Project management is commonly thought of as a practice suited mainly to larger businesses. But these days, small and medium-sized business owners and employees also need to think about the discipline.
“We’re all project managers now,” said Dave Scarola, vice president of The Alternative Board, which offers coaching for small-business owners.
SMBs need to be able to adapt project management best practices and templates to their business, but they often don’t, said Scarola in the webinar “Project Management for Small Businesses.” This is because they often find project management practices to be intimidating.
This perception starts with what SMB employees think the definition of a project is.
“Projects are perceived to be complex, but even relatively simple endeavors can be projects,” Scarola said.
So what exactly is a project?
According to the Project Management Institute, it’s a temporary endeavor that has a definitive start and end and a specific outcome. This outcome doesn’t necessarily have to be concrete, like a software product; it can be a new process, information or an idea. (Some examples include creating a process manual for the sales department and developing a customer retention program.)
Which brings us to the definition of project management: the organization and oversight of a project with the ultimate goal of successfully accomplishing the project in terms of scope, timeline, quality and budget.
“Project management is about execution, not about planning and strategy (which are just elements). Project management is about getting things done,” Scarola said.
The two common process methodologies for project management are Waterfall and Agile; Scarola believes the latter is the way to go for most SMB projects. “But be careful with it, [because it] can turn into a free-for-all,” he warned. “You need good expertise on how to properly deliver [Agile].”
Scarola offered the following project management best practices:
- Have a well-defined scope that is not subject to interpretation. The project scope not only includes basics like who the project manager is, a high-level description of the project and the due date, but also justification for the project, who the client is, the project’s objectives and an outline of its purpose to create alignment with stakeholders. It also includes deliverables, and not just the technical aspects: “Does the project need a process to be created with it? Is there training needed?” said Scarola.
- Have objective success criteria. “There should be no question if the project was successful or not; it needs to meet all criteria in the success criteria definition,” Scarola said. Emotion can be factored into whether to go forward with the project — passion can go a long way in getting a project accomplished. But he cautioned against looking at the endeavor with rose-colored glasses. “Too many projects can become someone’s pet,” he said.
- Choose the right team and assign them the right roles and responsibilities. Scarola stressed that it’s important not to confuse roles with people. “It’s not uncommon for a single person to fill the role of analyst, trainer or QA,” he said. He recommended using the PAVE model: passion (is the person you assigned passionate about the role?); aptitude (can they do it successfully?); vision (does their vision match that of the organization?); and empathy (can they handle the responsibilities of the role while maintaining an empathetic personality?).
- Create a project plan that outlines the “how.” A project plan is not just a schedule, although that’s a part of it. It also includes other things like assumptions, risks, known issues, budgets and implementation plans. A project plan should also be a “breathing” document, said Scarola. “A project plan is based on the best information we have now; we may have to make adjustments along the way,” he said. A flexible plan is not a substitute for thorough planning at the outset, however. Scarola also suggested setting up a weekly meeting with the project team. “Encourage dissension. You want to have folks challenge each other; you get the best results that way,” he said.
Have any project management best practices to add? Write to us at email@example.com.
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The results from TechTarget’s 2015 Annual IT Salary and Careers Survey are in! SearchCIO members broke down the numbers and got reactions from CIOs and IT executives:
- First, Editorial Director Sue Troy gives an overview of the survey’s findings, specifically in regards to year-over-year differences in pay by IT role.
- Features Writer Jason Sparapani explores the upswing in IT job satisfaction, fulfillment and leader aspirations in 2015.
- Executive Editor Linda Tucci analyzes executive pay for senior IT leaders in 2015, investigating why compensation has remained stable amid a rapidly changing and digitally connected marketplace.
- Site Editor Fran Sales reports on 2015 IT budgets, examining a rise in IT budgets for two-fifths of senior IT leaders and what spurs such budget increases.
- Senior News Writer Nicole Laskowski details IT executives’ top IT projects for 2016, with security being a common theme. Laskowski explores the security and privacy findings further in a TotalCIO blog post.
- For a visual overview of all of the 2015 salary survey results, check out this SearchCIO infographic.
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Spending on cloud-based services make up only a small portion of the IT market, but, at least among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), investments in these offerings are expected to grow considerably by 2018, according to a survey conducted by Gartner Inc. These findings, according to the firm, are a sign of how increasingly significant the cloud is becoming to these companies.
SMBs, which Gartner characterizes as companies that employ between 1 and 999 workers and have an annual revenue between $50 million and $1 billion, currently invest about 33% of their IT budgets in cloud-based services; these SMBs plan to allocate more of their budgets to cloud, particularly lower-midmarket midsized businesses (those with 100 to 499 employees).
SMBs are also more open than their enterprise counterparts to purchasing public cloud offerings, even in business-critical areas like business intelligence, CRM and ERP.
The main driver for this growing group of SMBs is that they “are in a hurry to accelerate their business growth with the support of more advanced IT solutions. Cloud is seen as a business accelerator and a cost-containment enabler,” wrote the authors of a report that summarized Gartner’s survey findings.
Gartner’s survey also found that by 2018, SMB organizations will have 50% of their applications running in the cloud. The use of SaaS continues to grow as SMBs introduce new applications into their environments, building extensions to their existing apps using cloud-based services, said the authors. Small businesses (1 to 99 employees), in particular, are interested in public cloud SaaS because of the constraints of their internal IT capabilities. “SMBs have not been able to invest in business applications to the extent that enterprises have, but public cloud solutions are seen as a way to close the gap,” the authors wrote.
Other noteworthy findings from the survey:
- Platform as a service (PaaS) usage among SMBs will grow between 15% and 20% year over year through 2017. This increase will be driven by these organizations’ urgency to digitize their business quickly but at a reasonable cost, said the authors. PaaS, along with SaaS and other public cloud offerings, facilitates “a development environment that provides quicker time to deployment, enables operational agility and provides concrete tools to help SMBs gain business advantage,” which are currently top priorities for SMBs, they wrote.
- Through 2018, between 30% and 38% of SMBs will buy communication apps and UC products through the cloud. As cloud UC providers mature and improve their products’ capabilities, UC cloud adoption will rise accordingly, according to Gartner. “SMBs are also in a rush to provide more mobile applications on the communications solutions side, so mobility and cloud go hand in hand in the communications applications segment,” added the report’s authors.
- By 2018, 50% more mobile devices will be adopted by SMBs for vertical-specific use cases. SMBs are more aware of the benefits of a mobile workforce and the vertical-specific use cases of mobile devices, according to Gartner. For instance, small businesses that range from restaurants and hairdressers currently use tablets for customer engagement, digital signage, inventory tracking and points of sale. And in the manufacturing vertical, for example, SMBs are equipping maintenance workers with mobile devices on which they can access business apps, creating efficiencies in workplace utilization.
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The next #CIOChat is coming up! Join guest expert Stephanie Woerner, from MIT’s Center for Institutional Research, along with SearchCIO editors and readers, to talk about how businesses can thrive in today’s digital economy. The tweet jam will take place next Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 3 p.m. EST. See you there!