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Key Project Manager Practices

May 11 2010

Managing a project can be daunting, but using the right techniques and tools will help the project manager achieve a project no matter how complex or large it might be.  There are seven practices that any project manager can put to good use to ensure the success of the project.

Define the objectives, scope and stakeholders

Firstly, understand the project objectives. Deciding the real objectives will help plan the project.  The client may have many ideas, but often it turns out that most of those ideas are not applicable to the current project.

Scope is the boundaries of the project.  Deciding what’s in or out of scope will determine the amount of work which needs performing.

Determine the stakeholders, what they expect to be delivered and enlist their support.  The stakeholders will review the objectives and scope, and either agree with them, or indicate what needs to be changed before they can give their approval.

Define the deliverables

Define what will be delivered by the project.  Decide what things, whether product or service, will be delivered.  Document them in enough detail to enable someone else to produce them correctly and effectively.

Key stakeholders must review the definition of deliverables and must agree they accurately reflect what must be delivered.

Project planning

Define what activities are required to produce the deliverables using techniques such as Work Breakdown Structures. Estimate the time and effort required for each activity, dependencies between activities and decide a realistic schedule to complete them. Involve the project team in estimating how long activities will take. Set milestones which indicate critical dates during the project. Write this into the project plan. Get the key stakeholders to review and agree to the plan.

Communication

Project plans are useless unless they’ve been communicated effectively to the project team. Every team member needs to know their responsibilities. I once worked on a project where the project manager sat in his office surrounded by huge paper schedules. The problem was, nobody on his team knew what the tasks and milestones were because he hadn’t shared the plan with them. The project hit all kinds of problems with people doing activities which they deemed important rather than doing the activities assigned by the project manager.

Tracking and reporting project progress

Once your project is underway you must monitor and compare the actual progress with the planned progress. You will need progress reports from project team members. You should record variations between the actual and planned cost, schedule and scope. You should report variations to your manager and key stakeholders and take corrective actions if variations get too large.

Change management

By managing changes, the project manager can make decisions about whether or not to incorporate the changes immediately or in the future, or to reject them. This increases the chances of project success because the project manager controls how the changes are incorporated, can allocate resources accordingly and can plan when and how the changes are made. Not managing changes effectively is often a reason why projects fail.

Risk management

Risks are events which can adversely affect the successful outcome of the project.  Risks will vary for each project but the main risks to a project must be identified as soon as possible. Plans must be made to avoid the risk, or, if the risk cannot be avoided, to mitigate the risk to lessen its impact if it occurs. This is known as risk management. Not managing risks effectively is a common reason why projects fail.