Project management uses strategic planning to complete a business project successfully. Project management guides your team’s activities is an easy way that allows you to manage projects with less stress, increasing their chance of success.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Project management helps small businesses complete projects more efficiently.
  • Following a project management strategy keeps projects on time and within budget.
  • There are five basic principles of project management. Using them will help you create an effective plan for your next project.
  • At the end of every project, assess your strategy to find ways to improve your processes.

What Is Project Management in a Small Business Context?

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Project management is a must-have element in large businesses that have an entire team dedicated to executing project tasks. Small businesses are less likely to implement project management tools and principles because they may not have the resources to hire a project manager or purchase a project management system.

Once you have your project management principles, procedure, and system in place, you can better guide your small internal processes, complex client projects, or your overall operations.

You’ll likely see an increase in your team’s effectiveness and a better experience for your customers.

What Are the Benefits of Project Management for Small Business?

  • You’ll stay on budget: A project management plan covers the project budget, expected expenses, and labor costs. By comparing actual work time and expenditures to your project plan, you’ll know right away if changes need to be made to stay on budget. This is especially important for small businesses working on tight budgets.
  • You’ll meet deadlines: Part of a project management strategy includes time management and deadlines. Every task is allotted a time frame for completion, review, and approval so you can ensure everything is ready in time for the final project deadline.
  • Improves team collaboration: With a plan in place, everyone knows what needs to be done and who’ll do it. They also understand who to reach out to if they have a question or run into a problem. This creates an ideal environment for collaborative work and effective communication.
  • You’ll gain valuable insights: The end of a project is an ideal opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your plan. You can use this information to improve your process for better execution of the next project. Improving your processes continually is an ideal way to build a more successful business.

How Does Project Management Work?

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Project management works by taking the deadline, budget, and deliverables or objectives of a project and working them into a comprehensive plan. The plan breaks down the different tasks that need to be completed to reach the project’s end goals. It also defines everyone’s roles and responsibilities, identifies potential obstacles, and creates a timeline to keep everyone on track for the final deadline.

What Are the Principles of Project Management?

Project management uses five basic principles to create effective strategies that will guide your team to success.

1. Identify Objectives

Clear objectives keep your team aligned on the project’s goals and allow you to measure its success. When identifying your goals, consider the entire process rather than the end goal or deliverable.

Imagine the project at hand is to update the layout of your store to improve the customer experience. The goal is to have a new store layout, but it takes many steps to get there. You’ll need to research consumer psychology to understand what changes to make, create a map for the new arrangement, and move the product section by section. Each of these steps should have well-defined objectives.

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Communicating the roles and responsibilities for projects is extremely important. If employees aren’t clear on who is responsible for what, tasks either won’t be completed, or you’ll have people duplicating efforts. Either scenario will derail your project quickly.

Your project has a much higher chance for success when everyone knows what they’re responsible for and who they should talk to about their tasks. Every project management strategy should include the tasks that need to be completed and details about which person or department is responsible for them. In addition, every task or stage of the project should have someone assigned as the go-to person for questions and approvals.

3. Manage Risk

Every project or plan has potential pitfalls. It could be anything from a client not providing timely approvals to a key collaborator getting sick. Identify the risks your project faces and have a backup plan to address them. If you already have a plan B, you’ll be able to navigate these types of obstacles without jeopardizing the success of your project.

4. Formalize the Plan

A structured plan is the heart of project management. It allows you to control and monitor the project as it progresses. With a formal strategy, you’ll know immediately if a problem arises, such as tasks not being completed on time. Without this in place to govern the timeline, procedures, and team responsibilities, you might miss minor hiccups that can lead to larger problems down the road.

Create a project strategy that takes the end goal and breaks it down into smaller tasks. For example, if your desired outcome is to launch an email marketing campaign, you can break this down into stages, such as brainstorming, content creation, distribution, and follow-up. Each stage should have its own project plan to guide it and ensure it fits with the overall project management strategy.

5. Project Review

Reviewing your project management plan and the project’s overall outcome allows you to see what worked well and what needs improvement. Assessment is a critical step and shouldn’t be skipped. Reviewing processes and making smart changes are key to improving your product, team, and business.

What Are the Best Project Management Tools for Small Businesses?

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Many excellent project management tools are available to help you create and maintain a project management strategy. Below are some of the most popular tools and an overview of their features.

  • Asana: Everyone works differently, and Asana caters to this by offering multiple ways for users to view and manage tasks. It also allows you to upload documents to work with directly in the platform.
  • Teamwork: With Teamwork, your team can track their billable hours and automate tasks to save time. You can also collaborate easily with external users, such as clients or contractors.
  • Taskworld: This platform offers up to 1TB of document storage, has a built-in chat feature for quick and easy communication with colleagues, and generates reports that help you manage project resources.
  • monday.com: This tool supports your project management with visual dashboards that allow you to see your project status at a glance, automate repetitive tasks, track costs, and communicate with team members.

How to Implement a Project Management Strategy

After you’ve followed the five principles of project management we covered earlier, you’ll have a solid strategy in place to guide your upcoming project. Putting that plan into practice relies on effective communication:

  • Orient your team with the plan: If you’re using a project management tool, start your implementation by orienting your team with this new resource. They’ll need to know how to view project details, submit documents, message colleagues, and view their assigned tasks.

If you aren’t using a project management tool, be sure to provide your team with a detailed and documented plan. Sharing this information verbally in a meeting or informally in an email isn’t an effective way to communicate the importance of the strategy and everyone’s role within it.

Create a spreadsheet or other organized method to share the project management plan with your employees. Discuss the plan to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. Without the benefit of a project management tool, you’ll need to check in individually with your workers to see how they’re progressing with their duties.

  • Add your first project: From there, add your first project to the system so your employees can get to work on their assignments. You’ll be able to monitor project progress through the project management system, so you can ensure the project is progressing according to plan.
  • Make adjustments as needed: As your team works through the project tasks, you may be faced with obstacles you didn’t anticipate. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your plan if this happens. Make the necessary updates and note the issue and solution. This is useful information that you can use in the final step of project management implementation.
  • Assess your project: When the project concludes, it’s time to assess how well the strategy worked. Did the project finish on time and within budget? Were there any stages of the project where productivity dipped?

You’ll be able to answer many of these questions yourself, but don’t forget to talk to your employees too. They can provide additional insights from a different perspective. For example, maybe they found it difficult to navigate the project management system or needed more details about the approval process. Use all this information to help you create an even better strategy for the next project.

Project management is a smart, cost-effective way for small businesses to improve their products or services as well as the customer experience. An actionable plan for every project increases your chances of success and provides repeated opportunities to assess and improve your processes.

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