It’s no surprise that being a project manager is tough. Constantly managing projects and staffers, feeling compelled to hit deadlines, and staying within a budget is bound to add stress to anyone’s life. However, having some basic management principles in place can reduce the pressure. In this blog post, learn about four ways to manage projects effectively. The process is simple, but not always easy. Read on to find out what you should be doing.
STEP 1. DETERMINE THE PROBLEM YOU’RE TRYING TO SOLVE
“Before you begin,” advises Harvard Business Review, “take time to pinpoint what issue the project is actually supposed to fix.” It sounds obvious and it is. But it’s a critical step few project managers take. Here’s the typical scenario: the project manager is both elated for the new business and worried about reaching a deadline, so he takes off running. A better approach is to determine the exact problem you’re trying to solve upfront, much like you’d determine where you’re going on vacation before you hop into the car. You may need to ask the client additional questions, strategize with a few teammates, and think about the challenge and the solution you’ll bring to it. If your client wants his company’s website updated in three months, for example, you’ll need to find out exactly what a website update looks like in his eyes. Although this takes time upfront, it pays dividends in the long run: you’ll save loads of time, money, and energy.
STEP 2. PLAN
Once you figure out what you need to do, determine how you’ll do it. That’s why you need a plan: to establish project milestones, identify team members you’ll need for the project, and allocate hours and budgets. Work backward: start with the deadline and fill in the details; otherwise it’s easy to spend too much time in the early phases of the project and run out of resources toward the end.
Use the task editor to create tasks, budgets, due dates, and assignments. Fortunately, BigTime makes the planning process simple. Use the task editor to enter tasks, or jobs, for each project, and assign them with due dates. For example, a project called “Build Website for ABC Studios” may include one task for Lisa to write content for the homepage and another for Larry to shoot and crop images for the homepage. Then, use resource allocation to allocate budgets and staffers for each project. As you plan, keep in mind that plans tend to change: motivation wanes, mistakes happen, and unforeseen events occur. Accommodate for this in the plan you create. If you think best case scenario a project will take 150 hours to complete, consider budgeting between 160 to 180 hours. Put another way, plan for the unexpected.
STEP 3. COMMUNICATE WITH TEAM AND CLIENTS
The planning process isn’t just for your benefit as the project manager—share it with your team! No one likes to be left in the dark, and your team will likely be more productive when they know what they’re working toward and the progress they’re making. Plus, problems tend to arise due to communication breakdowns, so regularly inform your team of tasks, budget statuses, and due dates. Here, too, is where BigTime can help. Create reports in BigTime and share them with your team, so they’re aware of task statuses and revenue projections, for example. Reference resource allocation: see who’s logging excessive hours to a project, and talk to them to find out why.
Reference resource allocation’s real-time graphics to get a high-level view of a project. At the same time, use information from resource allocation to keep clients informed. Proactively tell a client that you need an additional 20 hours for a project, and see if that’s feasible. This approach tends to be better received than an unexpected bill in the mail once a project is complete.
STEP 4. MONITOR YOUR PLAN—AND ADJUST AS NEEDED
As important as it is to have a plan, it’s equally important to monitor it and make changes when necessary. That’s a benefit of using resource allocation in BigTime. Its real-time dashboard graphics and reports keep you on the pulse of staffer performance, budgets, and revenue. So use this information to your advantage and alter your plan when needed.
Use the resource allocation editor to make task-related changes. Say your star programmer, Jim, is working on project ABC. But a month down the road you decide he really needs to be on the struggling project DEF. Make the change in BigTime and reallocate Jim’s hours to another programmer. Project management can be rewarding. And by implementing the steps above, you may find the process a little smoother with a lot more success.
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