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Project Management: The Basics
By Michelle Symonds

A successful project manager will initiate a project by creating a plan right at the start of the project, which will save time, money and many problems.

The Aim of the Project

There are two things the project manager needs to know right at the outset. Firstly who they are working for, and secondly what the aims of the project are. The easiest way to achieve both is to communicate with the client, and find out exactly what they expect from the project, what their needs are and how much importance they put on each area. If there is more than one it is important to communicate with them all, as they may have differing views on the same item, and it’s important you know all viewpoints.

The Tasks Within the Project

As the plan progresses all the tasks must be organized in order of priority. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to do this manually or using one of the modern software programs, as long as you’re comfortable with it. What suits you will be the quickest and most efficient for yourself, just as others will have their own way of doing things.

You need to establish time limits for each task to enable you to monitor the progress. Contingencies for materials and workforce need sourcing, to make sure late deliveries or lack of labor does not bring the project to a halt.

The Schedule of the Project

At this stage you know:

  • Who the owners are
  • What the project is and the owners goals
  • Which tasks are a priority and which are non urgent
  • Which method you will use to complete the project plan
  • Deliveries of materials are arranged
  • A workforce is in place for when you need it

Now a schedule of the project needs preparing, incorporating time scales that have to be agreed with the project owners. If they place unrealistic timescales on the project it is important to be honest, you will need to talk about reducing the size of the project or increasing the time for completion. To have any meaningful discussion about timescale, you will need to be aware of:

  • The amount of time in hours or days needed to complete each task
  • The resources needed to carry out each task

You will then be able to suggest possible courses of action, such as:

  • A new deadline, delaying the project finish if necessary
  • Employ additional resources which will increase the project cost
  • Reduce the scope of the project

Having the project schedule will enable you to justify pursuing one of these options if the owners are not happy with your original timescale.

Running the Project

Before the project starts you need to be aware of any potential risks or problems you might encounter, to avoid making running the project a nightmare. Risk management is a fundamental aspect to good project management and is taught on all good project management courses. As is the importance of good communication with the stakeholders; let them know about any potential problems as they occur. Perfecting problem solving on projects is a key skill; tell clients of any unexpected budget costs or delays, they need to hear these problems from you, not someone else.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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