Project Management is a critical function in many businesses. Even in companies that aren’t projectized, it’s probable that you’ll deal with many projects throughout the year. In an ideal situation, you’ll have access to a full Project Management Office (PMO), dedicated resources, and all the tools needed to successfully deliver on a project.
Realistically, it’s likely that you’ll have a project with very short time frames and limited resources to get it together.
In this post, I want to look at some of the project management skills and techniques that non-Project Managers can develop to improve success at their company. Start using them today to get more out of your tools, process, and stakeholders.
Project Management Essentials: Why Projects Fail
In my experience, a lot of people point to project constraints as the key reason that projects fail. While this may be the case sometimes, constraints are not the key determining factor in project failure.
The three key project constraints – budget, time, and people – impact how a project can be delivered but will not necessarily lead to outright project failure or success.
The ability of the project manager to navigate these constraints is the key factor in determining outcome. Additionally, institutional factors (such as previous project experience and open communication) will impact how successful a project manager can be in their role.
Negotiation Skills are Critical for Project Management
Among the most important attributes a project manager must have are negotiation and interpersonal skills. Stakeholder management is arguably the most important part of managing a project; you need to get the project team, project sponsors, and project customers (internal and external) bought in to your direction.
Negotiation is even more important in an organization where you’re dealing with very tight constraints.
The ability to negotiate and discuss an issue(s) with your project sponsor (or boss) enables you to try to alleviate it together. Ideally, you should be able to tell your boss you need a bigger budget or more people, and discuss/negotiate the deliverables, phasing the project into multiple phases, or helping everyone understand how constraints will impact the final product.
Use Current and Build New Project Management Tools
In constrained situations, you don’t have access to all the great project management software systems needed to manage a project. So, you need to use the tools available to you. If you only have access to Microsoft Excel, then that is more than enough to successfully run complex projects.
With a spreadsheet tool like Excel you can develop a project charter, create a work breakdown structure, build a GANTT, and monitor project resources (budget).
If you’re new to the process, and your project isn’t overly complex, you might not even need those features and can use a simple workbook to manage the project budget and deliverables. Regardless, you can use the technology available to you. Build some templates for tools you’ll use commonly and make the system more sophisticated over time.
Know Your Project Risks
Risk management is a wide field of study with many different practices, theories, strategies, and approaches. Knowing the risks and strategies for managing them is essential when starting into a project.
In a formalized environment, Project Managers use a risk register to outline all project risks, their likelihood of coming up, the potential impact to the project, and strategies to account for risk. In more informal environments, it’s enough to outline the major risks and key strategies for responding to risks that may materialize throughout the project.