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Improving Small Business Project Management

Small Business Technology Tip - Dave Pelland
Dave Pelland Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Improving Small Business Project Management

Improving Small Business Project Management

“Project management” can seem like a daunting and complex task for small business owners, but investing time at the onset of a project to determine what needs to be done, who will do it, and when they’ll complete tasks can play an important role in determining the success of your efforts.

At its heart, project management refers to defining and tracking the tasks that team members will need to fulfill to reach a desired goal by a specific deadline. Most companies start by tracking tasks in to-do apps or spreadsheets, but get bogged down by challenges in sharing task lists or updates easily.

Instead, project management processes and software provide a common location for collaboration and communications as well for sharing task lists, files and progress reports so team members understand what’s going on, and managers can monitor progress and receive early warnings about potential issues.

The benefits of planning a project, and the steps you’ll take to complete it, include a stronger chance of reaching your goal on time and within the project’s budget. Issues are likely to emerge with any project, but defined goals and tasks can provide additional flexibility to help you resolve challenges as they present themselves.

Understanding Projects

A helpful early step in project management is distinguishing between a “project” and an ongoing business activity. Improving sales, for instance, is a continual priority, while discrete events such as choosing a new CRM system or hiring an office manager will be one-time efforts with defined goals.

This understanding, in turns, helps influence the steps your team will take to complete project-related tasks, and the ways they’ll communicate (with each other and potentially with clients) during the project’s lifespan.

Speeding Progress

Project management software can help the team reach these goals more effectively (and efficiently) by allowing them to use features such as:

  • Schedules, timeline and milestones so team members know when specific tasks need to be completed
  • Task assignment so members know who is handling various aspects of a project
  • Task dependencies for activities that can’t be done before another task is completed
  • Shared calendars
  • Time-tracking so managers know how much time has been devoted to various tasks
  • Communication tools such as instant messaging, or integration with your existing collaboration tools.

If you bill clients for your team’s time, being able to summarize how long specific members devoted to a project can help ensure you’re not leaking revenue by not billing effectively.

Most project management platforms provide the ability to display this information in several formats, such as sorted lists or graphical Kanban displays that resemble index cards on a bulletin board. This allows team members and managers to see a project’s status easily in a format they’re most comfortable with.

By visualizing a project’s progress at a glance, the software can help reduce the number of meetings you may need to hold to update team members or identify emerging issues.

Many platforms offer customizable templates so you can start to populate your projects with information based on the most common formats and information needs.

Because collaboration is so important in completing most small business projects, the platforms also offer the ability to add specific users such as contractors or clients to specific projects. This may include, for instance, a graphic artist who needs access to one project but not others.

Popular project management tools for small businesses include Trello, Monday, Basecamp, Airtable and others.

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