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Tools for Project Management

 

Charter and tools for project planning
 

Our previous article discussed sanctioning and the charter elements of project planning. This article expands on the project charter document and reviews some popular project management tools.

The Project Charter

The Charter is the blueprint document that will guide you through the entire project. It outlines the business issues being addressed and contains the nitty-gritty on everything, including project objectives, sub-phases, tasks, resources, along with estimating and scheduling.

Formatting the Charter

Step 1 on the Charter is to list:

  • Name of the Project,
  • Project Sponsor,
  • Project Manager, and
  • Project Team Members.

Step 2 is a description detailing the purpose of the project and a summary of the main points.

Scoping out the project comes next to clarify what is included and what is outside the scope.

The ‘project scope’ includes items such as:

  • Business issues to be addressed,
  • Expected results,
  • The objectives of the project,
  • Major deliverables,
  • What is included, and
  • What is outside the scope.

Taking the last point deeper, the Charter can also include a breakdown of any optional items outside the scope that could be incorporated as “add-ons.”

The final step is to include a due date for the deliverables and a section for the sponsor to sign off on the charter document.

Estimating

While you are in the planning stage, you need to create a Work Breakdown Structure.

The time required to complete the project and the resources needed have to be estimated and recorded. Then, break down the project and consider each task on its own.

For example, let’s say you own a design company, and your client has engaged you to create a new logo for their business.

You could break down the tasks as follows:

  1. Get the client to supply all the required company information.
  2. Provide three draft design options to the client for review.
  3. Based on the client’s feedback, provide a first draft of the chosen logo.
  4. Again, using feedback, create a final revision
  5. Package the final design files for the client.

Estimate the amount of time each task would take using your Work Breakdown Structure, and then extrapolate that out to estimate the project’s total time.

Scheduling

When scheduling your tasks, put them into a logical order and place them on a timeline. This ensures that tasks are done in the proper order, thereby ensuring a constant workflow working towards the deadline.

A key to successful results, at least initially, is to allow extra time for contingencies and your other responsibilities and not over-promising on delivery.

Use one calendar for all tasks and activities so that everything is in one place and make it collaborative so other team members can also access it.

That includes:

  • all activities,
  • calls,
  • appointments,
  • research,
  • meetings, and
  • outsourced work

These should be listed in your project charter, along with who owns the task and start and finish dates.

Creating your project charter will provide you with the overall blueprint of the total project and a document that the sponsor will endorse before the start of the project.

Popular Tools for Project Planning and Management

Let’s look at some of the frequently used tools in managing projects that may be useful to you.

Gantt

A Gantt chart is a bar chart that illustrates the project schedule graphically, helping you plan, organize, and manage the tasks in a project.

Smart Draw:

Smart Draw is another program that provides similar results as Gantt.

Asana

Asana is an online program allowing project team members to collaborate efficiently. Asana allows you to add projects to a virtual workspace and break them down into tasks with notes, comments, tags, and attachments that the project team members can update.

Basecamp

Basecamp is another online tool that includes a comprehensive range of features, including to-do lists, wiki-style documents, file sharing, time tracking, milestone management, and messaging.

Trello

Trello is also an online app to manage projects using visual representation and ‘cards’ for each task.

Google Drive

Google Drive has Docs, Sheets, Numbers, Slides, Forms, Photos, etc., and provides a way to create and collaborate on files for free. You can see when another person is working on a file, and it has the flexibility to upload and download other file formats such as Microsoft Office.

Other Options

Simple is usually best. So, if you are comfortable using Microsoft Word or Excel, they could be an easy option. By uploading such files to a cloud storage service such as Google Drive, OneDrive, or DropBox, you can give team members access where they can also make updates.

This concludes this month’s series on project management and we have focused a lot on the planning stage. This has been deliberate because, as with many things, good planning makes the rest of the process significantly more productive.

We will revisit the other stages in due course. In the meantime, here are links to the other articles on this subject.

Project Management for Small Business
Managing Smaller Projects
Project Planning

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Ed Carey

Ed Carey, AMG, LLC

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