By Steve Anderson
Large companies usually have multiple projects going at once. Projects in large companies overlap, intersect, and spread across multiple departments. Because of this, several different strategies have developed over time which help large organizations run smoothly and ensure that a setback or failure in one area doesn’t have a domino effect across the entire organization. Small businesses obviously run a little differently than large companies, but there’s still a lot that smaller companies can learn from larger ones. Let’s take a look at some ways that the project management practices of large organizations can be adapted for use by small businesses.
Determine a Methodology
Perhaps the first important thing that large companies do before starting projects is determine what project management methodology will be most effective for their project. Typically, project managers must decide between the waterfall methodology, which consists of a single sequence of tasks starting from planning to final delivery, and agile methodology. Agile projects consist of multiple “sprints,” or project cycles where pieces of the overall deliverable are planned, developed, and implemented. Proponents of agile methodology claim that it allows teams to make adjustments mid-project as new information or requirements are uncovered. If there’s a lot of uncertainty about the exact details of the final deliverable or end of the project, the agile methodology is designed to allow project managers to adapt without setting the project back. Other times, the choice between critical path and critical chain project management is considered. Critical path is based mainly on the project timeline while critical chain project management places an emphasis on the resources that must be available.
Due to the relatively smaller size and scope of small business projects, some project managers will opt for the classical waterfall methodology. It’s important to note, however, that though the projects may be smaller in size and scope, projects in small business can have a greater effect than they would in a larger organization. For this reason, it’s still important that small business project managers consider the level of uncertainty of the final deliverable or the end of the project before they decide which methodology to use.
Establish a Line of Communication
One interesting thing that’s sometimes done by large organizations is combining various project management methodologies. Often, this is done as a result of a project being spread out across multiple departments which each use different methodologies. With the right coordination and collaboration, this combination of methodologies can actually be beneficial to the overall project. Without this careful coordination, combining methodologies can occasionally cause miscommunication which can endanger the whole project. Smaller businesses may not need to balance the preferences of different departments as much as they might need to balance the preferences of different individuals. For this reason, an important early step in small business projects is to bring everyone that’ll be involved in for a discussion about priorities, timelines, resources, and which methodology will be used on the project. Establishing a line of communication and getting everyone to understand their role in the project will help to make sure everything runs smoothly. Another step which will guarantee that things run smoothly is to consider adopting project management software.
Due to resource limitations, small businesses often have only a single project operating at any given time. While this makes things a little simpler, it also means there’s more pressure to be effective and timely. To address this, one final thing that small businesses can learn from the way enterprise organizations manage projects is (the practice of?) repeatability. Large companies can’t afford to reinvent the wheel at the start of every project and small businesses shouldn’t either. Once a small business has determined which project management methodology works for them, they should continue to use it in future projects. Obviously, if the projects are significantly different, then changes should be made.
Steve Anderson is a freelance writer out of Los Angeles. Follow him @stvndrsn.