Written by: Maria at Unito.io
Whether you are new to a project management position, or have been tasked with managing a project without formal training, it’s not a far stretch to say that you’re in for a bumpy yet interesting ride. Managing a project is never easy, however you can easily set yourself up for success and minimize issues by reading this easy guide.
The best way to prepare yourself for managing your project, is to familiarize yourself with the phases of project management. Once you are comfortable with the phases, execute them accordingly. This guide will walk you through the basics and key steps you need to follow. For more details, be sure to browse Unito’s detailed project management manual, where you’ll find 300+ top resources from around the web, on how to run various kinds of projects.
Let’s get started!
Define the Scope of the Project
The first stage of the project is all about determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, features, functions, tasks, deadlines, and costs. This step involves defining the problem that the project must solve. It’s often useful to perform a root cause analysis to determine the problem that needs solving.
Once you’ve defined what needs to be solved, the next step is to scope a solution. This stage is about defining the product and process requirements. For example, what are the functions and features you need to build, do they need to adhere to specific branding requirements, or how will clients interact with the product? Meet with your team and project stakeholders to discuss what needs to be delivered and the work that needs to be done. This needs to be done as early as possible to avoid future issues in scheduling, costs, or project risks. Create a project charter, and prioritize deliverables.
Along with defining what is in the scope, define what is out-of-scope as well. It is wise to document this, to ensure your team doesn’t spend time on something there is no budget for.
Once you’ve aligned the team and explained the project and goals, set timelines and due dates for deliverables for the various stages of the project. Review these timelines with your team and stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Now that you’ve decided and informed your team what needs to be done, it’s time to choose a method to manage your project’s delivery. Decide if you prefer to work with agile, kanban, scrum, or waterfall methods, and make sure your team is on board with which method is used. For example, daily standups and scrums are a great way of ensuring your team stays on track and up-to-date with each other’s work.
Before your team can start working on their deliverables, you must break down the large scope of work into smaller, manageable tasks. You can create a separate task for each deliverable, or set of deliverables. This way, each task can be marked compete and the task list reduced as the team moves through the project. This lets your team keep track of where the project is currently at. It also lets your team delegate tasks amongst themselves, and clearly communicate who needs to complete what. Alternatively, you may choose to break tasks into specific timeframes. For example, one task per day, week, or month. This is useful if your project’s tasks are repetitive, or have a shelf-life.
Managing project delivery also involves managing stakeholder communication channels and your team’s accountability. Consider using the RACI matrix to define and document project roles and responsibilities, clarify who is responsible for what, clarify who needs to be consulted, and document who must be kept informed at every step of the project. Having this information documented and available for your team to refer to can derail potential project risks. However some degree of project risks are inevitable, which is why it is important to learn how to mitigate them if they occur. If you sense your project is failing, be sure to read up on how to pivot a project.
Launch the Project
Once your project is complete, it’s time for you to launch and maintain the product, feature, or service you were working on. It’s always good to create a checklist of steps your team will need to take during the launch, such as preparing messaging and notifying internal teams. This way, everyone will know what to expect, and be sure that work won’t slip through the cracks. The checklist may include:
- Collecting insight
- Having a launch kick-off meeting
- Writing and finalizing positioning
- Arranging customer references
- Writing a press release
- Writing content, designing, and publishing marketing initiatives
- Creating hype around the launch
- Planning a social media launch
- Announcing the launch internally
- And finally, make a plan for how to recover in case of launch failure
After you clarified the launch agenda, be sure to set up clear launch communication processes. This involves having regular short stand-up check-ins or recurring meetings with your whole team. Here at Eylean we find that keeping communication centralized via a work management tool works best. It’s also important to provide regular status updates to keep everyone in the loop on what is completed, what needs to be done, and what is at risk. This will help your team and stakeholders prioritize their work and ensure the launch is on time.
If stakeholders and other approvers aren’t given enough decision-making context, launches can become delayed or derailed entirely. For this reason, it’s wise to add extra time for the approval process timelines. It helps to outline the approval process before it begins. Identify which steps will require approval and set aside enough time for getting sign-off on them. Likewise, identify who needs to approve which steps.
Post-Mortem and Wrapping up the Project
Once the project and launch are complete, it’s useful to have a retrospective meeting with your team to look back at your project’s achievements, learn from its mistakes, and strengthen team relationships. Identify key issues you want to tackle in the retrospective, and discuss ways to work better together on the next project. Agree on actionable steps your team will take in the future. Consider documenting lessons learned in a template. This will help ensure they are applied in the next project. Don’t forget to celebrate successes and congratulate your team for what they did well.
Next, measure the success of your project. This can be done via user surveys. You may also want to ensure all project files are organized, to ensure anyone else who needs access to the source elements you worked on, can find them.
And finally, don’t forget to congratulate yourself for making it through the process and coming out on top. Ready to start your next project? Consider these tips for coming up with great project ideas.
Maria is a marketing specialist at Unito. Unito is an app from Montreal Canada, that improves communication and collaboration across teams. The app allows teams to connect projects within or across multiple project management tools, and filter which information to share with each other.