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Best project management practices

by Cory Schmidt  |  April 5, 2017

4 min. read
A team is holding a meeting in front of a white board.

Project management is all about getting the project done right. Effective project managers apply their tools, techniques and expertise to meet all the requirements from start to finish. Implementing a system – like a digital asset management system – is an effort but we’re here to give you the best project management practices to ensure your next project is a success.

Best project management practices: Align stakeholder interests

When you start aligning stakeholder interests for a project, you need to ask who are the most relevant internal and external stakeholders for the project. Then look at your project objectives. Which are the most important and what is the perspective of each stakeholder group?

You’ll never manage to get all the project stakeholders behind every objective. You need to identify the most important objectives, then curate a common understanding and facilitate a mutual decision-making platform.

Your decision-making platform should incorporate various perspectives. You may need to moderate a stakeholder workshop to get interests and perspectives aligned with the objectives. Remember to stay focused on your key goals and not get too deep in the weeds. Keep in mind that aligning stakeholders might necessitate some negotiation and mediation tactics.

A group of four female coworkers is discussing something at a table.
Align stakeholder interests before the project starts.

Best project management practices: Manage expectations

Brett Harned from TeamGantt explains that “the best way to set expectations is early and often.” As a project manager, you’re between a rock and a hard place – your stakeholders and team. Defining your expectations upfront and repeating them frequently during the project is a great way to ensure you don’t get crushed by the desires of these two groups.

After you’ve held your stakeholder meeting and aligned your interests, you should take these interests and use them as a starting point for defining your expectations. Refer to these mutual interests as frequently as possible when communicating project expectations and objectives.

The best way to set expectations is early and often.

Setting your expectations is good. Documenting them is better. Make sure they’re documented in a place that’s easily accessible for all your stakeholders. Whenever you run into expectation conflicts, refer to the documentation. If you use a project management tool like MS Project, then you should have these uploaded so everyone has access to them.

In most organizations, documenting is not enough. Set up regular project updates where the expectations and objectives are communicated, checked and revised as necessary. Sometimes it helps to make small changes to the documentation to give you an excuse for redistribution.

A group of six coworkers is discussing something at a table covered with printed diagrams and charts.
One of the best project management practices is set up regular updates to manage expectations.

Best project management practices: Define procedures

Most project managers have the wherewithal to outline a project plan in writing and communicate it to the relevant parties. This plan contains the tasks, schedule and task and is documented and assigned using MS Project or another project management tool. What’s often missing in these outlines is the articulation of processes and procedures. There are other marketing resource management tools that streamline marketing procedures and processes.

The procedures for a project describe how specific tasks will be managed and how relevant stakeholders will be utilized and informed during these processes. It’s important to define them upfront and communicate them to everyone involved before the project begins. That way, when the inevitable objection to a task arises, you can adjust within a frame.

A woman standing in an office is holding a talk in front of her team.
Communicate the procedures to your team before the project begins.

Best project management practices: Monitor and adjust dynamically

Prior planning and documentation won’t completely prevent snags in the project workflow. It’s important to remember to continuously monitor and look for potential problem areas. A stitch in time saves nine; early detection means less work in the long-run and is one of the best project management practices you can continuously adjust.

We’ve talked a lot about being dynamic and operating in real-time with your marketing activities and being dynamic in your project management activities is similar. Your project is a living, breathing organism that will give you feedback when it’s running out of air. Look for the signs of difficulties, learn to listen to the feedback and monitor what’s going well so you can adjust dynamically.

A team of three coworkers is discussing a practice using a tablet computer.
Monitor your project progress frequently and adjust when necessary.

Best project management practices: Report transparently

Finally, your project is finished and you can relax. Not quite. Now the hard part begins. You should have documented the plan, progression and results before you’ve reached the reporting stage. Now that you’ve done that, your reporting will be much easier.

You most likely ran into difficulties when you ran your project. Management knows that you’ve hit some snags. What they really want to know is how you mitigated the fallout. You documented what happened, so spell it out for them. This will also help you solve future project management issues. Remember the problem isn’t the scandal, it’s the cover up.

If something went wrong after the project, then someone will do some digging, and if it’s found that you’ve hidden a problem in your reporting then you might take the blame. What’s important is that you’re transparent in your reporting so won’t have to worry about an issue coming to light later.

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