As a small business owner, you understand that the only way you will grow your business is by constantly and consistently delivering on or even exceeding the commitments you make to your customers. This means making and selling great products, delivering fantastic services and constantly looking at ways to improve your operational processes, such as implementing new technology into your business.
Making these changes takes effort and discipline and you can’t afford to get it wrong, wasting time and money you don’t have. This is where a structured project management approach can be of help, especially when it comes to delivering complex technical solutions such as a new CRM, Payroll or Accounting system.
If used appropriately, project management will reduce and even remove some of the risks that making these technology changes can have on your business.
So, What Is Project Management?
Lots of people have trouble understanding what the term ‘project management’ means and how it relates to small business. Let’s have a look at a simple definition of a project:
A project is defined as “an activity that is planned, temporary, unique, controlled, result-oriented, and systematic.”
If we expand this definition to look at each characteristic, we get a better understanding of how a project differs from normal business operations.
Projects become successful when they are planned properly and when these plans are followed to achieve the desired results. Plans should be put in place at the beginning of the project and regularly reviewed and updated until the end of the project.
A good project plan should consider:
- The final outcome
- Key deliverables
- Resources needed
- Time taken
- Risks and variables involved
The length of a project can depend on the complexity however, they do not go on forever. Every project is kicked-off with a start and an estimated end date. Once the work begins, the end date becomes much clearer. At the end of the project all the set objectives should be achieved.
A project is initiated with the intention of delivering a specific outcome and different projects should have different outcomes. A project doesn’t produce the same outcome every time, but has distinctive inputs, processes, and outputs. These are different from the day-to-day operational functions/processes that are required for the normal running of your business.
Projects are contained or controlled within 3 parameters – time, resources and scope.
The purpose of a project is to deliver the scope (i.e. results) within a specific time-frame, using limited resources (cost, people, etc.).
When you initiate a project, you need to ensure that it is designed and managed in a way that the result brings about a positive change and adds value to your business. If your project does not achieve either of or both these objectives, it can hardly be called successful.
A project is made up of tasks that need to be accomplished in a systematic manner and this is best achieved by breaking up bigger tasks into smaller deliverables. This makes them seem more realistic and achievable, without being overwhelming. It also allows you to make changes if the situation requires it and thereby decrease the risks and increase the likelihood of success.
If the above describes a project, then “project management” is the function of applying processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the desired project outcome.
Small Business Project Management
Like any business, effective project management in a small business means achieving the project’s goals on time, while sticking to the assigned budget (which may be small). However, as a small business, you probably don’t have project-experienced staff that can easily tack the responsibility of project manager onto their current role. You need to consider different options for project management and decide on the one that work best for your business and can help you achieve your desired outcomes. Some of these options include up-skilling your existing staff, engaging an external project manager or outsourcing the entire project responsibility to a project consultancy firm.
Whatever way you choose, you need to make sure that your project is delivered on schedule and within budget and that the option you choose adds value to your organisation. Some of the ways effective project management can help your small business are:
Keep Project On Schedule
All projects have a limited timeline. Good project management ensures the completion of the tasks involved to make sure that the project stays on track.
It is critical as a small business that you monitor your expenses. With the help of various project management methodologies, you will be able to keep tabs on the major cost items as well as the estimated costs, purchases and payments.
Like a lot of disciplines, with project management, learning from experience helps immensely and this is best achieved through project evaluation. This evaluation can also provide each team member with the freedom to express their concerns and have them addressed. It also goes a long way to strengthening team dynamics and uplifting the morale of the team.
Project management has been around for a long time and its importance in helping businesses of all sizes achieve their goals has constantly increased. By applying sound project management practices, you can ensure that your projects are delivered on time, within the cost budget and to the specified quality.
At Riteway Solutions Group we are dedicated to working with businesses in all industries, to help improve the way you deliver your project. We offer a range of solutions such as ProjectSAGE, providing you with a “virtual” project office that has been designed to be the perfect fit (and the perfect price), for your small business.