The trick to staying on top of everything is to focus on the five most important goals associated with project management. If you can meet the following five goals for each project, you will achieve project and professional success.
Goal 1: Finish on Time
This is the oldest but trickiest project management goal in the book. It's the most difficult because requirements often change during the project and because the original schedule was probably optimistic in the first place.
To accomplish this goal, you need to manage your scope very carefully. Implement a change control process so that any changes to the scope are properly managed. Always keep your plan up to date, recording actual vs. planned progress. Identify any deviations from plan and fix them quickly.
Goal 2: Finish Under Budget
To make sure that your project costs don't spiral, you need to set a project budget at the start to compare against. Include in this budget all of the project costs that will accrue, whether they have to do with people, equipment, suppliers or materials. Then work out how much each task in your plan is going to cost to complete, and track any deviations from this plan. (See Project Management: 8 Steps to On-Time, On-Budget Delivery.)
Make sure that if you over-spend on some tasks, that you under-spend on others. In this way, you can control your spend and deliver under budget (or at least meet it).
Goal 3: Meet Requirements
Whether the requirements for your project were to install a new IT system, refresh a website or consolidate data centres, your project needs to produce solutions which meet these requirements 100 percent.
The trick here is to make sure that you have a detailed enough set of requirements at the beginning. If the requirements are ambiguous in any way, then what was initially seen as a small piece of work could become huge, taking up valuable time and resources to complete.
Goal 4: Keep Customers Happy
You could finish your project on time, under budget and have met 100 percent of the requirements, but still have unhappy customers. This is usually because their expectations have changed since the project started and have not been properly managed.
To ensure that your project sponsor, customer and other stakeholders are happy at the end of your project, you need to manage their expectations carefully. Make sure you always keep them properly informed of progress. "Keep it real" by giving them a crystal clear view of progress to date. Let them voice their concerns or ideas regularly. Tell them upfront when you can't deliver on time, or when a change needs to be made. Openness and honesty are always the best tools for setting customer expectations.
Goal 5: Keep Team Members Happy
If you can meet all four previous goals with a happy team, then you'll be more than willing to do it all again for the next project. And that's how your staff will feel, too. Staff satisfaction is critical to your project's success.
So keep your team happy by rewarding and recognizing them for their successes. Assign them work that complements their strengths and conduct team building exercises to boost morale. With a happy, motivated team, you can achieve anything.
And there you have it. The five goals every project manager should set for him- or herself at the start of every project.
Jason Westland has 15 years experience in the project management industry. From his experience, he created software to help speed up the management process. For more information, visit ProjectManager.com.