Projects happen no matter what size your business is. And sometimes you aren’t even aware there are projects going on. They’re called assignments, emergencies, new initiatives, and whatever the owner wants done this week. Big and small, long or short, cheap or expensive. In reality they are all projects. However when it comes to project management many small businesses do not have the skill set.
The small business owner wears too many hats and doesn’t delegate management responsibilities to anyone. The result is projects fall behind because the small business owner cannot provide the appropriate oversight to keep projects on track. Without some level of project management the root cause of project slippage is never identified and resolved. Lack of root cause analysis causes reoccurrence of existing and unaddressed organizational problems resulting in owner frustration and disappointed clients.
But small businesses do not have the time for root cause analysis. Instead of correcting the problems identified below the business owner’s expectation is for people to work harder and longer. Why; because that’s what the entrepreneur would do. Problem is the entrepreneur’s employees are probably working as hard as they can and already putting in about 50 to 60 hours.
Root causes of project slippage
- Resources assigned to a project are drawn into other priorities that prevent them from focusing on project activities
- Management doesn’t prioritize the work to ensure limited resources are working on the most important things.
- There is no one person with oversight of the project and a view of the big picture regarding dependencies.
- No risk assessment is conducted increasing the probability of risks occurring.
- There is a lack of integrated project planning resulting in omission of key activities required to meet expectations.
- Deadlines and pricing are provided to clients prior to requirements being fully vetted with the people accountable for doing the work.
All of the above results in project schedule and budget over runs. Tracking costs and time to delivery is vital for small business projects, because the small business has limited financial and human resources. A smart investment in project management provides controls that prevent slippage from reoccurring in the following project areas.
Scope refers to the breadth of a project, or how much of the business will be affected, and the bigger the project, the more details and planning are required to successfully bring it to fruition. Carrying out a wide-scale business project requires careful coordination to ensure minimal impact on ongoing sales and production.
Creating a project timeline requires coordinating project activities in conjunction with the ongoing business activities. A project manager will identify and detail activities required in each phase of a project and lead teams with members of your staff to carry out each phase. Working within the parameters of a project management plan, a schedule sets out target dates for completion of tasks within each phase and is directly correlated to the scope of a project.
Project management helps keep projects on budget. A good project management plan identifies anticipated costs early on to develop a realistic budget. Coordinating tasks and clearly identifying goals or deliverables within phases reduces inefficiencies in time management that can result in being over-budget.
Project management saves companies money by creating an organizational and filing system for you. Rather than wasting time and money searching for notes, files and documentation, everything exists within the project management process.
When mistakes get made, it costs the business money. Mistakes can cause a loss of customers, and thus a loss of income stream to the business. Mistakes also can require employees to have to spend time correcting the mistakes that could have been spent working on new tasks. Project management can help prevent mistakes from being made, ultimately saving the company money. It seems wherever we go organizations don’t commit resources the time to do things right the first time but they always find time to commit resources to fix the errors that were made; costing more time and money.
Another key benefit for project management is to learn from the experience. Learning is especially important for small businesses, because most of the same people will carry out the same work for future projects. Typically in small business when a project falls behind there is always someone looking to blame someone for the delay. However when a project falls behind the small business owner should view this as an opportunity to improve a broken process instead of finger pointing. A collaborative atmosphere without assigning blame is important for effective evaluation that will improve the process and strengthen team cohesion.
A project is a temporary venture aimed at producing a unique product or service. In many cases, this uniqueness means there aren’t any blueprints or steps in place to develop the end product. This is where project management mentoring and coaching can help the small business owner. Project managers have expertise and experience in creating plans to deliver these items.
Project management is a growing field used increasingly by businesses of all sizes. As entrepreneurs deal with the daily responsibilities of managing an organization, it is important to use project management to oversee projects from conception to completion. Project managers are skilled in project management techniques specific to dealing with one-time projects. They manage interdependencies, communicate and escalate effectively, provide visibility to project status and address resource conflict. Organizations that invest wisely in project management to monitor and control processes and schedules can more effectively complete their projects on time and on budget with minimal disruption to the rest of the business.