The start of the year often sees the implementation of strategy in a bigger way. In this context, I will share 20 project management (PM) tips based on lessons learnt from my 20 years of managing international and national digital projects and from some of the great project managers I’ve been lucky to work with.
- First develop your business case
Draw up a 1-2 page business case before developing a more complex project plan. E.g. listing the goal, objectives, options, benefits, and high-level costs.
- Specify how your project involvement helps achieve internal library (strategic and financial) business goals from the start
When developing your project, or deciding on partnering in a project, consider how your costly and limited resources will be used to the benefit of your organisation here. Share this information with your financial and senior management from the outset.
- Know the stakeholders who will help make this project fly or crash
Map out who will work with and against you, and then analyse those with the most influence and control in depth. Feed this knowledge into your project activity plans.
- Help ensure the project hits the right notes with your users
Engage with your users and involve them at the beginning. Consider how you are going to inform and engage with them throughout the project from the beginning. When you set up a project board, ensure that you have representatives from your key user groups present.
- Set the scene for the success ahead
Organise a kick-off meeting involving representative end users and project partners. Is everyone aligned, i.e. knowing the problem you are going to solve and how they personally are important in contributing to that. Look into the future; what will you be proud of at the end of the project? Ask your partners how they see things.
- Use metaphors for one project voice
Develop a metaphor at the start that most partners and users can identify with that explains the project’s goal and solution. Develop this for your project partners. This will help all speak with one voice about the project be they IT, policy or other specialists.
- Make your project objectives SMART transparent
set SMART objectives (SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) to focus on what you specifically want to achieve, and to think about how you will measure your successes, See the Chartered Management Institute’s Setting SMART Objectives Checklist 231
- Define your user requirements and technical specifications
For projects that involve IT development, draw up user requirements and technical specifications in a language that is clear for your IT developers. The better you develop these, the more you understand your users and their needs, and the closer you get to what you need from your IT support.
- Ensure that staff are up-skilled in a project management method
Hire a professional to train up PM staff for a day or two on key project management skills, or help develop their skill-set further by providing them with a PM certification in Prince2, for example.
- Consider how to do more with less resources this time around
Think about how you could save more time based on lessons learnt from previous projects to free up time for something else that motivates and develops staff further.
- Bring in new skills and excellence into your institution
Consider using new external professionals and experts who you would not normally be able to hire – those who could help increase the quality of your project and knowledge at your organisation/s. A new project is an opportunity to gain new skills that you can use in later projects, too.
- Involve and build leaders and great communicators
A large part of project management involves communication, be this between project partners, suppliers or users. Cultures differ between generations, professions and nationalities. This calls for project managers with skills in diplomacy, who deal well with confidentiality and have a good track record in resolving conflict. E.g. Madsen describes how important leadership is to build trust in her How to build trust with your team.
- Support secure online remote project work
What are the best cloud-based online project tools for remote work? And consider mobile apps for data-sharing and collaboration to help partners work in a flexible environment. See Scott’s article on PMO tools.
- Specify the exploitation of results from the beginning
Build in time to explore how you are going to legally organise the exploitation of results amongst you, your other partners, and specifically your IT ones. For example, who has the Intellectual Property in which contexts and under which conditions?
- Manage your risks
Ensure that you list some of the possible risks at the beginning of your project and evaluate them throughout your project. This will help avoid threats and unnecessary change from occurring. Maintain a risk register, analyse, monitor, and share risks with your Project Board.
- Keep an issue log and manage change consistently
Document issues and their impact on the project to control change that may affect project results. Store these for later lessons learnt. Discuss issues with those affected or share with the Project Board if relating to a request for change to the project. Develop a change management system to avoid escalating costs and disruption.
- Monitor and evaluate throughout the life of your project
How are you going to evaluate your project’s business case or goals, and at what stages? You need to do this at regular intervals throughout the project to avoid certain risks, evaluate whether your project conforms to specified user expectations as well as to celebrate achieving certain milestones. Ensure that you have activities and structures in place to do so throughout the life of your project.
- Open Access, open data and disseminating project results
How are your users going to know about your project and its results? Assign time to plan dissemination activities targeting specific groups with tailored messages using appropriate tools and channels at appropriate planned times. Above all, also specify if you want to share results openly using data management plans or through Open Access publication for example.
- Consider a sustainability plan
From the beginning, if you think your project has great potential for a community, consider how you are going to sustain and further develop results in the future after the end of the project; if a success. Build this into your project plan from the start.
- Look back to look forward
What lessons did you learn from previous projects you managed, or related projects? What went well, and what did not? Share successes and challenges with fellow project managers to save you time and tears.
If you need further information on any of the above, or need help with managing a project, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are plenty more tips out there.
Do you have project management tips you would like to share? Please do below!