5 Ways to Improve Your Startup's Project Management
Don't be afraid to get picky about nailing down great processes.
Put together a team of brilliant designers, programmers, engineers, marketers and salespeople, and what do you get? Unless you add project management to the picture, you end up stressed out with missed deadlines, frustrating communication and mountains of duplicated effort.
When mismanaged projects turn into real products, the results can be disastrous. The recent caucus catastrophe at the Democratic primary in Iowa, for instance, traced back to a faulty app. A simple piece of technology that should have accelerated accurate reporting ended up creating 10 problems where only one existed before.
Better project management may not have saved Shadow's app, but the story remains the same for every launch of a bad product. Something goes wrong behind the scenes, no one knows exactly what's happening and the end results speak for themselves.
To facilitate better project management in your business, you need the right processes, policies and tools to help teams manage tasks and communicate with one another. Without smart collaboration tactics, all your brilliant plans will struggle to realize their potential.
But there are a few ways to improve your project management and avoid disasters.
1. Map out workflows in detail
You can't manage a project when you don't know the scope, responsible team members or desired outcome. Map out workflows to provide blueprints for how your projects should develop over time. Workflow-automation company Gravity Flow recommends starting with processes that have obvious bottlenecks or processes within your organization that are underperforming.
Maps can't guide people who don't read them, so follow documentation best practices after you establish your workflows. Create visual-heavy one-sheeters to guide users through processes. If possible, build workflows into your project-management software as templates so people can manage their work quickly and easily while letting others know the status of their tasks.
2. Identify and track project milestones
Clarizen, a work-management solution provider for enterprises, advises companies to track completion of major tasks within the workflow, moments of key decisions, initial delivery and completion of testing. Establish the important milestones for your projects ahead of time so you know when you're on track — and when something goes wrong.
In addition to the factors Clarizen recommends, keep an eye on your budget and data collection. You should know how much money you plan to spend on different parts of the project and how much data you expect to collect by certain points. The more you know ahead of time, the more easily you can identify issues and correct course before small problems turn into major challenges.
3. Get better tools that work for your processes
Every business needs a good project-management tool. Even if your team works well together, the day will come when two people argue over who should have done what and when. As your company grows, people will join and leave, and things that used to be understood will become lost to the past. Better to establish a project-management process now than to sow the seeds of inevitable disorder.
If you don't have a project-management tool or need a new one, look into something like Teamwork, a work-management and collaboration platform. Find a tool that allows you to track what projects you have in progress and keeps communication lines open for everyone involved. Collaboration is much easier when you can quickly and easily understand the context of each project with seamless communication.
4. Test, evaluate and adjust as you go
The best project-management practices and the best projects share a common characteristic: flexibility. Continually evaluate the efficacy of your project management tools and practices, and make adjustments when necessary.
Listen to your team members as they work on the front lines, and lean on them to keep your processes as streamlined as possible. Something that sounds reasonable to you may not work as well for them. Remember, they're the ones doing the job every day. If you're unsure of the best option between two choices, try an A/B test with two different groups to see which one sticks.
As you work with your team to improve collaboration and communication, don't be afraid to get picky about nailing down great processes. You can add and subtract bits and pieces later, but the core of your project-management strategy should remain consistent for years to come.
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