New fad diets seem to crop up on a daily basis. Whether it is a sensible low carbs diet or an adventurous cheesecake-and-whiskey-gorging regimen, you can be sure somebody somewhere is willing to try it out. Theories on the best practices for successful project management are the same way. Everybody has an opinion, and some of them are willing to share. Representing one of the more esteemed sources, Tom Mochal of TechRepublic has come up with ten best practices for staying within time and budget with high quality results:
- Plan the work by utilizing a project definition document.
- Create a planning horizon.
- Define project management procedures up front.
- Manage the work plan and monitor the schedule and budget.
- Look for warning signs.
- Ensure that the sponsor approves scope-changing requests.
- Guard against scope creep.
- Identify risks up front.
- Continue to assess potential risks throughout the project.
- Resolve issues as quickly as possible.
A project definition document should be the backbone by which subsequent developments abide, including information such as project overview, objectives, scope, and risks. Then a work plan with sequential instructions on providing project deliverables can be built. When resources have been assigned and work estimated as far out as is practical, a planning horizon is created. Naturally, as time progresses, the “horizon” should become clearer, and once vague parts of the plan should be clarified in time.
The project management procedures by comparison will outline how resources are used to manage the project itself. With the previous steps accomplished, executing the plans laid out properly is all there is to it, though since plans seldom go off without a hitch, continuous monitoring is necessary, including look for warning signs of future problems. If alterations in scope become necessary as the project progresses, clear it in advance with the sponsors, since the people funding the project deserve to have say-so in the proceedings most of all. And when it comes to scope, guard against creep:
Most project managers know to invoke scope-change management procedures if they are asked to add a major new function or a major new deliverable to their project. However, sometimes the project manager doesn’t recognize the small scope changes that get added over time. Scope creep is a term used to define a series of small scope changes that are made to the project without scope-change management procedures being used. With scope creep, a series of small changes — none of which appear to affect the project individually — can accumulate and have a significant overall impact on the project. Many projects fail because of scope creep, and the project manager needs to be diligent in guarding against it.
Mochal’s last three practices are all old standbys. Find risks fast and early, keep looking for them throughout the project life, and try to fix problems as quickly as they appear. These are a good batch of tips for improving your project management, and they will hopefully serve you longer and better than the latest fad diet being concocted out of California.