Do you plan at best your projects from the start? Do you follow the right project management steps to keep track of everything? Are you able to estimate the right amount of resources required for each task?
Activities coordination and progress monitoring are two key steps to succeed.
If you would like a 360° sight on your project, the equation is simple: method + communication and interpersonal skills + pragmatism!
4 steps to follow to succeed in your project
Step 0: Application of project management best practices
First, let’s remember that to effectively manage a project and ensure its follow-up, it is crucial to:
- run a preliminary study to plan the project
- try to anticipate possible contingencies by listing risk management criteria
- demonstrate leadership and manage your team by taking inspiration from collaborative working methods such as the agile or Scrum methods
- keep control, at all levels
Project Management covers both the organization and the planning of the project, from the idea to the follow-up.
Both strategic and operational sides are taken into account, estimated and planned. The main steps to follow are:
Step 1: Definition of the project’s objectives
To run a project, you need to have a clear view of where you are going. Set a project scope using a pyramidal structure from the main goal to the smallest sub-tasks as follow :
- the most important project deliverables
- the project subdivisions into subsets to get more precise estimations and reactivity
- the tasks necessary to achieve each deliverable and sub-deliverable
Once you have achieved this, you will have a clearer idea of your principal milestones and the entity of the project itself.
Step 2: Analysis and estimation of tasks workloads
Once you have defined all the steps through the project completion, you need to estimate the time required to complete them: the deadline to meet, and the logical flow. All this is possible thanks to the definition of:
- tasks prioritization
- the assessment of their interdependence
- their planning over time
- risk factors anticipation
Step 3: Allocation of the required resources
This step is crucial, the most accurate your analysis is, the less you will have unpleasant surprises. For each task, you need to define the needs related to:
- human resources (employees)
- financial resources (budget)
- material resources (tools)
Step 4: Follow-up of the project
To avoid the tunnel effect you need to follow each phase of your project. Simply put, adopt the lean method. You will be able to face problems as they come and react quickly:
- by visualizing the objectives achieved or delayed, the actual progress compared to forecasts
- by communicating with all stakeholders, whether the internal project team or your partners, customers and suppliers
- by suggesting corrective actions if necessary
Why and how to follow up on your project?
By managing your tasks and their follow-up properly, you are able to:
- measure operational progress in comparison to the forecasts, the budget allocated, the material and human resources availability
- anticipate, see and correct gaps in real-time, thus reduce resource constraints and delays
To achieve this, the project manager can rely on:
- the specifications, drawn up during the definition of objectives and deliverables
- the project planning, specifying actions over time
- dashboards and diagrams, graphically representing achieved objectives, what remains to be done, successes and problems encountered
- regular follow-up meetings, to obtain concrete feedback from the project team on progress and obstacles
- project management or planning software
Project monitoring tools
As briefly seen above, here are the key tools:
Their purpose is to have written down all requests from the client or from management (internal projects). It is a reference point for the objectives to be achieved.
It, therefore, provides a framework for monitoring:
- expenditures and cost allocation
- the compliance of the quality objectives set
We are living at the age of dematerialization; project management cannot ignore it. Especially when it comes to projects with teams on the field, paper reports are no longer a suitable solution.
With software like Kizeo Forms, your mobile teams enter their reports and progress in real-time. The interface also allows you to export and analyze this data, for optimal and geolocalized monitoring, regardless of your sector of activity.
The agile method favours short-term planning and, consequently, quick but regular, face-to-face meetings to define tasks and primary corrective actions.
This short-cycle project management strategy reduces the tunnel effect and provides better visibility and responsiveness to unexpected events. All project stakeholders know who is doing what and where is everyone at.
The dashboard is a proactive and methodological tool to monitor your projects closely. It allows you to see instantly all key data, objectives, risks, resources and anticipate potential problems.
In the long run, it also serves as a reporting tool to understand management's areas of progress.
To use it and choose realistic, measurable and timely Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), ask yourself the right questions, for example:
- Will the project's completion or delivery deadlines be respected?
- Has the allocated budget been exceeded?
- Is the progress of the project satisfactory?
- Are resources being used as agreed?
KPIs such as duration gap, budget gap, are essential to the execution of a project. They help you to evaluate a situation at a given time and to make an appropriate decision.
A tool such as RationalPlan is essential to optimally manage dashboards and KPIs. Moreover, thanks to its collaborative functions the whole team will have access to the same database avoiding any information silos.
The Gantt chart
The Gantt chart is another popular visualization tool. In particular, it allows you to:
the activities and workload of each member of your team.
How? By presenting tasks progress on a graph, with the list of activities (on the y-axis) and the time units (on the x-axis).
Each of its tasks can be linked to:
- resources (human or material resources)
- dependencies (with other tasks)
- dates (start and end dates, and duration of tasks)
An example of a Gantt Chart in Monday.com
The Kanban board
Widely used in agile methods, it allows the representation of the workflow (task processing progress), on the principle of sticky notes on a table. Each task status shifts from "scheduled" to "in progress" and finally "completed".
Project management software
Project management software is a tool that assists you in decision-making and anticipation.
A follow-up with Excel is certainly an option for small projects. Otherwise cloud solutions have the advantage of allowing real-time monitoring, regardless of the deadline, budget, complexity or number of stakeholders.
Communication is also facilitated. Using a collaborative approach, teamwork is relieved, with everyone's tasks well defined and accessible.
Among other examples, Monday.com is an intuitive project management tool. It provides highly visual dashboards, with Gantt chart and Kanban board, to monitor project progress, estimate the workload and continuously evaluate the budget.
Furthermore, Project management solutions such as Wrike allow you to monitor deadlines and dependencies of your team to get a real picture of the situation.
Benefits of project management software
Benefits of customized management software are numerous, among them:
- a measureless time-saving in invoicing,
- the centralization of the information entered through the sharing of the same collaborative workspace, to increase productivity,
- the provision of the same level of information, for better visibility and teamwork,
- the decrease in time spent to analyse the project’s status
Monitor your project closely
The success of a project depends on controlling time, budget and available resources.
Strategic management (or monitoring), also involves the capitalization of the knowledge of your project team and rigorous monitoring, to recover easier in the event of a problem.
The benefits are obvious: time savings, financial savings, competitiveness, productivity, customer satisfaction but also the satisfaction of your employees. It all leads to motivation and reinforced commitment... to be able to keep on planning projects efficiently!