It’s obviously impossible to transfer the project management practices and methods used by major corporations to SMEs without some adjustments because in many cases that would be counter-productive.
The project manager has to check what the existing standards are. Internal project management only works if the specific projects are adapted to the available resources and the existing infrastructure. The project management team and the project manager always have to focus on key elements of a project such as time, quality and costs.
Different project phases and the activities involved
Communication in all project phases and maximising project support are still crucial aspects of successfully managed projects. Support has to be provided to the project team as a whole, and also to every single member individually. The different phases of a project are important touchstones that provide the project team with valuable guidance. And communication is essential to ensuring that the project team is able to take appropriate action when problems occur or time is pressing.
Project initiation phase
Customer orders or ideas are developed into real projects in the project initiation phase. Routine is important in this phase to avoid putting the project at risk before it has even commenced. An experienced project manager incorporates his past project experience in the current project. All the main communication tools and the preparatory work done in this phase will prove extremely valuable to the project management team in the subsequent project planning phase.
Defining objectives is an important part of the project initiation phase. Cost-benefit analyses are used to ascertain the costs and benefits associated with the project, followed by a risk analysis to identify opportunities and risks. Another key element of this phase is the stakeholder analysis, which is an analysis of all the people who are essential to a project’s success. Then, the project team that will be responsible for the project’s efficient implementation is formed.
Project planning phase
In the project planning phase all the project details are worked out. A central element of this phase is the kick-off meeting. The agenda of that meeting is based on the project plan and significant experience gained in earlier projects. Milestones are defined and a work breakdown structure is planned. These are absolutely essential for the effective management of the project. Methods such as mind mapping provide a good overview of the entire project and serve to illustrate the planned steps. GANTT charts show all the details of project processes and illustrate the chronological progress of activities. This method provides the project manager with a good and comprehensible overview of the project in the planning phase. Then the project costs are budgeted and the necessary resources are scheduled.
Project implementation phase
One of the objectives in any project is successful close-out. In the project implementation phase the project is monitored and managed so that the project objective can be achieved. The project manager checks the progress that has been made towards achieving the project objective, and the progress of activities that were defined in the project planning phase and have to be performed before the end of the project. Communication is also a decisive factor in this phase. Project team members should always be kept up to date on the project’s progress. The milestones have to be monitored and reviewed. In many projects time is a significant factor. Projects that run for longer than planned can be associated with escalating costs. Many project managers feel that delays damage their image and it’s in everyone’s interest to close out the project on schedule.
Project close-out – the last phase in a successfully managed SME project
The last milestones have been reached and the end of the project is in sight. Without the commitment of the project manager and his team this would never have been possible. Good project management is all about teamwork, and in an SME the teams tend to develop stronger bonds than would ever be possible in a large corporation. In the project close-out phase the degree of the project’s success becomes evident, as well as the final activities that have to be performed. The documentation of the project is important so that the things that went well in the project, and the things that went less well, are recorded for future reference. In fact, project documentation is a valuable tool for eliminating potential stumbling stones in future projects.
Being a project manager can be challenging, but it also opens up new perspectives and opportunities to apply personal strengths.Whatever the size of the project or the organisation, effective project management is essential.
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