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The Alternative Board Blog

Project Management for Small Businesses (A Series)

Oct. 30, 2012 | Posted by The Alternative Board
 
Today, we are announcing a new weekly blog series,  Project Management for Small BusinessesAs a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), from the Project Management Institute (PMI), I will be sharing the best practices for project management  tailored specifically for small businesses. I'll start by answering a few frequently asked questions:
 What do we mean by a "project"? The PMI defines a project as  a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. You can think of a project as anything outside of the normal day-to-day operations of your business. Any time that you undertake an effort to develop something new- to create a new process, or even to update an existing product or process, this is a project. Most small businesses will complete many projects throughout the year.
 
Some examples of projects are:
  •  Revising marketing collateral to integrate new messaging.
  • Creating an operations process manual.
  • Establishing dashboards to monitor the metrics of a business.
  • Moving to a new office location.
  • Developing a customer retention program.

 

What can businesses learn from this series? Most business undertake many projects. And for the most part, these projects are managed sub-optimally, or even poorly. Projects are typically undertaken in an ad hoc fashion, where the project leader, if one has been appointed, uses their own individual experience to guide the employees. Many of these projects fail, and many projects that are completed could have been executed more efficiently, with less stress and conflict, and could have achieved a better result.

 
For small businesses, adding some structure to this process will reduce failures, and produce a better result. By following a well-defined process, project teams will come out of their projects with a heightened sense of teamwork, instead of the resentment that often accompanies a poorly executed project.

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There are lots of project methodologies out there. Do we need a new one? Readers experienced with project management have probably heard project terms such as Waterfall Approach, Agile, Lean Project Management, Extreme, and System Development Lifecycle. These methodologies are very good in their own right, but for the most part, the above methods are designed for large and complex projects. It's great if you have a PMP in your business who has been trained on these methodologies.  Each methodology can be adapted to smaller businesses and projects. The problem is that most businesses don't have this luxury, and are not able to invest in PMP education.
 
The methodologies represent different best practice techniques for accomplishing the key project activities. At some level, all projects have the same set of activities that need to be accomplished. They need to have a well-defined scope, an assigned project team, including the project manager and named stakeholders, and they need to have a project plan. These various best practice methodologies represent different techniques for accomplishing different activities, and maximizing the likelihood of a successful project.
 
The methodologies are quite involved. Despite many years managing complex software projects, I spent approximately 90 days preparing for the PMP exam. My goal with this series is to present the most relevant subset of these best practice techniques that are tailored to small businesses. These techniques will be relatively simple so that new team members can get up to speed, and by executing them, your businesses will increase its likelihood of project success.
 
Next week, installment two will introduce each of the key project steps that will be described throughout this series.
 
 

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Written by The Alternative Board

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