A quick online search for project management tips places planning right at the top of the list, and we wholeheartedly agree. Without thorough preparation, a project can soon stall as it encounters obstacles that could easily have been anticipated. However, fleshing out the scope of a project and ensuring that everything runs smoothly can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Our experience in delivering numerous, multi-faceted projects has helped us hone our approach to project management, and we thought it might be useful to share what we have learnt.
1. Communication is key
Most projects are not simple and involve lots of stakeholders. A breakdown in communication is often responsible for delays or standstills. Before you launch into delivering a project, consider how you will keep everyone in the loop and up to date. Will you have regular debriefs? What methods of communication will you use? How will you keep track of what is agreed and with whom?
2. Plan and then plan again
We can’t stress enough how important it is to plan your project – however obvious it might sound. Effective planning will allow you to outline the scope of your project, including objectives, budgets, timelines and responsibilities. Getting the scope of supply clear and aligned between all parties from the outset is essential if you are to run a successful project. Develop a briefing document containing all the project details as a one-stop reference.
3. Plan for surprises
Some things are out of your control, despite all your advanced planning. Consequently, you need to create leeway in your project to accommodate this. If your budget is maxed out or you have no margin for delays, then the likelihood is that you will overspend and deliver the project later than expected.
4. Get agreement from all parties at all times
You need to get written agreement to the plan from everyone at the outset. Once again, communication is key. If one of the parties cannot deliver on time or wants to change the scope of the project, it’s important to understand why and review any alternative options. If there isn’t one, the change needs to be signed off in writing by the project manager/sponsor and communicated to the project team. Nothing is worse than having a project team working to conflicting timelines and budgets to meet different objectives.
5. Decide on a project management system
In today’s digital age, it is perhaps easier than ever to manage all the various elements of a project. A range of project management tools are available that enable all stakeholders to access the same information at the same time. Rather than having your project documentation strewn over email, paper and electronic files, why not consolidate it all in a single, easy to manage tool, containing ‘live’ information for everyone to access?
6. Assign responsibilities
It sounds simple, but everyone involved needs to know what is expected of them and by when. If everyone is in the right place at the right time with the right resources, a project runs smoothly. In many projects, multiple actions are dependent on preceding deliverables, and a delay in one of these can have a domino effect throughout your project. When people are clear on their responsibilities, they find it easy to deliver what’s expected of them, and you don’t end up in the situation of assuming someone else is taking care of something when they’re not.
7. Document everything
It’s essential to keep track of everything as you go. When a key decision is made, document it. When you change the plan, document it. When you reach a bottleneck, document it. Documenting everything enables you to review previous decisions, make better decisions in the future and more fully understand how the project is progressing, as well as highlighting strengths and weaknesses in your project delivery.
8. Resolve issues as soon as possible
Small issues can become big issues if they are not resolved quickly. However, if you have good communication channels, a detailed project plan and agreement from all parties, it should be fairly straightforward to tackle problems as they arise. Don’t hold back from confronting them head on and remember to make sure that you document what you decide to do.
If you are regularly involved in managing projects, your experience will hopefully build confidence and help you manage your next project even better. One way to ensure this is to review a project after it has been delivered. Ask questions of yourself and the project team: What was good? What was difficult? What could we do differently? In any project, there is always room for improvement, and hopefully you can develop best practice for next time around.
10. Attributes of a successful project manager
The success of a project often rises or falls around the project manager. It is essential that a project manager has excellent communication skills, helping to set the vision, get everyone on board and resolve conflict where necessary. Enthusiasm for the project goes a long way towards bringing the team together, and empathy is critical when things go wrong or there are setbacks. The project manager must be competent in their role, delegating responsibly to play to the team’s strengths, while retaining overall strategic and operational control.
Need some help to manage a process water or wastewater treatment project?
Helping you to plan a water treatment project is where our team of project engineers can truly add value. Their experience, developed through multiple projects, enables them to manage even the most complex projects and identify weaknesses in a plan, asking the questions you haven’t thought of. Foreseeing potential problems is the first step in delivering the final project on time, within budget and to the desired specifications. At Veolia, we work closely with our clients from the start, helping them to develop a suitable configuration to meet their desired water quality from our portfolio of over 350 technologies. Why not get in touch to discuss how we can help to project manage your next water treatment solution?