How To Manage Projects From Start to Finish (With Tips)
Updated February 3, 2023
A team member presents project information during a team meeting as their colleagues listen from a conference table.
No matter which industry you work in, there are many factors that go into the creation and completion of a project. There are many phases to a project, and effective project management can help teams remain focused throughout each phase and complete the project on time and within budget. Learning how to manage projects can help you achieve important goals quickly and improve the quality of your team's outputs.
In this article, we describe the benefits of effective project management, explain how you can manage projects well and offer tips to help you improve your leadership skills.
Benefits of effective project management
Some projects can become costly and time-consuming, but employing certain project management strategies can help you better manage people and resources and plan for unexpected events more easily. Some additional benefits of effective project management include:
It allows you to meet important milestones quickly. Good project management can help you achieve important project milestones more quickly, allowing you to plan for the next phase of the project early.
It can help you better manage project constraints. Project constraints represent any limiting factors that may affect the quality or delivery of the project, such as various deadlines, and effective project management can help you better manage these changing constraints.
It can make it easier to plan for future projects. Having effective project management mechanisms ready can help you plan for similar projects, allowing you to better optimize your resources and design more effective schedules.
It can streamline task delegation. Knowing how to manage projects properly can make it easier for you to delegate tasks to your team, which can reduce confusion by helping them better understand what your expectations are.
How to manage projects effectively
Here are four steps you can take to manage your next project effectively throughout its entire life cycle:
1. Evaluate the project's feasibility
Before you can begin a project, it may be beneficial to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the project is viable and whether it can add profit to the company. A feasibility study may involve conducting extensive research and collecting data related to the issue the project aims to resolve. It may also involve assessing its technical requirements and reviewing the organization's budget to determine whether it's cost-effective.
After completing this feasibility study, it can be beneficial to share it with the people the project is likely to affect. These relevant parties can review it and determine whether to proceed with the first phase of the project. If they approve it, you can arrange another meeting to establish project goals, propose a timeline of events and determine which communication channels to use. During the initiation phase of the project, document why the project is useful, what its goals are and the potential return on investment that it can offer.
2. Plan the project
Once the relevant parties have approved the project and you've completed the initiation phase, you can create a list of job descriptions for each person involved in the project detailing what their responsibilities are. You can then meet with the project team and describe each phase of the project and outline the its requirements. It's also beneficial to establish a workspace for the team if you don't have one already. To engage in more comprehensive project planning, consider creating the following:
A task list: This list outlines the individual tasks for team members to complete to help support the larger project. Consider numbering this list and organizing your tasks based on their priority.
A project budget: A project budget is a detailed plan that outlines how much your team is likely to spend to fulfill each project milestone. Labor and operating costs may be items on your project budget.
A project schedule: A project schedule lists the project's most important deadlines, and it can help you ensure that your team meets each project objective on time. To develop a comprehensive project schedule, create separate categories for deadlines, assigned tasks and dependencies, or the tasks that require the completion of a different task.
3. Manage project constraints
After engaging in thorough project planning, the project team can begin executing each task outlined in the project schedule. Before each new phase in the project, meet with your team to discuss the objectives of that phase and remind them of the project's primary goals. You can establish deadlines for each of the smaller goals and ensure that team members understand their roles and know which tasks they're responsible for completing.
Once your team decides how to proceed with the next project phase, they can begin working on their new tasks. It may be beneficial to schedule regular meetings with your team so you can make sure everyone is completing their duties on time. These meetings can also allow you to answer questions and clarify expectations or directions. To better manage project constraints like deadlines or budgetary restrictions, consider engaging in the following:
Cost management: To stay within budget, you can track the cost of all materials and labor associated with the project.
Procurement management: It might be necessary for you to purchase or rent various resources to complete the project, which may require you to establish clear communication channels with vendors to obtain the resources you need within a designated time frame.
Collaboration management: To exchange important information about the project and manage conflicts between team members, you can establish mechanisms to encourage collaboration and problem resolution.
4. Prepare the deliverables
Project deliverables represent the results at the conclusion of a project, and they may include products, services or processes. After you complete a project, it's often important that you present any deliverables to the relevant parties in an appropriate way. This allows them to offer you valuable feedback, making it easier for your team to make adjustments as needed. You may be responsible for both internal and external deliverables.
You might submit internal deliverables, such as time-tracking reports, to your team or a department that you collaborated with to complete the project. Creating a project status report each time you complete a new objective can also make it easier for you to share updates with the relevant parties. It can also help you better define your deliverables and measure your success, or the extent to which your team achieved the project goals you originally created. You may submit external deliverables to customers, investors or shareholders. These might include project presentations and final design plans.
Project management tips
Here are a few tips to help you manage projects more effectively:
Use project management software
Consider using project management software and planning tools to streamline team communication and outline your goals. Project management software can also help you track important dates and deadlines automatically, allowing you to manage your resources accordingly. Try to invest in software that has a variety of tools for your team to use to collaborate with each other.
Communicate with your team
Each time you decide to add or remove a project requirement or the project's deadline changes, update your team. Establish a communication channel for your team to ask you questions. Regular communication can help you ensure that your team remains in alignment with the project's goals and knows what to expect. Ask your team which times they'd prefer to meet. Before each meeting, create a list of tasks you want them to prioritize or action items you want to discuss.
Measure project progress
Try to measure the progress of the project periodically to determine what improvements you might make. For example, you might discover that your team is spending too much time on tasks that are of lower priority, resulting in the potential for delays. You can track the project's progress using digital project tracking tools. You may also want to consider creating a manual checklist. This can help you assess your available resources and advise team members on which tasks to complete next.
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