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Managing Small Projects in your Project Management Life Cycle

September 21 2007

Managing Small Peojects in your Project Management Life Cycle

Do you often manage smapp projects? If you do, then you will know that the way you manage small projects is different from managing larger more complex projects. To help you make this distinction and improve your success in managing smaller projects, we’ve described in this newsletter…

10 Steps to Managing Small Projects

So what is a “small project” vs. a “large project”? It’s fair to say that small projects have:

  • A lower project budget
  • Very short delivery timescales
  • Less people and more limited resources
  • Lower risk and fewer project issues
  • More clearly defined deliverables

However small projects are not necessarily easier to manage than large projects! They may still be complex and involve a range of departments, resources, suppliers and customers to complete them.

So to boost your success in managing small projects, we recommend these 10 steps:

Step 1: Create a Terms of Reference

For small projects, the first step to take is usually the creation of a Terms of Reference for your Project Management Life Cycle. This document describes project vision, scope, objectives, deliverables, timeframes and known risks for the project.

You need to get all of the project stakeholders to agree to this document, so that you gain a crystal clear view of what the project is to achieve. Without formal approval, projects suffer scope creep, lack of change control, poor sponsorship and communication problems.

Step 2: Appoint the Project Team

Thanks to your Terms of Reference, everyone agrees what it is that has to be achieved. You’re now ready to appoint your team within your Project Management Life Cycle. For small projects, you will usually need to gain the support of senior management, to allocate resource to your project, from within the business.

You will probably have a very limited budget for appointing external suppliers, consultants and contractors. But if they are required, you will need to formalize supplier contracts at this point.

Regardless of the project role appointed, make sure you create a clear Job Description for your Project Management Life Cycle first, so that staff know exactly what’s expected of them.

Step 3: Set up the Project Office

Even small projects need the support of a project office, who help with project reporting, risk / issue / change resolution, training and administration. For small projects, you will need the services of your project office to make sure that your project conforms with internal standards and processes, and to get project support when you need it.

Step 4: Create a Project Plan

The Project Plan is more than just a schedule of events. It describes the entire Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for the project by defining all of the phases, activities and tasks required to deliver it. It also sets out the project scope, milestones, effort, deliverables, resources and dependencies in detail.

For smaller projects, your project plan will become your “single view of progress for the project.” By updating it at immediately after your weekly project status meetings, you can ensure that you remain on track.

Step 5: Create a Quality Plan

With a clear view of the project plan, you now need to work out how you’re going to ensure that you will meet the requirements of your customer. The Quality Plan in your project management life cycle will help you do this by defining your quality targets, complete Quality Assurance reviews and Quality Control.

Step 6: Create a Communications Plan

The final step in the planning process is to set out a plan for keeping stakeholders properly informed of the progress of the project.

Using the Communications Plan, you can define the communication needs of all stakeholders. You can then build a schedule of communications events so that you inform the right people with the right information at the right time.

Step 7: Build the Deliverables

Of course the largest amount of time allocated in your Project Plan, will be spent building the physical deliverables for your customer. Whether it’s creating new products, deploying new services or re-engineering processes, make sure that you use a Project Deliverables Register to record the progress of your deliverables towards completion.

Step 8: Monitor and Control

While your team are building the project deliverables, your job is to monitor and control the critical elements of the project. This includes:

  • Time Management
  • Cost Management
  • Quality Management
  • Change Management
  • Risk Management
  • Issue Management

Step 9: Close the Project

Once all of the deliverables are complete, your job is nearly finished. At this point, you need to close the project by completing any outstanding items, filing project documentation, releasing suppliers, terminating contracts, re-allocating resources and communicating closure to the project stakeholders.

Step 10: Review Completion

Even for small projects, it’s necessary to review it’s completion. By completing a Post Implementation Review, you can gain an independent assessment of the level of success of the project, the areas for improvement and any lessons learned.

And that’s it! By following these 10 steps, you’ll boost your chances of delivering your projects time and under budget.

Need project management tools to help you manage small projects in your project management life cycle? See this Online Project Management or these Project Management Templates.