Projects have a lot of moving parts—objectives to achieve, tasks to complete, people to manage, and more. When those parts interact as smoothly as a Swiss watch, everyone involved with the project is happier: the customer, stakeholders, team members who do the work, and project manager. Here are five tips to help any project run more smoothly.
1. Start by identifying what the project is really about.
Like starting your day with a nutritious breakfast, figuring out the point of the project makes everything that follows work better. Focusing on the right goal from the beginning of the project makes it a lot easier to deliver what the customer wants at the project’s end. I can’t say it any better than Yogi Berra did: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”
Some project goals are obvious—for example, getting a raccoon out of your pantry. But for most projects, you need to chip away to uncover the goal and the other elements that define the project.
My first few years in publishing were spent writing and editing. On the page, it looked like my job was about making words work, and yet, it was so much more than that. Each new endeavor I spearheaded was truly a project, and it required me to switch between those analytical and creative hats every day. Soon, I came to realize that my colleagues were the backbone of the project team, and the timelines and schedules I made and kept were an integral part of the project plan.
This writer somehow ended up in business—and was loving every minute of it. As a fascinated yet unintentional project manager, I wanted to embrace this role with the same attention I put into checking for comma splices and building instruction. What were the secrets to solid project management, and how could I put them to work?
In Project Management Fundamentals, author Bonnie Biafore answers these questions and more, sharing tried and true project management tips that she’s developed through years of real world experience. Whether you’re in charge of an IT installation, a web development project, or managing an event for employees, you’ll discover the value in initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing a project.
While project management may sound relevant only for those who build bridges, manufacture medical devices, or install major software systems, the reality is that you probably have project management opportunities in your career if you’ve ever worked to create a specific outcome, service, or product (deliverable) within a finite time frame using time, tools, and people (resources). Largely, this includes a range of career types including, but not limited to, information technology, creative disciplines, and business.
One of Bonnie’s best tips for new and aspiring project managers is to learn the power of asking open-ended questions. Whether you’re asking project stakeholders (the people the project will affect) to explain their needs, communicating specs to technical teams, or simply corralling the efforts of a large team, open-ended questions like “What would you do in the future to prevent this problem?” and “What’s working well here?” can get the dialogue going and take discussions to new places.
Project Management Fundamentals is suited for all skill levels, including those new to the concept of project management and those hoping to figure out how some of their past projects could have gone more smoothly. With solid project management skills, you’ll be better poised to improve your company’s bottom line by delivering your projects on time and within budget. Plus, I think you’ll learn to enjoy the process—embracing project management is a surprisingly creative process that carries the great reward of better business outcomes and happier customers.
In Project 2010 Essential Training, project management expert Bonnie Biafore shows how individuals and teams can use Microsoft Project to manage any level of project. The course demonstrates setting up projects, adding tasks, assigning resources, fixing scheduling issues, dealing with resource conflicts, and tracking project progress. It also covers the new Project interface, featuring the new Ribbon and Backstage view, and explains how to use new features like user-controlled scheduling, the Timeline, and Team Planner.
If you’re still muttering to yourself about the drama that accompanied filing your business taxes, it isn’t too late to streamline the process for 2010. Personal finance expert and lynda.com author Bonnie Biafore has this advice:
“Before you forget, jot down the information you were missing, the reports you needed but didn’t have, and the journal entries your accountant had you record again this year,” says Biafore. “Then, log in to your QuickBooks company file. Set up accounts to track all your income and expenses the way you report it on your tax return. Customize some reports to match your accountant’s requests. And memorize last year’s journal entries so you can reuse them next time around.”
If you don’t already use QuickBooks, Bonnie’s QuickBooks Pro 2010 Essential Training gets you up to speed in setting up your books, running reports, and managing your company files. If you do use QuickBooks, this course offers great advice for getting the most out of all the core features in the latest version.
P.S. If you’re a spreadsheet addict who does all your financial planning and tracking in Excel, lynda.com has courses for Excel users at all levels. Use Numbers? We’ve got that covered. Google Docs spreadsheets? That, too.