Written by FlowLu
Hello to all project managers! We know that you’re always seeking the best practices to run projects faster, better, and with less cost. In today’s article, we gathered the 12 best practices to follow in 2024.
While some people think that being a project manager is just a doddle, in fact, you need to have broad shoulders to take full responsibility for a project.
Project managers do lots of important tasks, but in general, they need to keep the balance between stakeholders, the project team, objectives, budget, scope creep, and many other tricky words that are following every project, especially digital ones.
If you’re reading this article, you probably know about project management tools and some beginner information on this topic. But in fact, project management is a deep blue sea, and the more you learn, the more questions you have.
However, you don’t need to worry at all. Some project management challenges won’t hurt you if you know at least how to build a structured project workflow. To do that, you better follow the best PM practices and principles. Lucky for you, we prepared a whole list of them for the 2024 year!
What is a Project Management and Its Practices: Complete Definition
First, let’s briefly refresh our memory about the definition of what project management is. According to PMI, project management is a toolkit of skills, techniques, knowledge, and finally practices aimed at making projects successful and delivering a meaningful output to people. For example, help projects stay on budget, prevent overgrowing the project scope, and, of course, achieve the expected results.
To put it simply, project management is the process of driving a project successfully through its whole lifecycle and building a balance between all aspects of the project. Indeed, it’s quite difficult to explain project management in a few sentences.
It consists of many elements, and one of them is management practices.
Practices are just some actions that are performed regularly to achieve certain results. If you want to ask how managers define what practices are the best, the answer is pretty simple yet not so obvious. Performing some actions from time to time, we notice that some of them lead us to better results. The same is with project management: when you see that some actions are giving the best results, you’ll be doing them all the time for each project. And that’s simply how PM best practices were born.
Although project management is not as strict as, for example, web development, it still has its own principles and recommendations to follow.
Project Management Principles and Recommendations
Some managers and experts claim that principles are fundamental and must be followed in any project. On the other hand, some managers think that principles are more like recommendations, and it’s up to you to decide if you should follow them.
Anyway, we can’t bypass some core project management principles that need to be considered before learning the best practices.
Since PM principles are not formalized, we relied on the information from PMBOK (even though it doesn’t have an official list of principles) and annual surveys from resources like PMI and various other project management statistics.
Currently, most project managers follow nine principles:
- Formalized structure
- Regular communication with stakeholders and investors
- Clear and predefined goals
- Strict team roles
- Structured and formal documentation
- Predefined risk management process
- Change management
- Strong understanding of an outcome value
- Performance reports
- Step-by-step approval procedure
But, as a matter of fact, principles complement practices. What does that mean, you may wonder? Practices are actions, while principles are ideas. If principles are “how it has to be”, practices are “how to achieve it”. Therefore, they go hand in hand, and you can’t deal with them separately.
And now it’s finally time to take a closer look at the best project management practices, so let’s delve into the topic!
The List of 13 Best Project Management Practices
Project management tips, ideas, methodologies, and many other complicated things can slip your mind. Principles are simpler, so it’s easier to make them stay in your mind and then successfully implement them.
Principles wrap complex things up, so if you don’t want to waste time implementing whole methodologies to your project management process, here is the list of the 12 best project management principles to support your initiatives:
Run a Proper Initiation
Before the project even starts, you need to run an initiation. Basically, you need to assure high-level management that your project will deliver good value to both the business and the end client. Initiation helps you and stakeholders understand if it matters before going into the planning phase. How to run a proper initiation so your project is approved? It’s pretty simple:
- Create a business case that will be solved by your project’s output.
- Understand who your key stakeholders are and start pitching.
- Conduct a feasibility research.
- Know who you want to see on the project team.
Keeping everyone on the same page and having a clear understanding of why your project will succeed is the first best practice.
Ask For Stakeholders’ Feedback
Not only your opinion matters, but also your business goals. To launch a successful project, the expected results should be client-centric. If you adhere to the client-centric approach, asking for feedback from stakeholders is a really good practice. This way, you can get a clear understanding of what you should deliver at the end of a cycle.
