The success of a project depends on a few key aspects. According to a 2017 study cited in Project Feasibility: Tools for Uncovering Points of Vulnerability by Olivier Mesly, these key aspects are often referred to as the four P's. Plan, Process, People and Power. If we dig into these further, we could uncover a few project management principles that you should live by.
It's with these principles top of mind that you’ll be better poised to complete your project on-time. Not only that, but any result will be in line with what you first envisioned.
As a side note, if you're interested in reading about project planning, you're welcome to read this article. Suffice to say, both that article and this one work hand in hand.
1. You need to have an objective and goals
The first project management principle to live by is that you need to have both an objective and a goal for any project. There is a good reason why it's the first.
In setting up your objectives as well as the goals, you're creating a solid foundation on which to build the rest of your project.
Let's consider that you want to run a project but don't have an objective or goal. You simply jump in because you're enthusiastic and raring to get it started. No one is against your enthusiasm or doubting that you want the project to succeed. However, that will prove increasingly difficult to achieve if you don't first know your objective or goals.
For your objective, it comes down to a series of questions:
What do you want to accomplish with this project? What is the purpose of this project? Why is it worth running in the first place? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself. And you need to be honest about your answers. You might realise after answering these questions that the project might not be necessary. It could not fit into the overall strategy of your company. Or you might not have the current resources to complete it.
That's perfectly okay. In the instance of a lack of resources, you could either shelf the project for a later date or set up a new project to acquire those resources.
Once you have determined your reason for doing the project, the next step is to set your goals. Here you need to be careful. When setting any goals for your project, it's critical to ensure they are SMART. That is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
For example, instead of saying you want to increase your sales, you need to be specific about what you want and how you are going to achieve it. In this case, you could narrow it down to say that you want to increase the sales of a product in Category A by 5% over the next two months.
2. You need to determine the level of engagement
With your objective and goals firmly in place, another principle to determine is your standards of engagement.
By this we’re referring to understanding who will be part of your project and how often will you engage with them. How many meetings will take place and when? Who must be involved when these meetings take place and what are their roles? Also, what rules do you have in place that everyone must follow throughout the project?
In establishing clear standards for any engagement around your project, you can create transparency and manage any associated risks. That's because anyone involved in the project will know who to speak to about a specific aspect of the work. If you're the project manager, it should ensure your project runs smoothly and efficiently.
That said, it’s worth noting that you’d also need to communicate the roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the project. That includes explaining the objectives and goals that you have set out.
Having an objective and goals will help you stay focused. However, it’s just as important that you align everyone’s thinking and include as many people as necessary to complete your project on time. After all, as much as you might act as the project manager, you can’t complete the project alone.
3. You need to consider and keep your project budget in mind
A third project management principle concerns the budget or resources that you have allocated to your project.
It’s also key to project management. As we noted in this article, project management is the “process of planning, organising, and monitoring the processes and resources to achieve the goal of the project at hand on time and within budget”.
Above, we’re referring to the execution of a successful project. If you can achieve your goal within the original timeframe and without overspending on the budget, you could deem your project a success.
The converse is true when you don’t keep your budget in mind, spending recklessly or not keeping track of your expenses.
For one, a miscalculation or mismanagement of your budget can, quite easily, hamper the entire project. You might even find yourself having to scrap a project altogether if you haven’t budgeted properly. Secondly, it can affect your reputation with your client (if it’s work for a customer) as well as your staff (if the work is for internal stakeholders).
Thirdly, it can affect your productivity. If you overspend on one project, that means there is less money available for the next project. Also, you might find that employees working on the first project also need to work on the second. However, they can’t begin the second project until they complete the first.
4. You need to define your project milestones
There is the argument that for some projects you do not need to create or define any milestones. However, we disagree.
A project milestone is a way to monitor the progress of your project. It’s a peg in the sand telling you that you have completed a specific part of a project and can move onto the next phase or task. For this reason alone, they are worth using in any project. That’s regardless of the complexity of the project.
Let’s say, for example, you want to revamp your company brand and you need to manage it through a project. As part of this project, you’d be better off creating milestones to help you monitor your progress.
One milestone could be to revamp your website. Under this milestone, you’d group the tasks that would encompass this. Tasks could include rewriting the content and creating new designs in line with the new brand.
As for why it's worth creating milestones, here are two (of many) benefits. Firstly, it helps you to be transparent as you can track the progress of your project. Anyone involved will know what’s happening at any time during the lifecycle of your project.
Secondly, it can help you to identify any bottlenecks. If you’re relying on various people to complete tasks in a large project, you need to keep track of it to move forward.
For a smaller project, it would still be a viable option. Our reasoning is this: no matter the size of a project or its goal, each deserves to be treated as important and have milestones that can help you to check everything off.
5. You need to set up a work schedule
The final project management principle that we want to highlight focuses on the creation of a schedule that you can follow from beginning to end.
Here, it’s about listing all of your activities, deliverables and milestones within your project. In that sense, it’s closely related to a work breakdown structure. It’s a detailed list of all the work your need to complete to execute your project.
Besides that, your schedule needs to consider the time frames involved to execute your project on-time.
For example, if you are going to run a project that lasts one or two months, you need to factor in public holidays, the work commitments of those involved, and even vacation. By considering all of these factors, you can plan any project better. More importantly, you can ensure that you don’t overextend anyone involved.
After all, the last thing you want to do is set up a project, include your milestones and tasks and distribute all the work only to find out that you need to adjust time frames. Or cancel a task for some people as they are unavailable.
That speaks directly to project inefficiency.
Activ8 is team management software for retail with project management functionality. If you’re interested in creating, managing and seeing successful projects through to completion, Activ8 is for you. Learn more by scheduling a demo with one of our sales consultants below.