How to Manage a Project: Executing a Project
In this new series, we will cover every step in the process of project management. Our third segment will discuss step three: executing a project.
If you’ve made it this far in the project management cycle, it’s time to act, i.e., execute the project. The execution phase is crucial as this is the step of the project management process where the rubber hits the road. Plus, it demands maximum time and resources. In this crucial step, you must implement the plan based on the defined scope, allocated budget, assigned team, etc.
It’s easier to chart a comprehensive plan that accounts for all variables and factors. Yet, the project’s actual execution plans depend on diverse on-ground factors. For example, you may need to accommodate changes in the scope, team, resources and budget. You will have to make these tweaks, while meeting stakeholders’ expectations to complete the project.
It’s Best to Adhere to the Following Tips to Execute a Project Effortlessly
Here is your project’s raison d’être – building the actual product or deliverable for your client. You have already determined the why, what, who, when, and where in the planning phase. Now, the success of your project relies on the strength of the foundation you have built. Resources have been allocated to specific tasks with start and end dates to move the project forward effectively, with no team members working ahead or behind schedule. You designed the previous phase to enable task assignment, communication and, now, collaboration.
The focus now shifts to implementing the processes and meeting objectives while maintaining quality. Make sure you meet with your team regularly, monitor the work’s progress, and assess the quality of the deliverables they produce. Also, make sure to remove any bottlenecks that might hamper the work’s progress and delay the delivery.
You need to ensure that your team has real-time visibility and control over critical metrics like WIP, utilization, margins, etc.
Monitor And Control
While your team implements all of the above, project managers can reconcile the actuals with the estimates. Discrepancies, if any, become evident at this stage. The team must respond fast in a manner that preempts any disruption to the project. There are multiple sub-phases to keep track of, as mentioned below:
1. Examine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Key performance indicators are the metrics that you track to measure your team’s progress and performance. Are all milestones within budget? Are resources distributed evenly, or is there a shortage – or even overstaffing? Is the team meeting the client’s quality standards? By reviewing KPIs in reports or on dashboards, you can assess these concerns at a glance.
A. Project Schedule and Status
In the planning phase, your team and you developed a detailed timeline to guide your progress. Now, you can see how the project pans out in real-time. The sync between the planned and actual progress is a litmus test for how effectively you defined the scope. No matter how well you define it, workflow changes are bound to arise. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor the need for changes and implement them using the appropriate change management process so that the project does not derail from its original route.
B. Resources Utilization
How productive are your team members? What are they working on? Are your resources maximizing their time on billable tasks or spending precious billable hours on administrative work? Even the best can burn out – observe and ensure no one is under or over-utilized.
At the same time, be sure to keep a keen eye on project costs. What did you forecast, and where are you ending up based on the work done? Any inconsistencies will become clear using a visual representation of your KPIs, and you can tackle them as they occur.
Cash flows will kick in as the project goes underway. You must manage the ‘work in progress’ well, while keeping an eye on the billing status. Here, project managers must collaborate closely with the finance teams to keep clients up-to-date. This process also helps understand the project’s success in terms of project business metrics and profitability.
The best way to analyze whether or not the project is on track is by setting milestones in between the project journey. However, some project managers look forward to achieving the final goal and aim to work consistently until then. However, setting milestones motivates team members and keeps their morale up throughout the execution cycle.
A flexible system allows teams to model different billing rates, billing engagements, and complex contracts.
2. Communicate With Stakeholders
Both internal and external stakeholders need regular updates on the project status. Sharing detailed data proactively with stakeholders or using accessible software to provide better context into workflows, KPIs, and progress is critical. Also, it’s good to refer back to the project charter and determine if there have been changes to the scope. For instance, clients request changes that impact costs or schedules. Finally, manage stakeholder communication effectively by identifying how they want to receive the updates. And how frequently they would like to have such update-related stand-ups.
3. Manage Risks
As discussed in the planning phase, risk assessment allows teams to identify potential problems that may arise. You must analyze the likelihood of their manifesting, take action to prevent avoidable risks, and minimize the impact of those that you can’t. Risk management is where you actually walk the talk. So, identify risks in the budget, timeline, or beyond, and ensure you have the right tools to handle issues as they crop up; for example, a solution that can reliably provide real-time visibility into the financial health, resource availability, and more. Also, it is recommended to document all the risks and changes that arise in one place, along with the solution that worked. The change management documentation will serve as historical data for future projects and help understand what needs to be done in such scenarios to mitigate their effects.
Time to take a deep breath, exhale, and relax. Once you’ve gotten through the execution phase, your team and you deserve a break. It’s hard work, but when you’ve taken the time to learn what to expect – and how to handle it – your clients will be delighted with the output.
Stay tuned for the last post in our series: Closing Out A Project.
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