Properly managing complex projects can be overwhelming even for the most experienced project managers. Missed deadlines, disorganization, and lack of efficiency can quickly derail a project. This can leave you with unhappy clients and team members.
A carefully created and well-maintained project timeline is the basis for successful PM solutions. These five easy steps will help you and your team work together to deliver your project on time and with a minimal amount of stress or frustration.
Clearly Define the Scope of the Project
The primary task of managing a project timeline is clearly defining the scope of the project. Create a summary of each step involved in the project and create visualizations to back them up. Going through this process helps to predict the points where delays may occur and ensures that the timeline is reasonable.
An official Scope Statement defines:
- The boundaries of the project
- Each team member’s responsibilities
- Procedures for work completion, verification, and approval
The scope of a project is an outline of the requirements and the corresponding deliverables the client can expect to receive. This is the backbone of successful project timeline management.
Especially relevant are the initial stages of timeline development. This is an important time to work with the client to develop a clear understanding of their needs. This includes goals and objectives, budget, and schedule.
Ask your client to create his or her own list of possible challenges. This can help to highlight issues that you may not otherwise have known about. Examples include upcoming vacation schedules, internal workflow issues, or expected delays with other departments. Other questions to ask include:
- Do we need IT approval?
- Is there a clinical impact?
- Do we need to work around regulatory agency requirements or timelines, or take validated systems into account?
Manage Client Expectations
The project timeline manager is only responsible for the work outlined within the scope of the project. You must ensure completion of all deliverables are on time and within budget.
If any single phase of the project is not completed on time, the delays will likely compound. This problem is often created by last-minute additions to project requirements. It is critical to both manage the client’s expectations and stick to the initial project outline.
Proactively Communicate with the Client and Vendors
Avoid timeline slippage by staying in communication with the client. Don’t reach out and assume you will receive a response when the client is ready. Follow up and prompt them to give you the answers you need when you need them. This is most important when working with other departments such as IT, R&D, or Medical.
A vendor’s failure to provide the necessary product or service when it’s needed can throw off your entire timeline. Avoid this by including project management milestones into your contract. Require regular communication on the status of tasks. This ensures tasks are completed on time and any delays are communicated up-front.
Schedule Status Update Meetings
Projects can easily get off track if the people in charge don’t have a clear idea of exactly what’s going on. Scheduling a brief weekly or daily check-in meeting with your team can help ensure that the project continues to run smoothly.
During this 15-20 minute meeting, communicate with your team about the project status, upcoming deadlines, and any pain-points you discovered.
Throughout the process, a bit of flexibility may be necessary. You must be willing to make adjustments along the way to ensure that final project delivery is on time.
Close Out the Project
Finally, with the project completed, you can begin the wrap-up tasks. This includes:
- returning borrowed or rented equipment
- paying and releasing subcontractors
- completing a final written assessment of the project’s issues, risks, and final outcome
Developing and sticking to a consistent process helps reduce mistakes. Following these five steps for every project you manage will help ensure ongoing success and stellar client satisfaction ratings.