If you were to visit every project manager in the world, you’d probably find that no two roles are entirely alike. Some encompass more traditional resourcing and planning tasks, whereas other project managers are more hands-on, with direct input on how a product or service is created or delivered.
But despite this variation, there are elements to the project management role that are almost universal, no matter where you work. Being able to deliver on time, on budget, and to a high standard will always been at the center of project management – whether that’s in an architect’s office or the bustling breakout room of a tech start-up.
There’s plenty of information out there that explores many different approaches to project management. However, with only 61% of project managers saying they apply a defined methodology to each project, there could still be PMs out there who are still trying to find the right approach.
How to be a good project manager
We’ll explore five project management best practices that may help you to boost productivity and even over-deliver on projects. It covers general mindset changes, planning techniques, and tips to improve the way you work.
1. Start at the end
Begin planning from your desired outcome and work backward. This might seem counterintuitive at first, but there’s a reason behind this. Starting from the end helps to envisage exactly what a successful outcome looks like for your team. Then you simply work backward by splitting the outcome into tasks that you need to do to get there.
This way of planning ensures that you don’t forget anything during the process, and it will shine a light on any issues with the project that you might not otherwise have realized until later. If you’re employing the lean method to your plan, working backward could also help you to identify inefficient processes in your project that can be removed or improved.
2. Be dynamic
Albert Einstein famously said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. That may well be true, but it’s certain that adaptiveness is a useful trait to have in general. Being dynamic is a necessity for PMs in all kinds of ways, including being flexible when projects change, i.e. timelines, budgets, resources, and so on.
Being dynamic should also mean that you’re open to hearing other ideas that might not be complementary to your own. It’s about being flexible, not just in terms of deadlines and delivery, but also in the way you think about the task in hand. Try to be as open as possible to new ideas that you might not normally consider. You never know, one might end up being a real gamechanger.
3. Keep track of time
One of the key responsibilities of a project manager is making sure a project is running on time. This is usually done through resourcing and checking in with the different teams involved in each project. One difficulty at this stage is discerning how much time to assign to tasks that are delegated to other employees.
How do you define a deadline for someone else? Consult managers and heads of department to get more accurate estimates for allotted time on tasks. Alternatively, you could go to the employees individually. Remember to factor in admin tasks or time-consuming stages in your process. These might include proofreading for content projects, QA for software updates, or sales admin for commercial projects.
4. Expect the unexpected
It’s not often that projects go completely according to plan. No matter how experienced your team is, there’s probably always going at least a minor issue or a last-minute change to deal with.
Set aside some time in your plan to allow for nasty surprises. This also gives a little leeway to other teams who might already be against the clock. What’s more, you’ll thank yourself if everything goes to plan and you find yourself with an extra hour or two to spend on something else.
5. Automate tasks
Finally, here’s a tip that can actually be applied to two of the points we’ve already covered: use automation. By automating repetitive tasks, you can free up time that can be used to take care of any unexpected tasks (see point 4). You can also use automation to automatically track the hours your team spends on projects (see point 3). 55% of workers spend five hours or more on tedious tasks that require little or no creativity. With automation, you can take these tasks off your list and let automation software handle it for you, giving you more time to tackle your next project.
Automation tips for project management
When it comes to automation, it can be difficult to know where to start. Automation software is available in varying degrees of complexity and accessibility. Some solutions require knowledge of coding or the inner workings of specific apps to be of value, while others have very narrow functionality that may limit their usefulness.
A good tip for finding the right automation software is to consider who will be using it and what you want to achieve with it. For example, if you want to introduce automation to your wider team, it’s a good idea to find software that’s easy to access and use.
At Nintex, we offer an entire suite of automation tools, tailored to the needs of project managers, with a drag and drop interface to help to make the everyday lives of you, and your team, more efficient and effective.
To find out more about Nintex’s automation tools and how it can enhance your project management, get in touch with us today or book a demo.