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Project Management Tips and Tools

Successful project management abides by several principles. Essentially, every project needs three components to be successful: it must come in on time, within budget, and to the degree of quality that is expected. Sounds easy enough, but every experienced project manager knows that anyone who counts their proverbial chickens before they hatch will not complete the project on time, budget, or with quality.

Successful project management has tended to rely on time-tested and proven methods of planning, managing, and charting workflow throughout the project cycle. The old saying, “When it’s not broken, why fix it?” can certainly be applied here; however, what if a new way of managing the workflow in a project cycle was more efficient, more accessible and more transparent to all members of the team?

Consider the fact that one of the toughest things a project manager has to do is maintain the focus of his or her team. Often the team members are not committed to just one project. They have other projects. Increasingly, members of a team may be located in different locations. This makes the job of the project manager harder. How do you build in strong standards and practices when one team member is in California, another is in Colorado and a third in Connecticut? New web-based project management solutions offer an alternative to traditional workflow charts and software. With an interface that tracks all aspects of the project, everyone on the team can check the status and check for tasks assigned to them while the project manager has one easy place to go and oversee it all.

This solution minimizes rework and keeps projects on track so that they can be delivered on time and on budget. With email notifications, when the project manager changes something in the timeline, all members of the team are notified. Every good project manager knows that the first plan they lay out will not be the one they stick with. Project Management, by its very nature, is about planning then re-planning and then tearing the timeline apart and planning it again. As a project progresses, it takes on a life of its own and the collaboration between the team members will, in part, dictate the timeline. A good project manager knows how to manage and adapt to this changing aspect of the life cycle of the project.

An aspect of project management that holds true no matter what the nature of the project is that all deliverables and activities must be visualized and communicated in great detail. At the start of the project, the entire team must come to an agreement on what the finished project will look like. This enables the entire team to focus their efforts in the same direction. Web-based project management solutions ensure that all team members stay on the same page even as the life cycle of the project evolves.

The scope of work of any project evolves — it is the nature of project management. However, if all members of the team are not on the same page and focused on the same end goal, time and money can be lost when the project gets off track. Therefore, it is important for the project manager to build the deliverables — or the stages of the project — incrementally. Step A leads to step B and then to step C and eventually the team will get to Z. A project that is not focused on a step-by-step building toward the goals will inevitably fall off track and lose time. Build a little at a time, obtain incremental reviews and approvals, and maintain a controlled evolution.

Project Managers are the gatekeepers of a project and as such must be firm and in control at all times. Basically, the project manager must fight for the time to make sure things are done right. It isn’t enough to simply be accountable for the project’s outcome; a good project manager will ensure that they’ve obtained the time, authority and resources needed to deliver successfully at each stage of the project’s life cycle. The key to success in this arena of the project lies in documentation. The more thoroughly documented the needs of the project are, the more focused the efforts of the team will be with leads to the direct causation of successful completion of the project.

A key component of a good project manager lies in their ability to be a cheerleader and a salesman. Not only do they have to sell the customer or client on the project, but they must cheer their team along to keep them focused and on track. Web-based project management solutions can aid the project manager in this task as they provide an accessible place for everyone involved in the project — whether on the team completing it or the people receiving the deliverables — to check in and track the stages of the cycles and the evolution of the final product.

Needless to say, a project manager would be nowhere without the people that make up their team. Each member has a specific skill set that is integral to the success of the project. By bringing together the best people they can, a project manager can often compensate for having too little time or money to complete the project. Skilled team members can compensate for areas in which the project is lacking. It is the project manager’s job to protect their team from outside interruptions? By preserving their working conditions, the project manager is taking out insurance on the end result. Web-based project management solutions that allow team members to check in and brainstorm without wasting valuable time are the next wave in project efficiency.

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Amy Lamare is a staff writer for CollectiveSoft maker of TeamWork Live, a leading project management software based near San Francisco, CA. Amy specializes in creative and concept development for team collaboration, project deployment and user experience.

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