Stakeholders’ feedback can solve many problems before they even appear: you can understand what issue your product should solve, which competitors your stakeholders value the most, among many other things that you find out when the project is finished and you have the end product.
Define Milestones and Project Phases
You won’t achieve any goal if you don’t have a formal plan for a project. Before starting a project, break it down into small steps that need to be taken to achieve the final result. Such small goals or certain points on a timeline are called milestones.
Experienced managers know the worth of milestones. They’re not only helping to create a workflow breakdown structure but also helpful in communication with stakeholders and making up reports. Simply put, with milestones, you can split a project into smaller phases. Once you reach the phase, you complete a milestone.
Set a Project Scope and Objectives
Project scope management is a whole field to explore in project management. But to put it simply, a scope helps you answer the following questions:
- What are the interim goals?
- What is the end product?
- Which standards does the team follow?
- What are the main constraints?
Scope and objectives will help you and the team avoid unnecessary actions and decisions during the whole project lifecycle.
Assemble a Project Team
A project team can consist of many different professionals. But skills are useless if a person doesn’t know what to do. In a team, hierarchy is important. All actions and changes should be approved by those who are responsible for them to avoid mistakes. For example, if you have several developers involved, take some time to pitch one of them for the team lead role. In this case, other developers will know who’s responsible for task approval and code reviews.
Initiate Regular Meetings
Even though the team can have different roles, such as analytics, marketers, developers, designers, etc, every team member should be aware of the main course. Most development teams conduct regular standups to keep everyone involved in the main news about the product or a project path. Regular standups or meetings are very good practices and can easily be held virtually via conference calling software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams to easily keep your full team in the loop. Just a few words about what’s done and what’s the next step for each department will be completely enough..
Conduct a Resource Planning
Your ideas are probably fantastic, and you can’t wait to put them into practice. However, every one of us faces the reality that resources are limited and you can’t bring your ideas to life to the fullest.
To avoid disappointments, plan your resources ahead. And it applies not only to financial and material resources, but also to human resources. It often happens that one person participates in multiple projects, and you need to consider all aspects while planning a project.
Set Quality Standards
You need to measure the output of team members somehow. You can’t be an expert in design, development, marketing, and other fields at the same time, so you need to have formalized standards to understand if the interim result can be approved.
In most cases, quality standards are set for each phase. Once you reach a milestone, you need to estimate if the result has good quality. To set standards, you can follow the tips below:
- Split the project into phases with clear deliverables.
- Measure how successful your previous projects and their deliverables were in each phase.
- Formalize the process of qualification and keep it clear for everyone. It’s better to be documented so everyone can work according to these principles.
- Ask for stakeholders’ support when establishing standards. They can bring your attention to points you might not have noticed.
Keep All Changes Formal
Even if you create a perfect plan, always be prepared for change requests. They can literally come out of nowhere, but they’re always coming, even if it seems that everything’s fine now. You, as a manager, need to always be ready to accept them.
And, to make the life of your team easier, one of the best practices is to keep all changes formal and documented. Some people are always referring to documents while working, and they can use the outdated information if you haven‘t updated the documentation.
Maintain Risk Management
Before starting a project, take some time to imagine the worst scenarios. What if you run over the scope? What if some of your teammates leave? Some cases can be completely unexpected, but some of them can be predicted.
According to project management statistics, some projects fail because of changes they weren’t prepared for. For example, 39% of unsucceeded initiatives fail because the company structure changes, while 37% of them fail because of changing goals.
Create a Documentation
You may count documentation as something boring, but indeed, it’s extremely important. Even if you, as a manager, know every single detail about the project, other teammates can be more interested in their direct responsibilities if they don’t know all the details.
To fill in memory gaps, proper documentation is a top-notch solution. Employees can always return to the documentation if they need to clarify quality standards, lifecycle, software toolkit, and other details. It’s even better if your documentation is integrated with project management tools.
Run Performance Reviews and Retrospectives
Retrospective is a common practice in development teams. But the same as standups, retrospectives can be handy for any team or department. This practice can help you and your team take a look back at previous successes, mistakes, and reflect on your own actions. But it’s not just a good personal practice, it also helps other professionals learn from other people’s mistakes.
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TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.