can be a painful process. It is easier when the goals and requirements are very clear and well documented. Practical and complete requirements are the lifeblood of every successful project so be sure to block out enough time to define all requirements in detail up front and all design work and testing – including the ever-important user acceptance testing (UAT) – will go much smoother overall.
8. Always followup
Following up on any meeting or important communication is critical to ensure understanding, accountability, and that the project customer and all project team members and stakeholders are on the same page throughout the project initiative. For example, following a project status meeting, send out notes to all participants and ask that they review and return them with any updates they feel need to be included. Then, resend those notes following any necessary revisions. Again, the key is to ensure that all project stakeholders are on the same page at all times.
9. Run great meetings
Great meetings are key to a successful project. Never cancel meetings even if it seems there is nothing important to discuss project status on the upcoming weekly meeting. Just go around the room and ask for a quick update from each participant – it will ensure your meetings remain relevant and well-attended and may keep a key piece of information from otherwise falling through the cracks. Prior to key project meetings, send out an agenda and status update in advance so everyone knows what will be discussed and will come more prepared to provide the participation necessary to have a successful meeting. And as mentioned above – always follow up with everyone post-meeting with notes and request a 24-hour turnaround on any updates so that project stakeholders can stay on the same page at all times.
10. Make cybersecurity part of every project
We are at a point in our world where it is necessary to make cybersecurity part of every project’s risk management plan. Even if it is low risk and only needs a small amount of attention at the very beginning during requirements gathering and finalization. Likewise, there will be those highly sensitive projects that may require a dedicated part-time cybersecurity resource to be a project team member and meeting participant throughout the engagement.
The bottom line is this – project best practices are logical, not rocket science. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Stay the course, report well, engage all players well and consistently on both sides and a successful outcome becomes much easier to achieve. Rely on the customer and team and keep them informed.