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PM Tips: Managing a Project from Start to Finish

PM Tips



It is time to celebrate. You have been assigned to take over as a Project Manager (PM) for a new project. This is the opportunity you have been working towards. For any new PMs, you will find these insights quite a useful guide. Here are some essential tips to hone your skills and get started. 

Know the Project Charter

The project charter is the blueprint of the project. It is created at the beginning of the project. It is a crucial document that provides a high-level overview of the business needs, project’s purpose, statement of work, objectives, plans, stakeholders, risks, constraints, benefits, and costs without getting into details. 

It is provided by the project sponsor or initiator. If the charter hasn’t been provided it is the PM who then develops the charter. It provides authority to the project and PM as a legally binding document. 

The charter helps to create the project roadmap and establish the expectations for the project. It serves as a guiding document throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Some tools and techniques used to develop a charter are:

> Expert Judgment

> Data Gathering (Brainstorming, Focus Groups, Interviews)

> Facilitation (Meetings) 


Defining Project Scope

The Project Manager is responsible in developing and understanding the project and defining the scope. Every project should deliver value. The scope plays a pivotal function in determining the objectives and the overall business value the project should deliver. How do you go about creating the scope?

First, create a detailed outline of all aspects of a project such as activities, resources, timelines, stakeholders, processes, assumptions, constraints, and the acceptance criteria of the deliverables that will be provided to the customer at final delivery. 

A well-defined project scope helps to avoid a situation where changes occur after the project has been started. This is referred to as scope creep

Some tools and techniques used to define project scope are:

> Expert Judgment

> Data Analysis 

> Brainstorming

> Mind Mapping

Defining Timeline

The project management timeline gives the overview and visual representation of the phases and tasks within the project. It gives an anchor to be prepared and manage the project. The PM ensures that the project stays on schedule. Projects have deadlines. Understanding the timeline is critical for the project. Activities need to be timeboxed and prioritized. The PM determines the time it takes to complete each task. 

The scope of the requirements, deliverables, activities, tasks, and time for each task and milestones are some of the items required to create a project timeline.

Some tools used to create a visual outline of a timeline are:

> Gantt charts 

> PERT charts  

Know Your Project Team 

While the Project Manager is responsible for planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling the project, it is the project team members who are responsible for executing, developing, and testing the deliverables. A successful project needs a team with roles that are well-defined. 

The Sponsor is the champion of the project. They are usually members of senior management who have a stake in the project outcomes. They participate in the high-level project planning.

It is the responsibility of the PM to identify all key stakeholders. Stakeholders are people directly or indirectly affected by the project. It is essential to establish a safe environment for the team and build a culture of trust. Interpersonal dynamics within a team can vary. Project teams that work in various locations and time zones can face intra-project challenges. A good idea to keep things on track and collaborative is to hold regular team meetings. You may have to initially use a checklist to identify time zones and availability to schedule these efficiently. Another factor to consider is that everyone comes from different backgrounds (e.g., cultural) so understanding individual needs and preferences is required to appreciate and value other team members. For example, some team members in parts of the world may be offline due to a particular holiday that is not the same for all team members.


Assess Your Resources

People, processes, and technology are referred to as the golden triangle. To deliver a project, we need technical experts, who in turn need materials and equipment to complete the project activities.

Before starting the project, it is critical to define the resource requirements. Project resources can be both human and non-human such as facilities, tools, equipment, and materials. Resource management includes estimating the cost of acquiring resources, allocating resources, managing, and controlling them effectively without impacting the budget or schedule.

Communication Plan

Effective communication at key interfaces is an important aspect of project management. It helps to understand project goals and objectives. 

Communication management establishes project control and provides information to flow across different communication channels. 

A simple communication plan helps the PM to understand who the stakeholders are that should be communicated with, what information should be conveyed to each of them, what is the cadence to follow for these updates, what will the communication format be, and what will be the medium or method of communication. It is vital to overall success to check-in with the project team regularly.

Emails, Meetings, Status Reports, Conference Calls, Websites, Document Repository, Collaboration Software are tools and techniques used for managing project communication.

Some tools and techniques used for managing project communication are:

> Emails

> Meetings

> Status Reports

> Conference/Video Calls

> Websites

> Document Repositories

> Collaboration Software

Project Management Tools

Project management tools provide a centralized platform for the team to collaborate and deliver results as one cohesive unit. This software helps to assign tasks to key resources, time-box the activity, and provide a checklist of the acceptance criteria. 

Some software have built-in tools to display real-time project data in the form of dashboards, timelines, and charts. It also serves as a project repository to store information and project files.  

Document Everything

Documentation is a part of project management. It serves as a reference point and as proof of managing project activities. Document the on-going effort, process improvements, failures, and milestones that is required throughout the project lifecycle. Managing project documents helps to build success stories. Updating and revisiting project documents is a vital part of good documentation. 

Monitor the Progress

Monitor quality, change requests, schedules, and costs. The PM checks in with the project team regularly through recurring meetings. Go through the planned vs actual forecast on the hours consumed and the budget spent. Knowing the project timeline and deliverables in each phase helps with communicating the reporting expectations to the team. Monitoring the performance keeps track of the key performance indicators and if they are on target. 

Managing Risks

Even well-planned projects can run into rough weather. A risk is an uncertain event that can happen at any point of time. The PM should have a plan of action to avoid or mitigate any potential risks. Create a risk register that will capture the description of the risk, its impact, the likelihood of the risk happening, a risk response, and action. Brainstorm with team members and stakeholders to identify the potential risks related to the project and the risk tolerance level. 

The risk can be due to cost, scheduling, technical or resource unavailability, a lack of skill, a political or environmental issue, and so on. The PM assesses different categories of potential risks and creates a risk breakdown structure with in-depth detail and creates contingency measures to tackle them should they arise.


Testing the Deliverables

Assessment of the deliverables should be done through the project lifecycle. It is done through established verification and validation processes to determine if the deliverable meets the requirement and specification as described in the acceptance criteria.

The requirement traceability matrix is a tool that traces each activity of the project to the specific requirement, the test cases to be conducted, and the outcome of the test result. PMs ensure that the quality of each deliverable meets the customer’s expectation.

Project Evaluation 

Every project provides learning outcomes. An effective PM knows the importance of capturing the lessons learned and documenting them as best practices.

Identify the successes, issues, delays, and improvement recommendations for future projects. The Lessons Learned Register provides the opportunity to review similar projects prior to initiation and can be used as a reference point for a future stage of current projects that are in progress.

Such documents should be stored in a repository or on a shared drive and made accessible for other project teams.

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Project managers play the lead role and are accountable for the success or failure of the project. The project manager drives the project forward through the expertise and support of the project team.

It is important to keep the project sponsor informed and engage key stakeholders. Ensure that issues are escalated and bring it to their immediate attention. 

Ask advice from other project managers in your organization who have more experience. Interact with subject matter experts who have worked on similar projects. Refer to lessons learned from previous projects, and replicate your organization’s best practices.

Leverage project management tools, software, and templates to manage your project. Become a highly effective project manager and don’t forget to celebrate your success!



How to cite this article: James, V. (2022). Managing a project from start to finish. Project Management Institute Toronto Chapter. Blog. Toronto.


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