Best Practices in Project Management

A small business, like any other business, needs to efficiently manage the projects they are working on for their respective customer base. Please allow me to preface this article by stating that the type of project management I will be focusing upon in this article is not Information Technology (I.T.) based project management.



This article will focus on marketing and business development project management, and I will draw upon my over 14 years of professional experience in these two areas to share the best practices I have utilized in my career.



The key to effectively managing projects which develop business for your company is the ability to be nimble and flexible. The fast-paced business world changes rapidly, and your small business has to be able to adjust and adapt to this changing landscape in order to survive.



The first step – Project Entry



Every company whether it is large, medium, or a small business; each one has a system for managing their work. The entry of a project into this system is a critical first step in this process. In order to be efficient in turning out projects the entry process must be:

  1. Concise – the project synopsis must be short yet detailed and precise
  2. Action oriented – the project must clearly relate the action(s) needed
  3. Past work – the project should always reference related previous work in order to help efficiency and save precious work hours to maximize sales



In my experience, I always used the project synopsis to provide my colleagues with the most critical information. It was written as directly and clearly as possible to eliminate potential misunderstandings or ambiguity. My projects were very action oriented and clearly demonstrated the action needed and by which individuals where needed to bring the project to a successful closure.



I also made it a habit to reference past projects and past work done either for that same customer, or for a related business objective. I would refer to the prior project number and the outcome of the project to assist my colleagues in providing a baseline for their work.



Workflow Organization



I found in my experience, the best way to organize your workflow on the projects within the system was via Excel. I would set up Excel spreadsheets for pending projects, new projects, and closed projects (usually backed up 4-6 weeks) and would track the status of each project by updating the Excel sheets with new information.



Then, at points where I was juggling several projects all within tight deadlines, I would print hard copies of the projects and the Excel sheets. I would separate them in piles in the categories I listed above, and file new information by attaching it to each project. I found that this method helped me to see the whole picture more clearly by having hard copies in front of me. It has to work for you and your respective business, but this method usually helped me to not miss an important detail or deadline.



This topic encompasses so much information that I created a second part to this article. In the second part of this series on Project Management, I will share my experience with a priority system, and also provide ideas for tracking projects that require the involvement of several different members of your company.




Priority System – Why your business should have one

In several businesses which I have worked with in the past, a priority system was implemented to help with managing projects for business development. Some companies divided and categorized their customers as: “A”, “B”, or “C” with type “A” customers being the top priority for incoming projects. Other companies used a number system to rank their customers: 1,2,3,4. Obviously, group 1 would be the top priority customer category, and group 4 would be a low priority customer or low priority business opportunity.


In this system, when a project is entered, the priority for attention would go from the top accounts down to the “type B” or “type C” accounts. This enables a division of labor and resources which is clear to all those involved in your company to manage the projects in the system effectively.


In my experience, I had several points where I was managing projects for several top tier customer accounts, or “Type A” accounts and each project had a deadline in the same two or three day window. Those types of days are stressful and hectic, but in order to cut through the potential chaos, the priority system can still work.


In the case of having several top priority projects due all at once, then you must come together as a team and discuss the projects. The account manager, the project manager, the head of marketing and any other key personnel need to meet to weigh the business opportunity versus the cost of the project to your company. This is like a “sub level” to the priority system that will help to address multiple projects with tight deadlines. This type of team communication and communication with your customers can really help in those difficult days of growing pains for your small business.


The Weekly Report – simple yet effective


I have worked with a few different companies that did not have a weekly report as part of their project management function; until I arrived there and made the suggestion to implement one.

The weekly report for project management is a simple function yet a very effective component to your business operation. In setting one up, I would use a template and send the report out on Friday every week via email to all the key personnel appropriate within a given organization.

The report detailed all the projects which were scheduled to be due for completion during the following week. It listed: the project name, project number, the customer account name, the due date, current status, and action needed.

This report allowed all the key personnel, and myself to see the work we had ahead of us for the upcoming week, and allowed for any feedback or objections to be made known ahead of the project due date.

It is a simple function to implement into your business and I worked for two companies that found this report so helpful to their project management, that they implemented it across the board for their respective businesses.


Summing Up

In summary, the role of project management for your incoming business opportunities is very important to the health of your company. This article listed only some of the suggested ways you could improve project management within your business.


A small business with limited manpower will need to place an emphasis on project management best practices in order to efficiently respond to business opportunities. These tips will help to streamline your activity and help your business save time and money from wasting resources in an undefined project management environment.





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