The idea of project management is to oversee large projects and remedial and thereby ensure that they go as smoothly as possible and are completed in the minimum time and at the minimum expense. What this means, is that managing different professionals, having contingency plans for every eventuality, and planning work in the optimum order. Very often, this applies specifically to manual labor projects – though it can also be applied to any kind of work. Here we will look at how contractors and site managers achieve this and help ensure that your projects go as smoothly as possible. Then we’ll see how that might apply to online business and marketing.
One 'type' of project management approach is what's known as the 'critical chain', which is related to the term critical path. Essentially this means organizing every job in the perfect order so that they take the minimum time and so that they are the least likely to be interrupted by factors outside of your control – to ensure project success. There are a vast number of different elements that come into play here and managing them all correctly can help save you a lot of time and expense.
For instance, consider that some jobs will rely on others in order to be completed. That is to say that construction can't start until the design is complete and the foundations are in place, and painting can't begin until construction is over. On the other hand, though, other jobs can be completed regardless of the progress of other elements. If you know that you are going to need wooden beams for instance or tiles, then you can begin with the purchase and assembly of these while design work is still taking place. Other jobs – like building fences around the premises – can also continue at any point.
Some jobs are also weather dependent, while others are not. Some will rely on supplies, while others do not.
What this means, is that good project management should 'save' some of the jobs that can be completed any time and with no special requirements, such that they can be completed at a time that's convenient when other things get in the way. If you can't carry on work on the roof because it's raining or you're waiting on a shipment of tiles, then you can be erecting fences in the meantime rather than twiddling your thumbs. Thus it doesn't make sense to complete this at the start of the project.
Good project management should also contain contingency plans for other things that might go wrong. For instance, when ordering things like tiles, it would be advisable for contractors to order additional items in case of things going wrong. If you order the precise number of times that you're going to need, then you will be in trouble if one gets dropped and broken. Buying too many extra will just be a waste of money – but good managers will have worked on enough projects in the past to know roughly how many will be needed.
Likewise, if you rely on a generator to get work done on site, then you should be using a backup generator. This will allow you to keep working when otherwise you might be out of power.
So how might this apply to you as an internet marketer?
Well, one example of project management would be something simple like a content schedule. This is a list that will allow you to know when you are going to post each piece of content. That gives you a kind of ‘map’ to follow when knowing what to write and lets you schedule things like research, interviews and posting.
You can also look at something like website design or the creation of a mobile app as a ‘project’ that needs to be managed. Who are all the freelancers you will use for this project? What needs to be completed first? What is ‘mission critical’?
For larger websites and brands, project management becomes a must for successful remote collaboration. Many big online brands have multiple writers, contributors and editors and need to juggle things like embargos, deadlines the movements of goods and payment… Without a good project manager, things can quickly go awry.
Orchestra is great for agencies and other companies that outsource a lot of their tasks. It lets you easily assign tasks and then watch the status change as your team-mates work through them. It’s attractively designed and has lots of features that speed up workflow.
PHPCollab is a more basic alternative to Orchestra that works in PHP. It lets you assign tasks and upload files as you complete them and also lets people find their own open tasks to work on. While PHPCollab is slower and uglier than Orchestra, it’s also free and very simple to sign up and start using.
Sqwiggle is a project management system that incorporates video chat. This lets employers and managers see photos of their team working throughout the day and when they want to chat, it’s just a quick click to do so.
Google Docs is fantastic for project management as it allows you to edit documents in real-time and see what others are doing. You can see who is viewing a given file at any given time as well, to ensure that you’re not all making changes and undoing each others’s hard work! Throw in the office suite and impressive storage and this is a very capable piece of software.
Asana is one of the biggest and best known project management tools and it has a number of great features that make it perfect for remote working. Again, teams can create and organize tasks, assign responsibilities and set goals.
Realtime board isn’t a project management tool but it can be a very useful supplementary app. This is basically a real time whiteboard that you can use to brainstorm ideas online. You can also add sticky notes and it’s a very natural and easy means of communication.
Slack is sometimes referred to as a ‘team chat’ app but really it goes beyond this and is almost a ‘remote office’. As well as letting you chat to your co-workers, this also allows you to see feeds from various online tools – including Trello – and more.
Slack is fantastic for helping to create a real sense of team and camaraderie even when you don’t have a single physical location. It will allow you to message each other quickly to get answers to burning questions and it will let you engage in fun group chats.
This is an interesting tool that isn’t so much about project management as it is team building – which is an important part of any organization. This is an app you can use to send bonuses to other members of a team, normally from a reserve that is put aside by management. It lets you encourage and reward great work, as well as celebrate personal triumphs on your team.
Project management also makes a lot of sense for individuals working alone. If you are juggling multiple clients, or working on a large-scale project, then it can be easy to lose track of all the different balls you have in the air, or to optimize the best order and strategy for getting things completed.
These tools can help.
Trello is a great project management tool for individuals because of the smart interface it utilizes. This is a very visual and touch-friendly tool that lets you add cards to boards. Essentially it works like a to-do list but with the ability to easily drag cards around, add due dates and assign tasks to multiple people (which could be useful in case you ever do collaborate). You can have multiple boards for different projects and all in all, it’s a pretty elegant and dynamic system.
Evernote gets a whole lot of love, but OneNote is more powerful than a lot of people realize. It’s great for taking notes but it’s also a very useful personal planner and project management tool – just create notebooks for each of the tasks you have coming up and then add separate pages for the subtasks.
OneNote also works particularly well when you combine it with OneTastic and OneDrive. And it’s brilliant if you have Microsoft Surface, in which case you can click the pen tip to launch it and jot down notes on the move.
Todoist is an online to-do list that allows you to set due dates, categories, projects and more. At its most basic, you can add daily tasks here such as ‘wash jacket for tomorrow’ but if you want to get more advanced you can create to-do lists pertaining to specific jobs and much more. In other words, it can easily be scaled up to become a full personal project management system.
Azendoo is another lesser known project management tool. It does have some emphasis on teams and collaboration and it’s still a great personal tool. It basically feels like taking post-it notes and attaching them around the screen and is perfect for planning a pet project. It also syncs up with Google Drive, Dropbox and more.
In the book The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, which I highly recommend, the author recommends a technique known as ‘counterfactual simulation’. This involves imaging every potential eventuality and then planning your contingency plan for that outcome. This can be done simply in your own head for even the smallest of ‘projects’.
When budgeting and when coming up with your critical path (which gives you a time scale), it’s always a good idea to leave extra. If a project should take 7 weeks – give it 9. If it will cost $1,000 – put aside $1,500.