A team project managing by drawing a plan on a window.

Project management may be one of the best things you could implement for your team. You might be able to do without project management if your company is smaller and your projects simple and minimal, but once you start growing, or your projects become more and more complex, you will need to depend on project management to keep your teams moving forward.

SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (TechRepublic Premium)

When you first dive into the world of project management, you should do so with a solid plan, an understanding of how it works and the use of some easy-to-apply best practices.  That’s exactly what I want to focus on today — a few best practices that can help your project management hit the ground running.

Top project management best practices

Start with a plan

Project management is about making sure your plans are implemented as smoothly as possible, but if you approach project management without first having a plan, it doesn’t matter what project management tool you use — or how well you employ it. Without a good plan going in, you’re going to struggle.

Before even building your project within a project management platform, you should go in with a fully-realized plan for what the project is, what purpose it serves, how far you plan on taking it beyond the original deliverable date, what the goals are, and how the project will benefit your company and customers. Without a workable plan, the entire process will be a slog.

Communicate regularly with key stakeholders

Nothing helps a project run effectively like good communication. Set up whatever tools are required to keep your teams communicating. No matter the software, it’s crucial that all of your team members are encouraged to keep the lines of communication open with one another, management and stakeholders.

Communication can run through a chat server, email, forum or other type of platform so long as those channels of communication remain open. Project managers must also be reachable and always in touch with the stakeholders without coming off as if they’re micromanaging.

Document your resources

Resources can mean team members, servers, meeting rooms, bandwidth and more. One thing to keep in mind is that you do not have unlimited resources, and the management of what you have can be key to the success of your project.

With solid resource documentation, you’ll always have an idea of what is being used, how it’s being used and how to more effectively use it. You should also create a resource plan so you know exactly how everything will be used during the lifecycle of the project.

Monitor the workload

The last thing you need is to overburden certain team members or your team at large. You and your project managers must always keep a close watch on the workload for your project. When you find one team member or team is being asked too much, it’s time to spread out duties so burnout is avoided. The second anyone becomes burnt out, they will be rendered ineffective for the project. By monitoring those workloads, you can avoid such an eventuality.

Employ risk management

Risk is everywhere, and it takes a lot of effort to manage it. Employing risk management means you can be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. To successfully manage risk, you need to devise a risk response team, identify all possible risks involved, complete risk analysis, assign owners for each risk and be prepared to take the necessary steps to deal with each risk as it presents itself.

Prevent scope creep

It will be tempting at some point in your project lifecycle to go beyond the boundaries of your project. You might find along the way that a new feature might be necessary. However, you’ve not planned for that feature, and trying to add it at this point could put the entire project into a tailspin.

Instead of adding that new feature mid-stream, consider it as a feature for a new release of the project or an add-on that can be created once the project is delivered. Stick with the original plan so that it can run smoothly.

Hold regular but brief meetings

Consider holding weekly or daily “stand up” meetings so everyone is always on the same page. These meetings should be brief and to the point. Do not stray from the topic and do not hold your stakeholders long, otherwise they’ll come to look at these meetings as bothersome. Get in, say what you need to say, let others chime in and get out. That’s it.

Keep extensive documentation

One thing I’ve always found goes by the wayside is documentation. This is a big mistake. Not only should you be keeping well-crafted documentation for whatever it is you’re building, but you should also be keeping extensive documentation for the project as a whole. Note who is doing what, what languages are being used and just about every other aspect of the project that you can. The more documentation you keep, the more efficiently the project will run and the more likely you’ll be able to repeat a successful project should you need it.

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Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays