Project management is often associated with large or complex projects but there is room for effective management of projects within the smaller business too. What role can it play and what benefits will project management bring to the small business?
Every small business starts in the same way – the tiniest germ of an idea flourishes into reality. Whether you have plans for world domination within your industry or another measure of success, the only way to reach this goal is by delivering on the promises you make.
This means delivering exceptional service or manufacturing and retailing goods that are of the quality your consumers expect and want.
But it doesn’t mean standing still. For any business or any size and in any sector or industry to survive, constant innovation is key.
What that means or the form it takes will vary from one small business to another and yet, how innovative projects and changes are made will stay the same. Effort, time, money and discipline will often form the basis of any successful project.
Creating and delivering on a project could revolutionise your business. From opening up new markets to tapping into a new and broader customer base, get it right, and your business could fly. But, get it wrong and it could take your business years to recover both financially and in terms of reputation.
And so. whether you are seeking to update your flagship product or add another strand of service to your business, project management will play an important role. But what is it and how will project management skills make a difference?
What is ‘project management’?
Take no more than a cursory glance online, and you’ll find a range of project management courses. There are many disciplines too, backed by tried and tested project management methodologies. It can all seem a little confusing.
There are various definitions of project management. For example, the Association of Project Management, the chartered body for the profession, defines as a process, a journey by which methods, skills, knowledge and experience that achieve the goals set out at the start of a project.
The definition on Wikipedia is similar, referring to the activity of planning, organising, motivating and controlling the resources, procedures and protocols that combine to make for a successful project outcome.
Taking into account both definitions, it is clear that the act of managing a project is a journey, a process that sees a project, along with anyone involved in it, from a starting point, through a series of steps or processes, to a defined endpoint, whatever that may be.
Project management, as a skill and a profession, is not exclusive to one industry or sector. And the skills and process involved make an excellent blueprint for a small business to follow.
Project management characteristics broadly concern;
- Planning – incumbent to a successful project outcome is one that has been planned from the outset. The simple acts of setting goals, naming key deliverables, the resources needed, when certain actions need to happen by and the costs involved drive a project to where it needs to be. Being able to see both challenges and opportunities is also a key project management skill.
- Time – projects can’t last forever. With a start and end date, a project manager has a slice of time within which a project should be delivered.
- Uniqueness – with specific outcomes, every project is unique. Recognising this, as well as challenges a project faces, helps a project manager deliver a project on time and within costs.
- Control – a project has boundaries, such as costs and time. The availability of resources plays an important role in project management which as a small business, you’ll be keen to keep control of.
- Results-driven – the driving factor of any project you decide to undertake in your small business is to achieve a certain set of outcomes. For example, the introduction of a new service or refining a product would be the ultimate aim of a project, the desire to achieve the result the driving force to its completion.
- Systematic – taking a systematic approach means breaking down the timeline of a project into more manageable chunks.
Applying project management characteristic and skills in a small business
In a nutshell, when you have decided to make a change to your business, such as evolving your business processes, upgrading your website or rebranding your business, for example, you will have a time limit and budget constraints. You may also have other resources you need to utilise as well as getting other people involved. Employing the project management characteristic listed above means that you are more likely to reach the goals that you have set which define the success of a project.
But project management is more than just thinking through a strategy for completing a project. There is the need to be agile.
Agile project management is about remaining responsive to the challenges that your project will face. We only have to look at the recent pandemic to understand how challenges can come out of nowhere when we least expect them. Small businesses with an agile response are flexible and thinking around a problem or issue.
Project management training will equip the small business with the skills and abilities to keep a project;
- On schedule – project drift is a real issue for any project. Keeping tabs on your project is essential, more so for a small business. Breaking a project into smaller sections allows you to push to a conclusion but in the time you have set aside to complete it.
- On budget – as a small business, you’ll have a keen eye on budget and cash flow. Running out of cash scuppers plans, reducing potential returns or even placing your business in a negative equity situation.
- Under control – control over the small details of a project is essential. Keeping in touch at every stage of your project allows the finite control you need to remain responsive to when or if something changes.
- A learning process – evaluation and review should happen when a project reaches its conclusion, examining successful aspects and the ‘failures’ too. This way, as a small business, you are continually learning.
Embracing project management in small business
Project management is not a new concept. Its importance has increased over time becoming the basis for large complex projects but is equally valuable for the small business too. It could be argued that project management in a small business is under-appreciated and underutilised. Helping you deliver change, growth and other projects on time and under budget, why wouldn’t you embrace project management?