Project Management for Dummies : 5 Basics before you start

How to manage projects
When you are looking at managing a project there are some key aspects you need to manage.  The key aspects of a project are initiation, schedule,  stakeholder management,  change management, risk and issues  and budget. 

Project Initiation

It is important that you initiate the project well.   One of the ways of doing it is to capture all the key parameters which we will be discussing in this article and package it into a document. The document then can be sent to the senior management and key stakeholders for sign-off.  Some of the key checkpoints for initiation are below.

     - Do you know  the scope of the project?
     - Do you know who will be working on the project team?
     - Do you know who will be the key stakeholders?
     - Are the requirements are defined?

Project Schedule

If you are able to answer yes to the above questions then you should proceed with estimating the work involved. Generally, the effort can be estimated in days or hours by the team who will do the task. My preference is to have the estimates in days as it makes the scheduling easy.

You should then break down the effort into smaller chunks of work. I would recommend you have small chunks or units of work around 3 – 5 days each.  Breaking it down into smaller components will help you in tracking.   It will also avoid situations where you come to know after 2 months that a task is not complete.

After you have the breakup of tasks you need to put them into a schedule. You can use tools like MS Project, MS Excel or any tool of your choice. Basically, you need to assign tasks against resources  and map the duration of task. You should be able to add dependencies between tasks. Putting a schedule together will give you an idea of when the project is likely to get over.

Please see Creating Project Schedule using Microsoft Project article to understand how you can create a simple project plan.

Risks and Issues

The next key aspect is managing risk and issues.  Every project will have its own risks and issues. It is important that as a project manager you keep track of risks and issues.  Different organizations keep track of risks and issues differently using various tools.

At a minimum you should have a spread sheet or document which has list of issues and risks with the following columns or attributes – sequence number, name, severity (catastrophic, high, medium, low), owner,  date identified, mitigation in place. Please my article Managing project risks and issues for a detailed step-by-step guide for managing risks and issues.

Change Management

Change Management is a very crucial part of any project and is often overlooked within IT projects.  The change management is an activity which analyses the impact of a given change on the organization and how to handle the change.  You will need an change management plan if you answer yes to any of the below questions –

     - Is the change you are managing affect the way people do their work?
     - Will people lose their jobs or get additional responsibilities/
     - Will any organization processes change?
     - Does everyone in the organization need to know what the project is about?
     - Do you think other people in the organization will accept your project without resistance?
Please see my article on Project Change Management Process for a detailed step-by-step guide. 

Budget Management

The last and the most important aspect is budgeting a project. Different organizations have different way of looking at budgets.  The bottom line is the amount of money you spend on the project which can be human resources,  hardware, software and infrastructure.

The bulk of the cost is always the human resources. Depending on the role and the organization standards I have seen two ways of budgeting a project – First, the cost of the resources is considered per day and then multiple with the number of days they are on the project.  Second, some of the organizations mostly servicing companies use hourly calculation as they have to charge their clients.

Stakeholder management is activity which you will end up doing through the project.  One of the key things is to keep the stakeholders updated throughout the journey as they are not directly involved in the project.

It is always a good idea to have daily a stand-up meeting with the project team for 15 mins to check the status.  It can be done anywhere – in the kitchen, pantry or even the hallway.

I hope I have given you the basic tools to kick start your project management experience. Please contact me if you need additional help.