Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Project Management Success with the Top 7 Best Practices

~ By Simon Buehring

Best practice hanging sign on a white wall

Managing a project can be daunting. Whether planning your wedding, developing a new website or building your dream house by the sea, you need to employ project management techniques to help you succeed. I'll summarise the top seven best practices at the heart of good project management which can help you to achieve project success.

1. Define the Scope and Objectives

Firstly, understand the project objectives. Suppose your boss asks you to organise a blood donor campaign, is the objective to get as much blood donated as possible? Or, is it to raise the local company profile? Deciding the real objectives will help you plan the project.

Scope defines the boundary of the project. Is the organisation of transport to take staff to the blood bank within scope? Or, should staff make their own way there? Deciding what's in or out of scope will determine the amount of work which needs performing.

Understand who the stakeholders are, what they expect to be delivered and enlist their support. Once you've defined the scope and objectives, get the stakeholders to review and agree to them.

2. Define the Deliverables

You must define what will be delivered by the project. If your project is an advertising campaign for a new chocolate bar, then one deliverable might be the artwork for an advertisement. So, decide what tangible things will be delivered and document them in enough detail to enable someone else to produce them correctly and effectively.

Key stakeholders must review the definition of deliverables and must agree they accurately reflect what must be delivered.

3. Project Planning

Planning requires that the project manager decides which people, resources and budget are required to complete the project.

You must define what activities are required to produce the deliverables using techniques such as Work Breakdown Structures. You must estimate the time and effort required for each activity, dependencies between activities and decide a realistic schedule to complete them. Involve the project team in estimating how long activities will take. Set milestones which indicate critical dates during the project. Write this into the project plan. Get the key stakeholders to review and agree to the plan.

4. Communication

Project plans are useless unless they've been communicated effectively to the project team. Every team member needs to know their responsibilities. I once worked on a project where the project manager sat in his office surrounded by huge paper schedules. The problem was, nobody on his team knew what the tasks and milestones were because he hadn't shared the plan with them. The project hit all kinds of problems with people doing activities which they deemed important rather than doing the activities assigned by the project manager.

5. Tracking and Reporting Project Progress

Once your project is underway you must monitor and compare the actual progress with the planned progress. You will need progress reports from project team members. You should record variations between the actual and planned cost, schedule and scope. You should report variations to your manager and key stakeholders and take corrective actions if variations get too large.

You can adjust the plan in many ways to get the project back on track but you will always end up juggling cost, scope and schedule. If the project manager changes one of these, then one or both of the other elements will inevitably need changing. It is juggling these three elements - known as the project triangle - that typically causes a project manager the most headaches!

6. Change Management

Stakeholders often change their mind about what must be delivered. Sometimes the business environment changes after the project starts, so assumptions made at the beginning of the project may no longer be valid. This often means the scope or deliverables of the project need changing. If a project manager accepted all changes into the project, the project would inevitably go over budget, be late and might never be completed.

By managing changes, the project manager can make decisions about whether or not to incorporate the changes immediately or in the future, or to reject them. This increases the chances of project success because the project manager controls how the changes are incorporated, can allocate resources accordingly and can plan when and how the changes are made. Not managing changes effectively is often a reason why projects fail.

7. Risk Management

Risks are events which can adversely affect the successful outcome of the project. I've worked on projects where risks have included: staff lacking the technical skills to perform the work, hardware not being delivered on time, the control room at risk of flooding and many others. Risks will vary for each project but the main risks to a project must be identified as soon as possible. Plans must be made to avoid the risk, or, if the risk cannot be avoided, to mitigate the risk to lessen its impact if it occurs. This is known as risk management.

You don't manage all risks because there could be too many and not all risks have the same impact. So, identify all risks, estimate the likelihood of each risk occurring (1 = not likely, 2 = maybe likely, 3 = very likely). Estimate its impact on the project (1 - low, 2 - medium, 3 - high), then multiply the two numbers together to give the risk factor. High risk factors indicate the severest risks. Manage the ten with the highest risk factors. Constantly review risks and lookout for new ones since they have a habit of occurring at any moment.

Not managing risks effectively is a common reason why projects fail.

Summary

Following these best practices cannot guarantee a successful project but they will provide a better chance of success. Disregarding these best practices will almost certainly lead to project failure.


Simon Buehring is a project manager, consultant and trainer. He works for KnowledgeTrain which offers training in project management in the UK and overseas. Simon has extensive experience within the IT industry in the UK and Asia. He can be contacted via the KnowledgeTrain project management training website.


Advertisement


Comments (2)

Topic: Project Management Success with the Top 7 Best Practices
3/5 (2)
Gravatar
Full StarFull StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
28th July 2015 9:42pm
Rafael de la Cruz (Houston) says...
There is no way to know how old this article is. In project management what was right 5 years ago is probably not now.
Gravatar
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
29th July 2015 7:11pm
Duncan (London) says...
This article dates from around 2007. I think everything Simon calls out is still relevant today.

In terms of development, Project Management develops relatively slowly. The core concepts are not going to change. We will always need to manage risks, report progress, plan and manage change. Good PM training courses will (or should) cover all seven of Simon's best practices.

Let’s see what others think.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the month after February?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

A Tale of Two Projects

Two serious businessmen working with a tablet computer

A business tale of what it takes to turn around troubled projects. How did PintCo recover their Customer Master File project when everything was going in the wrong direction.

Four Steps to Project Time Management

Man pointing at an alarm clock

The four steps outlined in this article will help you better define and measure the activities that make up your project timeline.

10 Ways to Inspire Your Team

Green lead by example check mark and pencil

As a project manager you are in a prime position to inspire your team. Here are ten ways to get you started.

Effort Estimating: A Primer

Effort time money blue dice representing the ingredients for business

Good estimating is a skill like any other, it can be developed with practice to the point where it may seem like magic to the uninformed.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Ashwini Pendharkar commented on…
10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management
- Tue 20 June 1:32pm

Tery commented on…
A Brief History of SMART Goals
- Mon 19 June 10:10pm

Tammy Marin commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 15 June 10:37pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Please Advise: Does PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam Scenerio Changes… https://t.co/OK90gkJzMN #projectsmart #pmot about 8 days ago

RT @rkelly976: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.”… about 11 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Do I need project management software? https://t.co/u4Tu1fnzuY #projectsmart #pmot about 11 days ago