What Are the Top 7 Project Management Best Practices

What are the top 7 Project Management Best Practices

Project Managers are asked to watch out for the project management best practices and adopt them continuously. There are always better ways of doing things and ones that worked yesterday may turn irrelevant today.

The constant pressure to complete project after project often leaves very little scope for project managers to synthesize the learnings from past projects.

And also, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the latest trends, techniques and tips on project management as you are shuffling across multiple projects.

We have come up with some of the most impactful project management tips to get you started.

It is indeed difficult to make a list like this when you are overwhelmed with options and there is so much to say.

However, we picked the ones that proved most helpful to us, our customers and our customers’ customers.

Get your Project Requirements Approved

Yes! Exactly! Sounds cliché, but one cannot stress enough on the significance of this practice.

Time and again project managers and team overlook the requirements or miss out on important aspects and go straight to execution.

PMI has cautioned rightly by focusing significantly on the planning and initiation phases.

As a project manager, plan to deploy as many hours as needed to get your project requirements frozen and approved.

What are some quick tips?

  • Identify the key stakeholders at the very initial stages of the project.
  • Conduct multiple stakeholder interviews and meet-ups to get to the crux of their needs & goals.
  • Document the requirements, assumptions and risks if identified.
  • Ensure the assumptions and risks are well communicated and accepted by the stakeholder.
  • Review the requirements with the teams, note their questions and clarify with the stakeholder.
  • Make the final updates, corrections & get the requirements signed-off from the sponsors and stakeholders.

Estimate with facts not guesswork

Project estimation has always been an uphill task for project and program managers alike.

First off, they are dependent on one or multiple subject matter experts to get the estimates.

Second, estimates at best are carved out of “expert judgement”. Now this is ok when you are starting up with your first few projects

But not at all advisable when your business is growing.

Disadvantages: You may be over or under billing your clients. Not a good thing at all. And then all your resource allocation and planning goes for a toss impacting your pipeline.

How best can I make project estimations?

  • Maintain a central project plan repository from Day1 of your first projects.
  • Categorize your projects in a meaningful manner.
  • Refer to past but similar projects to see the estimates vs actual spent hours.
  • Make a robust work breakdown structure for each of your projects.
  • Never depend on the so called “high level estimation”.
  • Note variations between past and new project estimation.
  • Increase your accuracy over time.

Define Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Timelines

Breaking down your projects into meaningful and manageable smaller chunks is a must!

Task breakdown structure simplifies your overall project plan and is helpful in establishing proper task sequence, dependencies, timelines and allocation.

The key benefits are – your team stays focused with greater clarity on the overall project execution.

How do I get to my WBS and project timelines?

  • Break your project in to relevant task groups or milestones. Basically a set of associated tasks of a specific module, phase or feature clubbed together
  • Define tasks, subtasks, sub-subtasks, checklists with proper due dates and estimated hours.
  • Get your Gantt Chart plotted for clarity on the overall project schedule for the entire team.
  • Use task linking, task dependencies where needed so that the team is clear on all aspects of associated tasks.
  • Note that, establishing meaningful association between tasks of the project help reduce confusion & prevent expensive mistakes (rework).
  • End to end task management is key to driving project to successful completion.

Task Management

Most Important Benefit (MIB):  All significant dates, deliverables and project milestones become prominent with all stakeholders updated on what to expect and when.

Project management is as much about execution, collaboration and communication as it is about planning.

Make the team aware of their roles and responsibilities

Things get messy once start with the project execution.

A very simple adage drives the point home – “Too many cooks, spoil the broth”.

Imagine everyone works on the same tasks, where would the project be headed – its doomsday!

So, as a project manager what does that tell you?

Assign Role

How should you define the project team’s roles and responsibilities?

A project is bound to include resources from multi-departments and cross functional teams. So you will be well placed if you:

  • Establish well-defined processes around key project activities – e.g. procurement, resource planning, HR, payroll, training, dev etc.
  • Define the teams well in advance with clear matrix reporting where applicable.
  • The teams must know who their next logical focal or escalation matrix is.
  • Project members must be aware of each other’s skills and roles in the project.
  • Hold the project kick-off meeting with ample time for Q&A and team face time.
  • Publicize the RACI matrix.
  • All relevant contact info must be accessible and available to all project personnel.

Align your people and processes

Having a streamlined project management process prevents a lot of execution chaos.

When you have multiple teams working on various modules at different stages of the project, keeping the overall flow intact is a messy affair.

Hence, defining set established processes for various project activities has proven very helpful.

Case in point, templatizing and setting a workflow for your project execution.

Project Templates

How do I align project team with the established processes?

  • First off, keep track of all your past project plans and task breakdowns.
  • Rinse and improvise them over time.
  • Recreate the defined task status flows in your project management software.
  • Look for project template capability to get your task breakdown defined.

The benefit with this approach is that

  • Your teams do not have to rethink about the next steps or tasks.
  • Project templates help you get the time tested task breakdowns automated.
  • No one misses a steps due to human error or omission.
  • The logical flow gets solidified leaving no scope for confusion.
  • Status workflows ensure greater clarity on the tasks life cycle.
  • Thus all know how the tasks would flow from start to end.

Stick to your Change Management Process

In other words, you are setting up a logical barrier for unwanted scope creep and helps reduce it to a great extent.

Change management must be a part of your agreed project plan.

Be very precise and layout the process in a detailed manner so that all stakeholders have the same understanding.

 What should my Change Management process include?

  • Request types that will be treated as a scope change. (scope changes, enhancements, new requests)
  • How and when will such requests be received, reviewed & approved.
  • The impact analysis of the requested changes and approval on scope change, deadlines & costs.
  • Timelines of how these requests would be implemented

Having a robust change management process, generates significant awareness around the ongoing project and increase engagement too.

Basically, the stakeholders would be careful in making hasty requests and would also discourage their internal teams from making such requests.

Secondly, you are able to keep the stakeholders focus on the project goal. You are able to have meaningful discussions triggered by questions –

  • Is this request a good to have or must have?
  • Does the project benefit from the requested change?
  • Is the request in direct alignment with the desired strategic objectives?

Meet, Review and Celebrate Milestones

By far this project management practice has proven to be highly effective.

For a very simple reason that, regrouping allows for teams to look forward; together!

And then, there are lessons learnt that are shared across and small wins are celebrated.

Thus, reinforcing positive sentiment in the team, igniting constructive competition within the team and keeping them focused on the goal.

Set a proper calendar for team meet-ups, make them a little less formal & share ideas or improvisations that led to breakthroughs in the project. Doesn’t matter how small or big.

Also, bake in slots for some impromptu sessions to celebrate success when required.

Your team will definitely thank you and you can thank yourselves later J

Most importantly, stick to this schedule Make them a ritual, something that the team looks forward to.

And it’s a wrap!

The above list is one shared from experience and ones that proved to be widely successful and popular in the long run.

You can have tons of practices that over a period deliver results. Keep an open mind to ideas and inputs from the team.

Understand how someone performs certain tasks in a specific manner.

And before you know you will have a solid list to start with and build on top of it one project at a time.

Lastly, an all-in-one project, time, task, resource and end to end collaboration platform is crucial to automating your processes, tracking the best practices & measuring desired results.

What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

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