Tips for better project management
The scope of the project is on the verge of quadrupling. Unfortunately, some team members do not understand the problem because of a lack of expertise. And on top of that, communication with other departments goes wrong. All too often there are such nightmare projects in companies.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff from our American sister publication cio.com took a look at what IT managers can do to make their projects a success and how such monster projects can be avoided. Everything about project management on CIO.de
Some successful project managers have given valuable tips on how to deal with the challenges of project management and how to keep IT projects under control. One thing is clear: Even a capable team must be kept in check if the scope, time and costs are not to explode. And nothing works without communication: Even successful project managers simply cannot avoid weekly power meetings.
In a series of pictures we have put together 13 tips that will make your project run better. This will help you avoid common mistakes in project management.
- 1. The right project manager
Sounds banal, but it is often done wrong. "Hire the project manager who has the developers' respect and understands what they're doing," says Harry E. Keller, CEO of Smart Science Education Inc. "Nothing kills IT projects faster than bad management." Finding the ideal project manager is not easy, however: Many developers have hardly any management skills - and many managers have no idea about IT. But the search for a good project manager is worthwhile.
- 2. A good project manager needs a good team
A good project manager is nothing without a good team. "The CIO has to pick the right people for that too," says Ben Lichtenwalner, senior manager at Whirlpool Corporation. Without good employees, the project manager runs the risk of having to do everything himself. Also, be sure to select project staff based on quality, not availability. Far too often people are put on a project simply because they have nothing else to do and not because they are particularly suited to it. This way you are guaranteed to prevent the project from becoming a success.
- 3. Get to know your team's strengths and weaknesses
Not everyone on the team has the same skills. "The most important thing is to 'know your horses', as my father would say," says Tim Lynch, CEO of PsychosoftPC. "You have to know who can work without control, who needs to be encouraged and who needs to tighten the reins."
- 5. Set priorities
Prioritize and establish rules in case two important tasks overlap. "Multitasking kills productivity, so project managers should create an environment where the team can focus on a few tasks," said Sanjeev Gupta, CEO of Realization Technologies. The fewer parallel work streams, the better. Gupta also advises giving individual tasks different meanings and guidelines for dealing with them. This increases productivity significantly.
- 6. Actively monitor the project
Self-employed colleagues must also be monitored. "A project manager always needs to know who is working on what," says Albert Sarvis, project management planner at Harrisburg University. He also advises against relying on tools too much. Technology cannot replace regular, face-to-face meetings.
- 7. Use project management software
There are so many project management tools out there now, that's why: "Don't use email as a project management tool," says Kent Milholland, President of Neonexus. "Nobody can follow that." Changes to documents or appointments are much easier to follow with web-based solutions. That saves time, money and nerves.
- 8. A meeting every week
Another meeting? If you want to implement your project successfully: Yes. But keep it short and painless. "Schedule a mandatory meeting every week with everyone on the team where everyone shares a minute or two of what they did last week and what their plans are for the following week," said Grant M. Howe, R&D vice president at Sage Nonprofit Solutions. This connects the team and gives them a feeling of mutual success.
- 9. Change management
Of course, you cannot consider all eventualities before starting a project. Teams almost always have to be flexible and adapt their goals accordingly. But that too needs to be controlled. "Change management is essential to keep the project under control," says Jaimin Doshi, consultant at AppleTech Consultants. He advises that you also keep an eye on minor changes. "Even cosmetic improvements can lead to a lot of effort in the introduction and control phase," warns Doshi. Project managers should also keep an eye on how changes affect the schedule, costs and prioritization in order to avoid scope creep (see next page).
- 10. Prevent uncontrolled growth
The originally limited project scope can gradually and unnoticed grow into a huge mountain. "Scope creep is the number one cause of projects getting out of hand," observes Nick Coons, Hyperion Works technical director. So it is better to determine the exact scope beforehand and try to deviate from it as little as possible. Sometimes customers may have different wishes in the course of the project - and Scope Creep is on its way. "But don't be afraid to say that the additional effort is part of 'phase two' of the project. And of course it has its own budget," advises Coons.
- 11. Define intermediate goals
Before starting the project, set intermediate goals for each individual employee and celebrate them when they are achieved. "That helps to keep an eye on the progress of the project. In addition, with every intermediate goal achieved, you have the feeling that you have achieved something, not just at the end," says G. Karthik, project manager at Hexaware Technologies. A small celebration is just as important. Express praise when the intermediate goal has been achieved, for example at a coffee meeting. That strengthens the team spirit.
- 12. Are agile methods suitable for you?
Free time management, flexible reaction to the unexpected and more space for creativity - agile methods can make a project more efficient. "The agile methods work very well for us," says Andre Winter, Senior Engineering Project Manager at CA Technologies. "With this method, the team can adapt the projects to the requirements of the market. At the same time, we can remain true to the interests and values of our company." You have to decide for yourself whether agile procedures such as Scrum suit your project.
- 13. Keep an eye on the time
"Keep track of who is working on their part of the project and how much time," said Ken Leland III, vice president at Monmouth Telecom. In this way, project managers quickly notice when parts of the project are dragging on and they can deal better with the consequences.
- 4. Downsize the project
Does this sound like a paradox? Do not worry. Most projects grow on their own. And Patrick Clements, CEO of bigwebApps.com doesn't mean it literally: "We look at the overall scope of the project from the start to the finish line - and then we see if we can cut it in half." That is not all: "From this 50 percent we choose the three essential points that will lead the project to success," he says. They show the shortest route to the destination.
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