In our previous post, we talked about the importance of developing an effective process and keeping thorough documentation of client expectations, projects, as well as timetables. We also touched on defining the challenge and keeping a reasonable, realistic budget. This article will continue to showcase some effective policies and practices to help your IT team improve in efficiency.
If your project is large enough, you may want to elect or hire a project manager to keep tabs on people and processes and help facilitate communication. With a project manager selected, it’s a matter of breaking the project into smaller tasks and milestones and assigning the work to staff members who have the skills to make it happen. Project managers will then assign individuals tasks and due dates, so employees know what they must accomplish, when, and how their contribution affects the whole effort.
Define Timelines and Milestones
When will project managers check in? What work should be completed by who at what time? Creating aggressive timelines can result in shoddy work, but relaxed schedules might result in a lack of focus and wasted time. Be careful to set realistic timelines and milestones, with which the team is comfortable. Ask team members what they think they can accomplish and use that to set deadlines. Note that you may be forced to push for tighter deadlines at times, note that while tight deadlines can motivate great work, there are various pros and cons as well.
Schedule Meetings and Communication Methods
When will you meet to coordinate efforts and check on task lists and milestones? Be sure to set up regular times to meet, but only do so if the used time is productive– nobody wants to attend a meeting that could’ve been an email. Also, make sure people working on a project are clear on communication methods. When tools like instant messengers, emails, and project management software might all be used to complete jobs, it’s not always easy for team members to know the best place to organize files, messages, ideas, and so forth. Employees should understand how those kinds of internal processes work as well.
Use Project Management Tools
Between SharePoint, Outlook, Excel, and more, the Microsoft Office suite has a fair number of tools you may already have that you might help you manage projects. Frequently, however, these can be limiting and may not give everyone involved in a project a bird’s eye of where everyone is at in the process. For that, you may need something a bit more advanced. Likewise, Outlook and other email tools may let you send messages and attachments, but maybe there’s a better way to sync people together on a single discussion thread. So what about individual time management? Here are some tools that help.
- Trello. Trello is a simple project management tool that lets you create boards, tasks, and lists you can share with everyone on the team. It’s a simple tool, but flexible enough to use for a vast variety of purposes.
- Monday (formerly DaPulse). Monday is a little more advanced than Trello but gives users a way to organize many different tasks, boards, users, and timelines all in one place. If you’re looking for something slightly more robust than Trello, Monday may be a great place to start.
- Slack. Slack is an instant messaging tool that can foster creative collaboration and allow people to get their quick questions answered. You can organize conversations in various channels so team members can focus only on the communications relevant to their contribution.
- Toggl. Toggl is a time tracking tool. Each user can keep time according to project, task, or even by a client. It gives you a clearer picture of how long tasks really take to complete or even add up billable time where it’s relevant. With Toggl, you get insights on a project that can help you create more accurate estimates when you have a similar job in the future.
There’s a reason why some people get paid the big bucks for effective project management. There is much information to sort, organize, and communicate, and it becomes challenging when every worker has different priorities.
As noted, the important thing is developing a process that works, sticking to it, and refining it as needed. Communication and coordination are crucial. Also, remember that even simple procedures can be useful. It’s easy to start over-managing projects with too many tools and checklists, and in those cases, the tools might become the job. Be mindful of extra work that goes into process efforts and in time you’ll find the right balance for your organization.