Project Management 101 – Part I

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Resources, Timeline, Scope, and Budget

An open notebook with the word While you may not have been trained in project management, and you may not have long-standing projects that need rigorous attending, every small business owner can benefit from a basic understanding of project management. You have certain tasks that must be completed every month in order for your clients to get the information they need. And to do that you must juggle a handful of priorities and know what needs to accomplished and in what order. Project management can help you better tackle those tasks in a more timely and efficient way.There are four elements you must consider when managing projects: resources, time, scope, and budget. In this article we will describe each in detail.ResourcesThese are the things you can use to help you accomplish the project. Your resources can come in the form of employees, equipment and materials. If you’re a one-person show, this aspect may be fairly easy to manage. If not, you need to attend to your employees’ schedules to ensure they understand which projects they should be working on and when. This requires a fair amount of training and communication. Your employees should know their deadlines and report to you (or an appointed manager) when then they have completed their tasks. Otherwise, you may have expectations that your employees are unable to fulfill simply because they are unaware of them.ScopeTo determine the scope of a project you must look at all that is required to complete it. Underestimating the scope is one of the biggest deterrents to completing a project on time and on budget. It’s important to break a project down into critical tasks. Once you look at all those crucial tasks you can determine scope, and more adequately map out a timeline.TimeIn order to complete projects in a timely manner you must assign each critical task a timeline. Often this is where project managers experience the most difficulty. People are often too optimistic when determining how long it will take them to complete tasks. Often this is because they misunderstand the project’s scope and don’t allow enough time to account the critical tasks. It’s important to be realistic as you determine a timeline for your project. Provide yourself and your employees with a time buffer when completing especially difficult or complicated tasks. When dealing with time you must remember the following:

Tasks. We already talked about the importance of breaking a project down into individual tasks. Ask yourself how long it will take to complete them, who will be responsible for them, and what needs to happen before you or an employee can even begin a particular task.Schedule. In order to create a timeline you must associate tasks with individual deadlines. As you do so you must determine how to order all these tasks chronologically.Critical Path. As you order your tasks you’ll recognize those that are critical to the completion of a project, also called critical tasks. When creating a critical path you must determine how long each of these critical tasks will take; this can help you determine how quickly you can actually complete the overall project. Any extra time you include will prolong your timeline.

BudgetObviously the budget determines how much it will cost to complete the project. As you account for the time employees will spend on individual tasks and any other resources that will be used (including your billable hours), you can determine how much it will cost you to complete the project. In this respect you can estimate how much you should charge your client for these services.While it may sound as if project management will require a lot of time and energy on your part, you can determine how rigorously you want to manage your projects. Whatever you decide, taking the time to analyze each of these elements as they apply to your workload will help you better manage your day-to-day activities, and may, in the end, make you more productive. Come back next week when we will discuss important project management tips.

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