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A Project Manager's New Year Resolutions

Or how we are going to make 2018 the best year yet.

We’ve now entered the third month of the new year. By now, you’ve hopefully recovered from the holiday frenzy as well as the year’s kick-off and are back on track, with a positive outlook on how to make the best out of the coming year.

Do you manage events, work in construction, marketing, or consulting? Are you involved in a non-profit organization or any sort of project-based business? Now is the time to make sure you’re all set to maximize productivity and keep your project stakeholders happy.

In order to achieve that, we’re going to focus on 3 primary goals:

  1. Efficiently use data in your decision-making 
  2. Effectively lead your team to success 
  3. Keep everyone on board through regular communication

In this post, we’re going to explore how, by identifying and implementing the right project management tools, you can achieve all three goals with little to no effort by focusing on the things that matter most.

1. Efficiently use data in your decision-making

One of the most time-consuming tasks that a project-manager is bound to do is the collection, and analysis of project data. This entails an absurd amount of time spent sending and receiving email, preparing and decrypting spreadsheets, and urging team-members for updates and reports. Email and spreadsheets are quite possibly the worst way to manage projects, but we still rely on them because they’re convenient. What we sometimes fail to notice is that sending or receiving a message is not the same as actually acting on it.

This year, one primary objective should be to stop running after data in order to spend more time managing your project and less time managing your mailbox, searching for reports, responding to emergencies, and asking for status updates on project tasks.

The key is to create a system using the appropriate project management tools in order to have real-time access to relevant data as it happens. Constant monitoring allows you to:

  • Identify and resolve blockers instantly 
  • Know where you can cut costs 
  • Identify bottlenecks or critical budgets early 
  • And face potentially problematic situations early on, before they become real threats or hindrances.

With the right systems in place, you can also learn from other projects. Find a past project that was similar in type or scope to the current one, and use it as a baseline. Some teams turn to their project management tool to mine data and information on how much time and money went into certain projects and identify where resources can added or subtracted.

2. Effectively lead your team to success

You’ve probably already read and heard so much about the difference between being a manager and a leader, so we don’t really need to go into that again. The point being; in addition to being rational and analytical, you also need to be creative, empathetic, and able to connect with the team and stakeholders.

We all know, however, how time consuming it is just to keep control of a project’s two main pillars: scope and budget. To be a leader though, you have to operate beyond the day-to-day tasks in order to focus on the project’s strategy and be there for the team.

Luckily, with today’s tools, not much of a project manager’s time has to be spent following up on each and every minor detail. Project management apps such as Basecamp and Trello, collaboration tools such as Slack and project-based budget management solutions such as Jellyfish, allow you to automate as well as delegate and collaboratively manage most of a project’s tasks and budget. This will free up your time to focus on:

  • Analyzing relevant data 
  • Making the right data-driven decisions 
  • And ensuring every one of your team members have what they need in order to achieve success.

Instead of managing tasks and money, you will finally be able to lead your team to achieve the desired project goals.

3. Keep everyone on board through regular communication

As you very well know, most projects involve several stakeholders. Those include the project manager (you!), your team, other colleagues or teams in your company or organization, and superiors/managers you may need to report to. Some projects quite often also have advisors, consultants, as well as people/institutions funding the project or benefiting from its services (such as clients, investors, donors, or other financing institutions).

It is said that a good project manager spends around 80% of their time communicating with the project’s various stakeholders, and the remainder of their time actually managing the project. This much is true: fostering communication between stakeholders and your team should be a constant goal throughout the project.

Traditionally we were used to rely on sitrep meetings and periodic reports shared by email. In today’s fast-paced world and with today’s tools, real-time information sharing and on-the-spot decision making are becoming the norm. You don’t have to wait for meetings to share project progress or waste time preparing and sending out reports every now and then, only to receive more questions and comments and need to modify, update, and send again!

Leave meetings and reports to discuss and follow up on important decisions, and make sure the rest of the information is communicated in real time using the tools we mentioned above. Every single project stakeholder will have access to the project updates they need as they happen, and when needed, will ask for a call or meeting to solve an actual problem. Where necessary, daily huddles or standups will make sure no blocking questions are left unanswered and the project keeps moving forward smoothly.

Be transparent. Keep your team informed of the evolving budget forecast. Communicate what’s expected of them to stay on point and within budget. The more your team and stakeholders are involved, the more they start watching how they designate hours and other costs to your ​project, and understand any requests to change directions if they come up.

The project scope and budget must become a living part of your projects, and they must be something you review with your team and stakeholders on a regular basis. Project managers who carefully watch budgets throughout the lives of their projects and keep stakeholders and management happy will experience greater project and career success.

Let us know what you think!