Managing projects – a simple path to success

A client of every company expects maximum commitment to his assignment. In most cases, a separate team of workers is assigned to projects. These people aim at achieving the final result of project work which would fully satisfy the demands of their customer. Project management is an essential element in the process of realizing a project in accordance with some specific instructions. However, managing a project is not always an easy thing. There is always the possibility that something unexpected may happen. In such situations, the reaction of a project manager is often a decisive factor in determining the course of the development of the work and the extent of the success or failure of the project. Moreover, a wrongly prepared plan of action with reference to our work can be the cause of the ultimate failure of the whole undertaking. Therefore, skillful management of projects is very important in all project related activities. It is highly advisable to use some specifically designed tools that help in such undertakings. Thanks to modern technology, there are many solutions which enable or facilitate the process of project creation; these tools make it possible to manage projects in an easy way and without interruptions. Specially designed computer applications are just one kind of such tools.

Elements that determine a project

Every project should aim to achieve some specific previously established goals in a limited period of time and with a limited amount of funds. The beginning and the end of every project has to be easy to determine. The end appears when all objectives have been accomplished or when the project has been cancelled for some reason. The latter situation is not so uncommon. All projects should find their place in a schedule. Its role is to determine the kinds of work during every stage of project realization and, moreover, a good timetable also includes information on who does what in a project team at a given period of time.

The skills that make project management effective

In order to properly manage a project, a project manager has to be equipped with a variety of skills which will help him effectively initialize all project related processes, plan activities, realize those activities, and control and finalize the whole undertaking. Among other basic skills of a good project manager is the ability to decide upon and describe the aims and requirements of a project; the skill of formulating schedules and estimating costs. He has to simultaneously deal with such matters as risk and uncertainty, the management of personal time, the cooperation with others, and the interactions with the providers of goods, services and all other people who play an important role in the process of project creation. All people who are somehow involved in the realization of such an undertaking are called participants of the project. In reality, their work mirrors the results of a given project, however, without proper management the path to success can be very difficult, full of conflict situations and risks which can seriously cripple the effectiveness of the whole project team.

A project system

The implementation and management of a project in a specific practical context make it possible to consider it from the perspective of a type of system. This point of view assumes that all project related activities happen by means of a system that comprises people, organizations, objects, and various processes that influence each other. All of the aforementioned system elements should be properly coordinated. The easiest way to do this is to make use of an appropriate computer application. A project management program will make it possible to effectively carry out such an undertaking even if a manager has little experience in the field. The change of activities and some unexpected situations that may arise during any of the project stages can naturally influence all elements of the undertaking and the activities of the people who work on its realization. Therefore, the role of every competent manager is to foresee the effects of such changes. This helps in achieving control over the joint effectiveness of the whole system. In complex project teams, where extensive use is made of resources, knowledge, and services, no one can predict with 100% certainty the final effect of certain actions. It has to be stated that every project is a complex system and this complexity is mirrored in project management. In consequence, we have to try to envision all possible scenarios of project related actions. A well-designed computer application proves to be invaluable in such a situation. Additionally, it gives us the ability to easily implement changes into our plan of work during the whole process.

Project management begins once the main idea of the project is announced. This idea is to become the project itself as time passes. The act of project management ends with its closure, i.e., the finalization of the project, but only when the idea is indeed fully transformed into the project.

Below, we provide specific stages of project management in a model situation:

the announcement of the idea of the project

the initiation of actions

the planning of tasks and the assignment of tasks to individual members of the team

the realization of tasks

the control and the verification of the previously made assumptions

the planning and the execution of tasks which have not been completed yet

the final control of the project

the closure of the project

Particular stages of project work may seem to be clear on paper, however, the situation might be quite different in practice because the environment in which every project is created is usually very dynamic. Regardless, it has to be stated that project management which is based on clear boundaries between the different stages of the process of project creation helps introduce order and clarity into the work.

During every kind of project work, there are processes that facilitate organization and that help realize a huge variety of tasks in the dynamic environment surrounding project creation. Among these processes, we can talk about the constant pursuit of improvement, so about the ability to learn from past experiences. Such knowledge facilitates project realization. In short, we mean learning from our own mistakes; every good project manager should have this quality. It will be much easier for him to manage future projects if he learns how to avoid certain conflict situations. The second process is the management of funds and general organization. It is about making decisions that are necessary when choosing, initiating, and continuing projects – decisions which are also very important in order to make optimal use of limited resources assigned to a given project. If a manager is forced to manage multiple projects at the same time for one reason or another, he has to analyze them all simultaneously and manage them in such a way as to avoid any conflicts.

When managing multiple projects at the same time, it is imperative to eliminate the many causes of standard problems, among which we can name the overload of resources and the constant changing of priorities which leads to confusion among the project team and which reduces its productivity.

Regardless of the level of complexity of a project, everyone requires cooperation and consultation, so everyone recognizes the need for teamwork, communication, coordination, and knowledge and information management.

Communication – the basic factor leading to the success of a project

All members of a project team have to pay attention to maintain effective communication because it is undeniably the most important element on the way to success. It has to be emphasized that communication influences virtually every aspect of project management and employee effectiveness. The implementation of a computer based system of project management – easily accessible to all members of the team – significantly helps improve employee communication. If we inform our employees about the goals of the undertaking and the benefits it is going to bring, we motivate them to work even more effectively. A good manager must not forget that the awareness and the understanding of aims are very important for the success of every project.

Even simple facts, small problems, and petty oversights can be the source of conflicts and serious flaws in the project if communication is ineffective. Therefore, in order to avoid such situations, it is worth to devote more time to staff meetings and to implement data into a computer based system of project management. This helps in solving problems and any misunderstandings that might occur on the way to finalizing a project.

If communication is to be effective, it has to be sincere, and it has to maintain a certain level of detail. Moreover, it has to focus on the needs and interests of the people involved in a project, it has to involve the right people, and it has to lead to the unanimous understanding of messages. During project realization, much of communication is realized in an informal and oral manner, however, written documents are essential in order to store information about problems, conclusions, and plans of action. If we remember about this, writing down project assumptions turns out to be something natural and necessary. It can be done by means of a computer application. In such a case, even those who are not directly related to the decisions that were made in reference to the undertaking are fully aware of what is going on.

Every project, regardless of its kind, requires a well-established communication system. It has to have clearly specified expectations, roles, and tasks. All data should be stored in written form that would be easily accessible to all people involved in a given project. This can be done by means of electronic mail, informal notes, formal documents, templates, descriptions, or a well-designed computer application.