We’ve all heard that to write a good book you need a beginning, a middle and an end. Projects, whether they are small short-term pieces of work or large-scale construction works are no different to this. The one thing they have in common is that they all have an obvious completion such as a successful product launch or the opening of a new bridge. In other words, projects are one-offs that are never repeated, they aren’t the routine business activities that people often get bored with.
The Beginning – at the start of a project you have to establish just exactly it is you are aiming to achieve. This might sound obvious but can you put down some objective measures that you can test your success against later? It’s also at the start that you need to put a timescale in place for the major elements of your project. The start and end dates might be straightforward but also consider what the major steps are along the way. The only thing to do now is to estimate how much this project will cost or perhaps how much budget you can assign to it. By looking at what you need to achieve and the timescales involved you can now gauge how much will be spent when and on what. It could be external suppliers or your own time and effort. Think through your objectives, timescale and costs a few times until you are happy that they fit your needs.
The Middle – this is where you need to get implementing and is often what business owners really enjoy but without doing some of the basics in the beginning things can go wrong very quickly. Once you have your timescales and budget in place you can measure your success or otherwise as you move forward. This doesn’t have to be anything sophisticated but it does allow you to make informed decisions along the way.
The End – you are now at the stage where everything is (hopefully) coming together and you are launching your new product or opening that new site. Was it a success though? Go back and look at the objectives, timescale and costs from the beginning. How close are you to what you planned for? Remember, meeting all the objectives in twice the time and for three times the cost isn’t necessarily success.
Believe it or not, many of the activities you get involved in when running your business can be considered a stand-alone Project and can benefit from the application of some basic project management techniques. Like many disciplines project management has a language all to itself and can be extremely off putting for many people. Keeping it to the basics though can be a real benefit for many business owners to help them focus on very specific objectives, timescales and costs.