Optimizing small projects

Published by | Monday, August 5th, 2013

Manage small projects effectively

How do you manage small business projects while staying on top of deliverables and deadlines? It’s easy to assume that small projects don’t require the degree of project management that larger projects do—that they’re simple enough to keep all the details in your head. But this is a dangerous assumption.

While it’s true that small projects shouldn’t require as much planning, management, or follow-through as larger, distributed projects, you’ll get much more out of your small projects with some careful forethought. Here are four tips to help keep your small projects on track:

1. Find the sneaky stakeholder.
Find out who’s involved in the project, and what everyone wants and needs from it. While a company’s founders may not be writing your checks, it’s a safe bet they won’t authorize them unless their needs are met. A casual conversation to identify all the project’s behind-the-scenes stakeholders and priorities up front will prevent frustration downstream.

2. Solve the right problem, with the right solution, for the right people.
Your client’s broader objective may be to increase company sales by 25 percent, but the project you’ve been asked to undertake is simply implementing a new piece of software for payment processing. Make certain your project goals are aimed at solving the right business problem. Knowing the entire landscape of your client’s needs is critical to a project’s success.

3. Document project scope and deliverables.
Reach a strong understanding of the project work–or scope–up front, so that everyone agrees on what’s involved in a project and what’s not. For example, you might need to rewrite all web copy and upload new images, but intentionally not update site navigation and user experience because there’s no budget for those right now. Understanding scope protects your time and investment in a project and sets clear expectations.

4. Develop your interpersonal skills.
The ability to communicate, foster strong team relationships, and unite people and resources behind a shared vision are among the most important skills in your project manager’s toolkit. A project manager who rolls her eyes at a new feature request is not likely to get repeat business. Being an effective project manager includes listening thoughtfully, asking questions to expand and explore possibilities, and being the calm voice of reason that leads your project team over the finish line.

We have many more resources to help you develop your project management, leadership, and communication skills. Check out these courses to achieve greater success with your small projects:

Managing Small Projects
• New Manager Fundamentals
• Time Management Fundamentals
• Project Management Fundamentals
• Leadership Fundamentals
• Managing Project Schedules
• Managing Teams
Having Difficult Conversations
• Conflict Resolution Fundamentals

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6 Responses to “Optimizing small projects”

  1. Randy says:

    What are some of the better cloud solutions for managing smaller projects?

    • Hi, Randy-
      We use Basecamp quite a bit across various teams here at lynda.com and it’s been incredibly helpful, for what it’s worth. I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

      • kareem says:

        can you please also recommend any good open-source cloud solutions similar to basecamp ?

        • Jeremy says:

          Basecamp is really good and I’ve used that before when working with a 3rd party design company.

          The one I use is Wiggio.com. It does everything I personally need it to do (I manage a team of 6 developers). The best part about it is that it’s absolutely free.

          I haven’t used it to cloud documents though… for that I use Google Drive.

          Also, I don’t believe Wiggio is open source, though it’s definitely worth a look.

  2. Jolie says:

    Hi Randy,

    I’d add to that that you might try Zoho, Asana, or Trello, depending on your needs. Let us know if there’s any other training you’d like to see in the cloud project management space.

  3. Jolie says:

    Hi Kareem,

    I haven’t used it personally but have heard good things about TaskJuggler for open source PM software.

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