Project Managers that are new to project management may look at some of their more senior counterparts with a sense of curiosity and respect.
How did they end up in such a situation where they can handle any type of issue that is thrown their way?
How is it that they can remain calm under fire, know their facts, and always seem to pull out of situations that could be detrimental to their project?
One thing you can be sure of is that they did not start out this way. Becoming an outstanding project manager is an evolutionary journey that begins by taking baby steps and culminating in large, meaningful strides.
The following is a typical path a new project manager will go through.
Step 1 – A Simple “To-Do” List
A new project manager that is just starting out may be assigned a mini-project or part of a bigger project to accomplish.
The new project manager may stick their foot into the project management space by using a simple To-Do List.
This list consists of the tasks that must be done on the project and can be updated at the end of each day. This concise list doesn’t have to be perfect, neat, or even orderly.
It’s just the new project manager’s way of keeping up with the handful of activities that need to be completed.
Yet, this approach has limitations when it comes to project management development.
- First, when you start getting beyond 7- 10 activities it’s hard to keep this list updated and the process can quickly start to break down.
- Second, it’s not something that can be easily shared with the team without becoming taxing on your time
In short, a new project manager will begin looking for the next step in managing a project.
Step 2 – A Spreadsheet
The next step in the project management development life-cycle is to move the To-Do list to a spreadsheet.
This is a good move for many reasons.
- It is much easier to keep up with an update.
- You now can add a few more columns to the plan, such as Due Date, Person Responsible, Status, and Activity Notes.
- A spreadsheet enables you to sort and filter information; who is responsible; which activities are behind and/or limit information to only those items that are not complete.
- More flexibility and it can be utilized to put together basic reports that show the progress of your project.
Yet, there’s something missing in your quest for an understanding of project progress, the team’s work status, financial updates, and others.
Step 3 – Project Management Software
The To-Do List and Spreadsheet worked well up to a point, but they are not scalable and can’t handle the demands that larger projects put on a project manager.
You now need to understand and manage dependencies, and critical paths, and create what-if scenarios based on adding or removing more resources or changing the project scope.
This is when your project management development transitions to Project Management software. The flexibility of project management software allows you to:-
- Set your project management up in phases
- Track actual versus estimated progress
- Provide meaningful and relevant reports
- Get much more done in much less time
Still, as helpful as this resource is you still realize there is something missing when it comes to project management development.
You are still the sole owner of the project management and need to keep everyone informed as to where things stand.
You need to be able to have your team members access and update the project management on an as-needed basis.
You need to collaborate on projects and teams.
Step 4 – Take it Online
Your next step as it relates to project management software is to take the next level, i.e., project management online or to some type of shared environment.
This can be done via an enterprise solution with the project management software you are using or via various project planning software designed to work exclusively online.
Taking your project online is extremely beneficial for many reasons.
- First, it allows others to review the plan on their schedule. They no longer need to wait for a weekly meeting or get in touch with you as the project manager to get an idea of what is next or where things stand.
- Second, it allows team members to update their tasks in real-time. Once they complete an activity they can mark it as done (or the percentage complete) and this will automatically update the plan, your reports, and most likely kick off emails to those who need to know that this task is done.
Yet even with all the features and benefits, you are enjoying, there’s still something missing.
Step 5 – A Central Repository of Information
The final step toward project management development is to provide a central repository of information for everyone to access.
We are no longer just talking about the project schedule, but all the supporting documentation such as risk registers, communication plans, technical and functional specification documents, and similar documentation that is needed to keep things moving along.
Why is this so important? The main reason is version control. There could be dozens of documents that are associated with any given project.
Each with any number of version updates along the project management path.
Reliance on any single outdated document can have painful and costly consequences for the project.
For example, a certain deliverable could have been taken out of the project on version 5 of the project management, but certain team members are still working on that deliverable because it is included in version 4.
They didn’t know there was an updated plan and kept moving forward based on the previous understanding.
If you asked any project manager how they started out in their career, you probably would not hear them start with Step 5.
Just like you, they may have started with a pen and pad of paper and a simple To-Do list.
The trick is to select the right project management tool/software which can be commensurate with the degree of complexity of the project.
This tool should be such that you don’t have to use different tools and ways to run steps 1-5, rather it should be able to incorporate all of them in the same tool.
This will really save a lot of time and effort and deliverables will be faster and of better quality.