Mention the word project, or even worse, the term project management, and most people think of big undertakings. Cross-Rail, the Olympics, building a new hospital etc. Yep – these are all BIG projects.
But there will be lots of little projects in your business. That special offer email campaign. That Facebook ads campaign. Revamping your website. All these and even writing your next blog article can all be treated as mini-projects and delivery will be all the better if you do.
Why is that?
Because treating something as a project introduces a set of disciplines.
Key project disciplines
Every project should have a set of goals or objectives. These need to be clear, specific, measurable and time bound. But most of all, they should be written down. How many times have you started a project-like piece of work on your business and not set the objectives?
Risks and Issues
Often, the process of thinking how the objectives are going to be measured and achieved unearths potential problems down the line. These potential problems are the risks to the project.
Things that are stopping you from moving forward now are the issues. Issues require action now to keep the project on track.
Risks may need actions in the future (contingency plans), a change in the plan to avoid them occurring, or perhaps even acceptance e.g. there is a risk Facebook may change the ads rules making my campaign invalid. You can’t second guess any rules changes so you accept the risk and get on with it.
Every project should have a plan. It helps you sequence the tasks to complete the project and understand any dependencies between them. The plan is your estimate of when things will occur. Few projects, if any, deliver exactly to plan. However, the plan helps you understand the consequences of any changes to task completion dates or cost changes. That way you can take back control, take actions to get back on track, or at least manage the ramifications of any delays.
The best approach to planning is to map out all the tasks in the sequence they have to be completed in with minimal overlap or parallel activities. If the end date is acceptable that’s great – go for it. If the end date is too far away, start to look at what activities can be done in parallel. Consider whether you have the resources (time, money and people) to do the activities in parallel. The more activities that are going on at once, the more management and control will be needed to ensure everything gets delivered to the right quality. I have seen far too many projects planned to hit a fixed end date, only for the date to be missed along with the revised date and the second revised date. Sorting out the mess of missed deadlines often takes as long as the project itself.
Every project should have some contingency built in, both in terms of time and money. There is no point in having an extra £1,000 contingency fund to spend on your website if the developer can’t fit the work in within the required timeframe. If you don’t need to use the contingency, you will save money and/or your project t can go live earlier.
The quality triangle
Every project has a scope, costs to deliver and a timeframe for delivery. These dimensions form the sides of the quality triangle. Quality is the area of the triangle. The triangle with the largest area for any given total circumference is an equilateral triangle i.e. all sides of equal length. To maximise the quality of your projects outcomes you need to get the scope, costs and timeframe in balance. Try to deliver too much with limited costs and time, then quality will suffer. Likewise, lack of time will squeeze costs and the amount that can be delivered.
A successful project is a balancing act.
For small projects the disciplines described above should see you safely through to delivery. If you are running bigger projects you might want to consider employing a project delivery methodology. This is a structured way of breaking the project down into a series of building blocks. The most common or traditional methodology is called the waterfall approach. It comprises the following stages completed in sequence:
• Definition – describe the project and assess its feasibility
• Design – design the solution
• Build – build the solution
• Implementation – put the project outcomes live
• Refine and maintain – tweak the solution whilst in use
A more recent approach which you may have heard of is agile project management or the iterative methodology. This is where a series of mini iterations of the main elements of the waterfall methodology are implemented in short bursts, often called time boxes. Each iteration creates a delivered solution building on what was delivered in the previous iteration. This can work well for certain types of larger project but doesn’t necessarily work for all.
Running projects for clients
If you run projects for clients as part of your business there are a few extra disciplines to add in. A defined methodology is essential and should be documented in any proposal or work order that commissions you to deliver the project. You should also set out how you are going to monitor and report progress on the project with a pre-agreed progress report format. Finally you should have a change control process so that if the client wants to change the scope or requirements there is an agreed process for assessing the impact of the changes and getting approval for any changes to costs and timescales.
Starting to tackle challenges in your business as projects might seem a little daunting at first. As with all aspects of business, it’s even harder if you are doing this alone and in isolation. That’s where a business community like the Guildford Hub can help. We provide a supportive, collaborative environment to educate and inspire businesses to achieve more. Why not come along on a Monday morning and see what I mean. Your first visit is free. Book here: https://businesshubs.org/guildford/eventbrite-event/