Almost every small venture begins with the hope of becoming a big corporation someday. Small business owners know that the only way to get there is by delivering on their promises. That means manufacturing and selling great products and providing exceptional services. It also means constantly optimizing and improving their processes.
Achieving this will require effort, discipline and a set structure to get things right without wasting time and money. Project management can be of immense help especially when it comes to managing aspects such as product development and testing, advertising and marketing, accounting and payroll, customer service, and other necessary processes.
When used appropriately, project management can prove to be highly effective in perfecting, modifying and creating more productive and potent business processes.
What Project Management Is
Several people have trouble understanding as to what the term ‘project management’ constitutes. Here are some of its most accepted definitions –
As per Wikipedia, ‘Project management is the process and activity of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources, procedures and protocols to achieve specific goals in scientific or daily problems.’
According to Association for Project Management, ‘Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.’
Based on the above definitions, we can infer that the key characteristics of a project are that it is planned, temporary, unique, controlled, result-oriented, and systematic.
Let’s examine each of these characteristics for a better understanding of what a project is.
Projects become successful when they are planned properly and these very plans are implemented to achieve particular results. These plans are put in place at the beginning of the project and are reviewed frequently and updated accordingly until the end of the project.
The following factors are considered at the time of planning for the project –
- The final outcome
- Key deliverables
- Resources needed
- Time taken
- Variables involved
Projects can take prolonged periods of time to finish, but they do not go on forever. Every project is conceived with a start and an estimated end date. Once the work begins, the end date becomes much clearer. At the end of the project on the stipulated date, all the set objectives should be achieved.
A project is taken up with the expectation of a specific outcome in mind. More often than not, different projects have different outcomes. It doesn’t produce the same consequence every time, but has distinctive inputs (in terms of the resources required for its successful completion), processes (research and development, testing, implementation and project management) and outputs (deliverables). These are different from the day-to-day business functions/processes that are required for the smooth running of the business.
Projects are controlled in the sense that they are bound by time, resources and scope.
Most projects need to deliver results within a specific period of time. When it comes to resources, there is only a certain amount of time, money and energy that can be dedicated to a project. The scope refers to all those areas that the project has bearings on. It is, typically, what the completion of the project accomplishes.
When you take up 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 it. If your project does not achieve either of or both these objectives, it can hardly be called successful.
A project comprises several tasks that need to be accomplished in a systematic manner. The best way to do so is by breaking up bigger tasks into smaller deliverables. That way they seem more realistic and doable, without being overwhelming. This will also ensure that you can make changes as per the requirements of the situation, receive frequent feedback on project operations, thereby decreasing risks and increasing the likelihood of success.
Project Management in Small Businesses
Effective project management in a small business entails achieving the project’s goals on time while still sticking to the budget (which may be small). You will have to consider several project management practices and figure out which ones can apply to your business and help achieve its goals better.
You will do well by implementing agile project management practices as they have the ability to respond to issues as and when they arise during the progression of the project. Making the required changes to a project at the right time can save resources and help deliver a successful project as per schedule and within budget.
Apart from that, consider investing in tools that streamline collaborative practices and information sharing, and do away with outdated and unyielding structures which do not add value to your organization. Aim to achieve a combination of frequent and effective reporting, and flexibility in your organization.
Effective project management can help your small business in the following ways –
All projects have a limited timeline. Good project management ensures the completion of the tasks involved in order to make sure that the project stays on schedule. There are several software/charts available that can help you keep tabs over the project’s progress. They allow you to break down each part into smaller actions, which makes it easy to track them.
It is crucial that small businesses keep an eye on their expenses as their financial resources may be limited. With the help of the various project management methodologies, entrepreneurs will be able to keep tabs on the major cost items as well as the estimated costs, purchases and payments. Discrepancies in purchases should be able to tell you if you need to renegotiate purchase orders. Thanks to the transparency in the practices, you will be able to determine whether or not the project is moving in the desired direction.
For project management to be successful, you need to have controls that help prevent major incongruities in the first place. To set such controls, you can use milestones. The most effective milestones are the external ones like permitting and licensing. For example, if you’re required to issue a building permit by a certain date, you will have an externally generated milestone. Failure to meet this milestone would imply that corrective action needs to be taken to get the project back on track.
When it comes to project management, learning from experience helps immensely. This means learning from one another’s mistakes without playing the blame game, thereby giving rise to a culture of collaboration and effective evaluation. This evaluation can also imply that each team member has the freedom to express their individual concerns and have them addressed to their satisfaction. Such an evaluation system can go a long way in strengthening team dynamics and uplifting the organizational morale.
The concept of project management has been around for a few decades now and its importance has only increased with time. Companies, whether big or small, get involved in new undertakings every now and then. This can prove to be overwhelming, which may result in the loss of direction and, ultimately, chaos. By applying sound project management practices, companies can ensure that their undertakings are delivered on time, within the cost budget and to the specified quality.