Effective project management is a practice that many organizations tend to discount even in this hyper-fast environment. Accordingly, more projects fail or experience delays and issues when they really don’t have to. Getting better project lifecycle management should help improve the chances of success.
Even for companies with project management systems and tools, there seems to be a growing pain point. Only 35% of project managers are happy with the systems they have in place. So what does it take to have effective project management structures in place to ensure faster and more accurate project lifecycles? We discuss that and more in this article.
Why Project Management Matters
Project management is essential in all departments across various industries. Whether it’s infrastructure, construction, mining, or engineering, we all need to manage projects better. Great project management is a healthy mix of tool savviness and best practice compliance. This means that project managers who know what tools to use and how to use them will be the most successful.
Before we dive into how companies should manage project lifecycles, let’s look at why effective project management is crucial first. These are the top reasons.
- Increases chances of success. Having a project control system in place to measure project costs and performance helps increase the chances of project success and completion. Simply having a strategic project plan in place and a good estimate increases the likelihood of project success. Project managers provide clarity, direction, and agility to project operation.
- Lowers deadweight losses. One of the leading reasons why projects fail is because they go over the budget. In the case of construction, poorly managed expenses can lead to a project halt or delay, leading to more problems moving forward. By managing project expectations, spending, and movement, you and your team are able to minimize expenses, most especially those that appear out of nowhere.
- Improves work efficiency. Using project controls software to manage projects makes teams more efficient. There’s lesser confusion, which can lead to lesser miscommunication and errors at work. By implementing a project performance management system, companies don’t just save money— they can also save time and complete projects faster.
Best Practices for Managing Project Lifecycles Better
So now, let’s talk about what makes great project management systems work so well and the best practices behind them.
Set parameters to measure success
When setting up project lifecycle management systems, it is important to be clear about what parameters you want to track and how you’re going to measure the rate of success. The best project reporting practices have coding structures, or work breakdown structures, before they start tracking projects through a system.
Some examples of parameters that you should track include:
- Project duration
- Activities that hit a deadline
- Activities that don’t hit a deadline
- Manpower size
- Deliverables completed
- Deliverables pending
There can be other parameters worth tracking as well, depending on what matters most to your context.
Ask for complete buy-in on your system
Using project controls software means very little when it goes unused or when data remains siloed by departments that do not participate in its use. That’s why it’s important to get complete buy-in from a team when running project management systems. When some people don’t use the system, some tasks and deliverables will fall through the cracks. And while having a system that’s partially used will help at some level, it won’t be as effective as when you get full buy-in.
Provide training and orientation as necessary and include the project management system in your onboarding process. Use one project management tool and avoid having multiple systems and jumping from one to another too often to avoid both unnecessary learning curves and siloed project data.
Track costs and expenses
The next best practice for better project performance management is to track project costs expenses as much as possible. Our project cost management software supports all required project cost processes including budgeting, EVM, resource planning, time-phasing, and tracking project changes and performance. Note that 60% of project managers view resource management as one of their biggest challenges. So it makes sense that using a tool in order to do this will speed up the process.
The Contractor Portal in PRISM Go allows third party vendors and contractors to enter project data into limited fields. ARES PRISM integrates with major ERP systems so that a broad view of a project’s financials, supply chain, operations, commerce, reporting, manufacturing, and human resource activities can be imported into the system.
Hold regular cadence for progress reports
It’s important to know which projects to prioritize to ensure that companies are doing projects that matter most. But another reason why projects fall through the cracks is that there isn’t a structure to provide regular progress reports. Progress reports should be given on a regular basis, even daily if possible.
There are also project management tools that provide regular reporting so that managers know which parts of a project are at risk of becoming overdue or going over a set budget. Setting up these automated reports can help streamline the project management process as well. These reports can be sent via email too, so that managers get them delivered to their inbox.
Provide clear instructions
Using the best project management software will also not matter much if project managers fail to give detailed instructions. Managers and leaders are most effective when they’re able to provide clear and timely instructions when direct reports need it most. When creating project briefs, communicate all the necessary instructions needed to complete a task at the highest level of excellence possible.
Some things to communicate when giving instructions include:
- What the task is for
- How to complete the task
- What minimum quality controls the employee or worker should follow
- The direct output required
- When the task is due
Set timelines and deadlines
Speaking of deadlines, there’s very little that’s as important as communicating clear timelines and deadlines to team members. One of the biggest goals of effective project lifecycle management is to complete projects on or before the expected date of completion. The faster we can churn out projects, the more happy stakeholders and clients will be.
When setting timelines, ensure that they’re realistic so that the project doesn’t fall apart due to faulty expectations. Also, teams work best when they’re given some leeway for unforeseen delays or contingencies.
Have a project closure session
The last practice that project managers should start implementing more is some sort of project closure rhythm to officially end a project, especially ad hoc ones. Not everything goes well in project execution, that’s for sure. And these roadblocks can become great learning opportunities. That’s what a project closure session is there for—to learn from your mistakes and find means to ensure they happen less or never happen again even.
Some things to do in project closure:
- Discuss learnings
- Celebrate wins to improve team morale
- Review budgets
- Turnover any important files
- Close financial records