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Ways project management can help you improve your business

As a business owner you’ve almost certainly heard the term “project management” many times, and many experts and tycoons still say it’s key to being successful in business.

At the same time, project management is a very broad field, and many businesspeople tend to assume it’s for “firms that are different from ours” in some way. But the fact is that even small business owners are project managers — no matter what business you may be involved in, from construction to Internet services, you are involved in project management.

Consider the act of starting a small business. This is itself a form of project, with an initial planning stage followed by gathering the necessary resources and finally implementation leading up to opening your doors. Even in small business project management means being able to reach your goals on time and within budget using fewer resources and often lower risk of failure.

In short, a “project” is any unique activity in your business with a clear beginning, a deliverable, and an end. As a rule projects tend to be unique, temporary activities that cut across lines in your organisation and often involve venturing onto unfamiliar territory. (Projects are distinct from production activities, such as manufacturing your products or taking orders — production activities are repetitive and usually systematised.)

It’s worth noting that this difference is a common point of confusion in project management. Businesses looking to eliminate cost and waste often use tools like Lean Six Sigma to maximise quality and eliminate defects and waste. At the same time these are not technically project management tools — they are oriented towards improving production activities (such as customer service or manufacturing) and are not applicable to all projects.

The power of project estimation

Have you ever felt unsure what a given project would actually cost? This is a fairly common experience even for experienced project managers, and many businesses do very little in the way of estimation. The field of project estimation gives you a consistent way to estimate what a project will require in the way of financial and human resources, and how it will impact your operating budget. It also helps standardise the way project managers and your sales team create new quotes and interact with clients — giving you better productivity, higher customer satisfaction, and more projects delivered to budget and on time.

Prioritising projects for maximum return on investment

Since cost is not necessarily the deciding factor for projects — improvements to your systems or maintenance work often must be done regardless — project prioritisation tools are also key to maximising the benefits your business gets from your projects.

You probably have several different projects “on the menu” at any given time, but which of them should you start on now? Resources are usually scarce and developing an optimised, sensible order of work both within the project and over a series of projects allows you to get the most out of what you have. Proper prioritisation also reduces the number of project failures, enabling you to quickly assess likely return on project investment versus costs and risks.

Planning for success

Of course all projects require a planning period, but developing a formal planning methodology allows you to almost guarantee your project will be successful. Using a clear and consistent methodology ensures your plan takes into account all the tasks, roles, deliverables, and responsibilities the project needs, as well as the resources, time, risk, and other factors. Good project plans minimise risk and include fairly precise decision points and timings, which in turn help avoid disappointments, confusion, and failed or overdue projects.

Optimise resource usage

Most businesses have several different projects running simultaneously, as well as day-to-day production activities. What is the optimal way to assign different resources and team members to each project, and how does this affect the promises you can realistically make to your clients?

Scheduling your resources before the project begins lets your project managers assess how much flexibility they have in using specific resources and team members. It also lets them package up work in a way that gets the most from the resources that are available to them and find alternatives approaches where resources will not be available.

Resource scheduling is still useful even for businesses which are not highly structured or which have volatile requirements. Here, resource scheduling helps assign available resources and team members based on their skills, location, and experience, where they can fulfil work requests most efficiently.

About the Author:

Philip Piletic is an aspiring writer and blogger with a love for business, finance and technology. His goal is to give useful advice and help people adapt to ever evolving world of today.

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