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Is my Business Too Small for Project Management?
By Cheryl McNeil

You may be thinking that your business is just too small for BIG Project Management techniques, but that is simply not the case. Don’t let all of the fancy terms like Network diagram, Gantt chart, and Work Breakdown Structure scare you. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to use Microsoft Project or Primavera or any other PM software application out there…you don’t need it.

Project Management is about organizing your data for a specific project and updating it as the project progresses. You can use a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet if you like, as long as you have something documented for your project, you are contributing to the success of that project.

Let’s review the definition of a project…a project has a beginning and an end date with defined resources. So if you have a project that must start tomorrow and end by next Friday with a set budget of $1000 and 2 contractors working on it…You have a project! And you can manage it effectively by starting with a pen and paper. Not convinced yet? Okay, let’s review how we can accomplish this…

First you have to determine how many working days you have to complete the project, minus Holidays, Weekends (unless you are a workaholic like me), and scheduled Vacations. So get your calendars out and start counting. Next, jot that number down for future use.

Now to breakdown the tasks. You can easily create a Work Breakdown Structure because it is nothing more than a highly glorified detailed outline. Level 0 is the main project goal, Level 1 is the first task, then you can add sub-tasks underneath it and move onto adding your next level(s). For example, here would be a sample WBS for making French toast. *my personal favorite* 

Level 0 Make French toast

Level 1 Gather ingredients (or materials)

(it is okay to list ingredients underneath level) ie spatula, pan, eggs, bread, cinnamon, etc…

Level 2 Preparations
Preheat pan
Add butter to pan
Beat egg into bowl with cinnamon

Level 3 Cook 
Dip bread in egg mixture on both sides
Add bread to pan
Flip when one side is brown
Remove when other side is brown

Level 4 Clean Up
Wash pan and spatula
Rinse dishes and put in dishwasher
Put away ingredients
Clean table

I opted to not include the task of Eating, although it was tempting. ;-)

So now you have your tasks broken down in levels with sub-tasks, now you simply assign them. Next to each task put a person’s name, one of your resources. Then have them estimate how many hours, days or even minutes it will take to complete each task. Always involve your staff in this process.

Now you are ready to do some basic calculations. Add up the hours (or whatever unit of measure you used) for each resource and multiple that by their pay rate and Voila! You have a great beginning cost analysis for your project.

The next step would be to add in the cost of materials, expenses and such and add that to the beginning cost analysis figures and subtract from your total budget. Are you under or over budget? If under, Good for YOU! If over, you have to go back to your outline and see where you can cut down on the time for some of the tasks, or perhaps skimp a little on cheaper materials. Of better yet, what tasks can be done simultaneously! Your absolute last resort is to cut pay rates. You need your resources happy and productive. :-D

Once you have the numbers you want, take all of this information and plug it into a Word document with a table or bulleted list, or Excel with rows and columns.

Here are some tips:

• Use cells in a table or cells in a spreadsheet to plot by day, week or task

• Use excel Sum button for totaling columns and rows with 1 click

• Highlight or Shade in color critical tasks that must be completed on time

Keeping it Simple is the key for Small Businesses such as myself, but believe me you are using the basic concepts of Project Management and you CAN be successful with it.

Cheryl McNeil, the owner of Graphik Connexions, started her business back in 1996, as one of the first women in NJ in the field of Technological Instructional Design. With a Masters degree in Project Management and more than 10 years of training and instructional design under her belt, she is skilled at course curriculum writing, Soft Skills and Technical training, ELearning design and development, PowerPoint presentations, and technical writing.

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