Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

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Growing Your Small Business with Project Management

~ By Michelle LaBrosse

Gantt chart

If you think project management is only for the big guys, think again. Project management is a powerful business tool for businesses of any size. And as any small business person will tell you, effectiveness and efficiency is never about size. It's about working smart.

Improve Performance with Process

Project management is the science of getting things done. The problem in most businesses is that there is no process to get work done effectively and efficiently. As small business owners, we often make the mistake of thinking that when we're small, we don't need to develop processes. Not true! Even if you are an entrepreneur and a company of one person, you need to have a standard way of approaching projects. According to a February 2003 study by The Center for Business Practices (CBP)¹ the largest project management challenge facing companies is implementing a consistent process. From lost time to inconsistency, not having a process means poor performance.

Where are the Projects in your Business?

Think about the projects in your business. A project doesn't necessarily have a huge budget associated with it. A project is any activity in your business that has a distinct deliverable and a clear beginning and end. We all have a lot of those kicking around both our office and our homes. So, now the question is: Who knows how to manage them? If you're an entrepreneur, do you have the project management skills you need to build your business? If you're managing people, do any of them have project management skills that can save you time and money and bring more profit to the bottom line?

The good news about project management methods is that they are easy to learn and can be applied with simple web-based and office automation tools that are affordable for small businesses. I designed the project management methodology Cheetah Project Management because I saw a need for people to learn about project management quickly and be able to apply it immediately.

Getting Started with Your Project Management Power Checklist

  1. Know the business drivers for your business and where it's most important to apply project management techniques first.
  2. Decide on a simple and proven approach to project management. If you choose something too complicated, no one will follow it.
  3. Have people at every level learn the skills needed to effectively use project management to improve their value to your business. And again, if you're a team of four, even better - then everyone can learn project management.
  4. Get big wins early on by leading with the folks who have the least skills in project management and the most to gain by using a simple project management approach.
  5. Empower people with tools for successful project management:
    • BOT International's Custom Websystem for sharing best practices and project management processes across your business.
    • MS Project or FastTrackSchedule for simple and effective project scheduling and tracking.
    • Project management scorecards to measure the effectiveness of your project managers throughout the project.
  6. Consider having professionals in your organisation get PMP certified. Not because it's a hot certification that is in vogue right now, but because your bottom line will thank you.

ROI: PM's Impact on the Bottom Line

Project management impacts the bottom line. In their CHAOS Report, the Standish Group conservatively estimates that 20% of money spent on projects is wasted because companies don't have a consistent approach to project management. Research by the CBP shows that project management improvement initiatives improve project performance by up to 50% for the first project and can continue for each new project if the enterprise offers ongoing support with project management tools.

What You Can Expect

When project management gains traction in your organisation, it can be transformational. Here are five results that you can expect from project management integration.

1. Speed as a Competitive Advantage

Today, people work on cross-functional teams to complete projects. Small businesses often partner with other companies as subcontractors. When people from different companies know and understand a common project management process to get their work done, they can start to work together without having to design a way to do it.

2. A Confidence Booster and Goal Accelerator

When there is a common, simple approach for project management and the correct tools are available to people, they are empowered to reach their goals, together and individually. Our students who get their PMPs tell us that the PMP increases their confidence in their ability to get things done.

3. Say Goodbye to Reinventing the Wheel

Industry-standard project management practices require a critical project closeout phase that collects lessons learned and gives your team powerful historical knowledge to apply to the next project. You never have to reinvent the wheel again!

4. Action and Completion

An easy-to-use project management methodology gives your business a framework that makes it achievable for people to move from vision to action with a comprehensive project plan that supports their objectives.

5. Insight You Can Immediately Apply

You capture best practices and know what is and isn't working for you, giving you a competitive advantage by turning information into insight that your team can immediately apply to the next project.

Small is the New Big

There's never been a better time to be a small business owner. We can move at the speed of our ideas. And with the power of project management behind you, there's no business goal you can't reach!


¹ A Business Case for Improved Project Practices by Jim Brosseau, Software Productivity Center Inc. Version 1.11.

Michelle LaBrosse PMP, is the founder and Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning. An international expert on accelerated learning and project management, she has grown Cheetah Learning into the market leader for project management training and professional development. In 2006, The Project Management Institute (PMI) selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry. With a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, LaBrosse has done extensive postgraduate work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Educational Studies and with the University of Washington Industrial Engineering Program in accelerating adult learning with respect to meeting core business objectives. Michelle is a graduate of the Harvard Business School's Owner & President Management programme for entrepreneurs, and is the author of Cheetah Project Management and Cheetah Negotiations.


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