What Entrepreneurs Should Know About Starting Projects

October 20, 2021 – Alexander Rodriguez

According to teamwork.com “When project management is done right, it helps every part of the business run more smoothly. It allows your team to focus on the work that matters, free from the distractions caused by tasks going off track or budgets spinning out of control. It empowers them to deliver results that impact the business’s bottom line. And it enables your employees to see how their work contributes to the company’s strategic goals.” The benefits of utilizing project management correctly cannot be overstated. Project management can help your startup succeed.
According to the PMI’s Pulse of the Professional global survey of 2017, companies that implemented well-known project management practices wasted 28 times less money all because their strategic initiatives offered good results. Furthermore, according to the latest Pulse of the Profession report by the Project Management Institute (PMI), 57% of respondents saw significant business changes in their operational efficiencies over the past year and another 49% experienced changes in the maturity of their project management. Have you ever questioned how to tackle a project in your business? Follow these simple steps to conduct a successful project.
First, let us define what a project is. “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” PMBOK® Guide Essentially, you have been managing projects all your life. There are many different project management methodologies you can discover, but the one we will cover today is the waterfall approach. According to Wrike, “waterfall project management maps out a project into distinct, sequential phases, with each new phase beginning only when the previous one has been completed.”
To start your project you should know that most project steps are divided into what is called the project life cycle. According to the PMBOK, a project life cycle is a “collection of generally sequential project phases.” As a standard, these phases are:

Initiation

This is when a project is proposed, you define what your project will consist of and get the people who will be working on the project to commit to it. Finally, you will get initial approval from your stakeholders to begin planning.

Planning

After you have the initial approval for your project you will have a detailed picture of how you will execute the project and you will get the final approval of your stakeholders to start executing. 

Executing

This process is performed to complete the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project requirements.

Monitoring and Controlling

This process is required to track, review, and regulate the progress and performance of the project; identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required; initiate the corresponding changes.

Closing

Now that you know the basics, this post will take you through PG’s approach to project management.
Disclaimer: everything encompassing PG’s approach was not invented by PG, these are tried and tested practices that are used for project management most of them using the waterfall approach. However, not every project management practice will fit your project so we have chosen what fits best for us.
In  the initiation phase, you start defining what your project will be, develop a team, establish your milestones, establish a preliminary budget all on a document called the project charter and then move to the planning phase where you develop the project plan. In PG, we tend to merge both of these phases into one. We dive into the project plan but we include everything that goes on the project charter. The planning process for your project should be as detailed as you can make it. Make sure to cover all of the bases you can to begin executing your project properly.

So how does PG develop a Project Plan?

1. Scope

The scope is “the sum of all products, services, and results to be provided by the project” as stated by the PMBOK® Guide.  Essentially, your scope will be a summary of what your project will be, what your project will not be, any major risk that your project may have, and the budget of your project. You can also add key milestones (determining points in your project’s life) and constraints (things that keep you from your big goals).

2. Justification

This is done on big projects where you need the project to be approved, but even when you are working on your own projects it is important to state why the project is being done and how it will benefit you or your company. If there is no proper justification, project managers should ask themselves if the project is even worth doing.

3. Assumptions and Constraints

According to the PMBOK, the assumptions are “factors that, for planning purposes, are considered to be true, real, or certain without proof or demonstration.” For example, to assume that you’ll have all the resources you need to complete your project or the scope of the project will not change throughout the project. The constraints are any limitations your project may have. These are things that you and your team will have to work with throughout the project life cycle. To help with this, we always think of the triple constraints of project management which are time constraints (very little time to do the project), scope constraint (the scope is way too limiting or way too broad), and cost constraint (there are barely any funds to cover the project).

4. Project Team

Your project team will include any person that will work in your project, you must establish their roles, responsibilities, and expectations for successful project execution.

5. Team Operating Principals

The team operating principles will be a set of guidelines or principles your team will adhere to. This will include things like time spent on the project, efforts, responsibilities, and communication time, meeting quorum, etc.

6. Milestones

According to Wrike.com “A milestone is a specific point within a project’s life cycle used to measure the progress toward the ultimate goal. Milestones in project management are used as signal posts for the next phase in your project. Some typical milestone examples are external reviews or input, budget checks, submission of a major deliverable, obtaining approvals, submitting a marketing plan, etc.”

7. Project Risks

“Risk Management includes the processes of conducting risk management planning, identification, analysis, response planning & implementation and monitoring risks on the project. The objectives of risk management are to increase the probability and/or impact of positive risks and to decrease the probability and/or impact of negative risks, in order to optimize the chances of project success.” (Project Management Institute, 2017).
Like most processes of project management, working with risks is an ongoing task. Once you identify a risk, you should formulate a contingency plan for your risks; in other words, how you plan to move above that risk. You should also rate your risks by the impact on your project and the probability of them happening, you can use the High, Medium, or Low approach to rate your risks.
Fun fact: Not all risks are negative!
Risks are merely uncertain events that when they occur, can have a positive or a negative impact on your project. For example, an unscheduled update for an app development software that facilitates your work is also a risk.

8. Communications Plan

This communication plan should have everyone involved in your project outlined, which means your project teams, clients, and sponsors. Here, you will outline the who, how, when, what, and why of communicating with a particular stakeholder. This will help you and everyone involved in the project know what is happening and how to get in touch with the people that they need. Furthermore, having a communication plan will help clarify the roles of the people involved in the project, manage expectations, and get everyone on the same page.

9. Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement

The stakeholder analysis and engagement plan is a continuation of your communications plan. According to the PMBOK “The stakeholder engagement plan includes the processes required to identify the people, groups, or organizations that could impact or be impacted by the project, to analyze stakeholder expectations and their impact on the project, and to develop appropriate management strategies for effectively engaging stakeholders in project decisions and execution.”
To ensure your project’s success you will need to know everyone who can have a potential impact on it. As in risks, this impact can be positive or negative, having a stakeholder engagement plan will help you manage how your stakeholders will receive information and potentially minimize or maximize their impact.

10. Budget

In the budget, you must break down the cost of your project, you must include every last cent that you know will be used for your project. This will depend on the type of project you will be working on. If you have a construction project, for example, this will be things like materials, machinery, workers, permits, etc.
Pro Tip: Always include a contingency reserve (emergency funds) in your budget. To create this, the PMI recommends that you use the Monte Carlo method’s Expected Monetary Value (EMV) formula. This is:
EMV = % of probability x % of impact in project
Read more about this model by the PMI.

11. Breakdown Schedule

No project is the same and so no project management process will be the same, every company and every project manager has their own methodology. In a traditional project, you would start doing things like Work Breakdown Structures, which you would then turn into activities on node, that would then be turned into work packages, and those would be used to make a Gantt chart. In PG, we do a Breakdown Schedule where we start with the project milestones and divide those milestones into activities and tasks to achieve this milestone. For example, if a milestone is to bake a cake what steps would we need for this milestone. This is the exact same process that you would use to do a work package but without the other added steps. Now in order for your schedule to be useful, you will include the start and finish dates for the tasks and milestones and who will be responsible for completing those tasks.
Project management is a very useful tool to ensure that your projects are successful, there are many methodologies for project management and there is no right or best methodology, so it will take time for you to find which works best for you and the projects you work on.
We encourage you to check out the PMI (Project Management Institute) website, authority leaders on project management. If you would like to learn more about project management or would be interested in project management training or assistance in your startup, feel free to contact us.

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