Have you ever been asked to start a project and been filled with dread and overwhelm about where to start in order to make an impact and get results? The thought that comes to most people’s minds is that they won’t be able to do this because they have no project management qualification. The fact is every now and again you might need to carry out a project as part of your job. Knowing how to do this is a very useful skill especially if you want to develop or progress your career. Your project might involve changing a process, introducing a new product line or just completing a specific one off task. Whatever the case some planning will be required to achieve the desired result.
By their very nature projects have a start and an end to them and are not business as usual. So you must start with this in mind. Your projects must also feed back into the company’s strategic goals.
If you haven’t done any projects before then after this post I would encourage you to actively look for projects you can start or get involved in. This will not only get your work and results noticed but will allow you to develop a lot of new skills and interact with more people in your work. Such experiences are invaluable in growing your network, getting feedback and building career credibility. Consider the following elements in your planning and preparation.
One of the first things you may want to look at is how long have you got to deliver the project. Time also has a direct impact on your cost. There are two ways to deal with time. If you don’t have enough time you can throw resources to your project. This can be more people working on tasks where possible so you reduce the time taken for completion. The other alternative is to not perform certain activities. The first will cost you more potentially and the second maybe compromise your quality.
Your time can be broken down into the expected time it will take to complete activities and the actual time it will take. With this in mind make a list of all the things that need to be done and estimate or consult other people on how long the activities will take.
Alongside time the cost of a project can be one of the most contentious subjects. Once you’ve established the activities and resources you should be able to look at how much is available v how much it will cost so you can make the necessary adjustments.
Having a good size budget will enable you to get more specialised help with tasks that fall outside your expertise. Keeping track of your cost and reporting in this periodically will help with making sure your project costs stay controlled and you don’t over run and use up your budget before your project is completed.
Understanding what the benefits for starting a project are will help you when it comes to deciding whether the project needs to be started, continued or whether you have achieved what you set out to do. This can be one of your big challenges especially if you need to demonstrate financial gain in order to make a project viable.
Not all projects will deliver direct financial benefits and so you will have to find ways of demonstrating that the non-financial benefits are worth exploring.
It’s important to be really clear on what the scope of your project is. Be very specific on what needs to be done, what people can expect and what will not be done as part of that project. It’s important to be explicit and seek out agreement on scope because the understanding might be different for different people.
By specifying your scope you will have a reference point to go back to when trying to establish if you should do certain things. Most projects will suffer from what is commonly known as scope creep (change in scope). This can be acceptable provided there’s an understanding that assumptions, timing and costs will need to be revisited.
The resources you need will depend on the timing, size and complexity of your project. You will want to consider what people, equipment, space and so on is needed for you to start and finish the work. You will need to make sure the resources you need are available when you need them because this will impact your timing. You will not necessarily have to pay for all the resources if you can negotiate well.
It’s worth noting that sometimes it can be helpful going back to find similar projects to see how things were handled so you’re not reinventing the wheel.
Prior to starting you will want to think of the things that could go wrong with your project. Although it sounds slightly unpleasant like you’re looking for the negative, anticipating what is going to affect the project outcome will help you plan around the risks.
As you progress with your project some risks will materialise, others may not or new ones that you hadn’t identified at the start may come to light. To deal with risk you can accept, mitigate, exploit, transfer or avoid the risk. The explanation to each of these responses to risk is a separate post on its own.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’. Nothing rings truer than when you apply this phrase to projects. Trying to cut corners will compromise the quality of what you produce and deliver in your project. This can be the case if you use cheaper support, sub standard but cheaper equipment or if don’t allocate enough time to undertake tasks.
Completing a project when the quality is poor doesn’t equal success. Any poorly implemented cost saving measures are a false economy because you will need to rework anything that has poor quality. When it comes to quality it’s best to make a plan to get the work done right the first time. Be clear of what elements of your project will affect the quality of your end outcomes so you can ensure the right decisions are made around them.
Next time you get a project take all these headings and start to make a list of the things you know about your project and make a note of what you don’t know. The clearer you are at the start the better your project will run. Look out for the live class related to project management.