Project management skills are essential in any endeavor, from opening an ice cream shop and renovating a house to launching a Falcon rocket. Not surprisingly, many business topics at international conferences and meetings often include the importance of project management. Our article discusses the intricacies of project management and provides tips to help you complete any project successfully.
How to control the progress of a project?
Control over project implementation compares planned terms and budgets with actual ones on different stages of the project. If before the quality control of the project was reduced to filling hundreds of papers (some of which were lost, of course), today you can control the implementation of the project with the help of various project management systems. The choice of system depends on your personal preferences.
Project control comes down to systematization, generating reports for any period, tracking project costs at different stages of its implementation. And all this in one system.
What are project success criteria?
Project success criteria are a set of qualitative and quantitative indicators formulated at the planning stage, allowing you to judge the project’s success. They should be clearly identified, evaluated, and thought through. The indicators of project success are:
- It’s quality.
- Satisfying or exceeding the customer’s expectations.
- The project’s completion following the established deadlines.
- The allocated budget.
Project milestones are a set of specific milestones that are defined at the project planning stage and for which a schedule is created and visualized (results are linked to their due dates). The description of the milestones contains information about the due dates of the planned tasks and what will be the result of their accomplishment. When the milestones are reached, the actual performance (at the time the milestone is reached) is compared with the planned performance.
Milestones are defined at the project planning stage, after which a schedule of milestones is drawn up (results are linked to the dates of their achievement), visualized, and regularly monitored. Defining the milestones includes:
- Defining the project products.
- Assigning and agreeing on a reasonable deadline for their achievement.
- Assigning a responsible person who can confirm the result and its compliance with the declared quality — someone who can independently monitor the implementation of the milestones and control rules.
Project Task Scheduling. Why split the project into separate tasks
Once a project and its information are entered into the project management service, the next step is to split the project into separate tasks. For each individual task, you can specify the title, folder (select the team to which the task belongs), assignee, status and labels, due date, planned expenditures, and team.
The control of employees’ tasks will be carried out with the help of tools that in project management improve the efficiency of the entire team, each individual participant, and lead to the successful implementation of the entire project.
How to control the execution of tasks
For each task, there is initial data, which can change during the work process. For example, twenty hours were planned for the task, but in fact, it took thirty.
Comparing the plan and the fact allows you to argue to the client why the costs of a particular task should be adjusted.
It is better to entrust one employee to monitor the implementation of tasks. It could be the task manager, for example.
Tools for tracking project implementation and tasks
The process of implementing a project management system can be difficult for a team (everything new is often painfully perceived), so it is important to explain why this or that tool is important to the overall result of the team and the effectiveness of each individual participant.
You can test the project management service yourself and then help the team adapt to the new project and task management rules. You can also assign a person to be responsible for training the team.
What are the most popular and effective tools for tracking the project progress?
A timer can be used for each individual task. If more than one person is working on a task, the timers are summed at the end of the task, but each participant sees their own data and can use it in the report.
The timer makes it possible to control the actual time spent on the task.
The actual cost of time becomes clear, and if it differs from the plan, it can be shown to the manager or the client to make changes in the planned costs.
The question “how to control the time?” is one of the most frequent. Supervisors, project managers, clients want to control time on the project and individual tasks. Controlling the time spent eliminates mistakes that can cost money, reputation, and the final result.
All tasks for which a deadline was specified at creation will be displayed on the calendar. But these are not all the benefits of the calendar within the project management system.
A calendar can also help you to:
- see the start and deadline dates for employee vacations/sick leaves;
- filter tasks by tags, statuses, and priority;
- filter tasks by the entered data, attached files.
This is a visualization board that shows all tasks at different stages of completion. The stage of execution is the status. That is, in order for a task to move through Kanban, it is important to specify a status for it.
The advantage of Kanban as a visual tool for controlling the implementation of tasks is the ability to drag a task from one stage to another. Visually, Kanban looks like individual columns (they used to be colored stickers on the physical board). Each column corresponds to a specific status.
The Gantt Chart displays projects, tasks, and subtasks. On the Gantt Chart, you can change the deadline for a task, for example, without going to edit it.
The Gantt Chart is a project roadmap on which the links between tasks, critical points, start and finish dates of the task are tracked.
Controlling the execution of tasks with the help of the Gantt Chart is based on the visual color indication of deadlines, creating links between tasks. For example, if the deadline for a task is delayed, this will be displayed on the Gantt Chart with a colored indicator.
How to associate tasks with each other on a Gantt Chart? You can associate the finish date of one task with the start date of another if they are linked, and the result of the second depends on the successful completion of the first.
In the project management system, you can generate and upload reports for any period and by the parameters you need. That is, now the reports will not be closed at the end of the month, where approximate data is taken as the basis. In the unloaded report for the day, week, month, year, or any manually selected period, the exact information on the tasks of the project will be displayed.
The variability of reports allows you to control project implementation and tasks flexibly. You can independently choose the report generation time and parameters. It is best to make a report for a small period for new projects: a day, a week. This way, you can correct the workflow in time and avoid mistakes that can cost money.
Things to consider when choosing a project management system
- Availability of tools for quantitative control (time and money)
- Presence of tools for visual control (Kanban, Calendar, Gantt Chart, Report)
- The functionality of the system must be understandable and easy to use for the whole team: from an accountant to a developer.
- The possibility of detailing data on projects and tasks (availability of filters)
How many types of controls does the project involve?
There are three types of control: pre-project, ongoing, and final. The pre-project control is carried out before the start of work. It is aimed at controlling all types of resources according to the requirements and limits set for them. Ongoing control is already carried out at the project implementation stage by comparing the results achieved with the established quality, time, budget, and resources. Final control takes place at the final stage of the project. Its purpose is an integral assessment of the project as a whole.
Tips for a project manager for successful project tracking
Discuss risks, obstacles, and problems
Be open with your team members and other people involved in the project: managers, owners, and sponsors. Discuss possible risks, obstacles, and problems as transparently as possible in advance and relay necessary information to all concerned. Remember that no one is more interested in the success of your project than you are.
Keep detailed records of the project
Keep track of the status of tasks, and don’t stop communicating. Keep detailed project documentation and keep all team members up-to-date on the latest news about your shared brainchild.
Listen to what others have to say, even if they may have to be rejected later
Be open to all interested parties. This doesn’t mean you should always be guided by the opinions expressed. However, when making a decision, you must consider the wishes of others. Listen to everyone, and then choose the best path.
Distribute responsibilities properly and set an example for others
Choose carefully the tasks you can delegate. Decide who you can delegate them to. Set an example. Work harder than anyone else on your team. Show respect and tact when dealing with others.
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