How To Manage Complex Projects – Critical First Steps
A 5-Step Strategy For Business Owners to Improve Project Management Results.
Complex projects can be tamed by using a simple organizing strategy consisting of five logical action steps.
1. Begin At The Beginning – Establish The Business Objective
Many projects that I am called to manage begin with a discussion of a tangible deliverable such as “build a new website.” This is followed by a series of statements that describe various elements of the deliverable such as “blogging and social media.” All of this is important, but the critical first step is to establish what the business objective is. Actions, events, and investments support objectives, not the other way around.
2. Listen To Ideas, Wish Lists, Frustrations, and Pain Points
Not everything that should be included in the management of complex projects can be known from project specs or analyses. Listen to what the stakeholders say that helps you read between the lines. This helps you identify unspecified or difficult to articulate project goals that will ultimately be used to judge the success or failure of your project.
3. Organize With a Business Model
To save time and hold down project costs, look for a business model that suggests a logical flow of action steps and use this as a starting framework. The model can serve as a type of filing system of idea buckets. Quickly sort your organizing ideas into the different buckets, and then examine each bucket for consistency and completeness. If too many ideas don’t fit into your buckets, you need to customize your model. At least you know where the friction is.
4. Suggest Enhancements
Look beyond the trees of the project to the forest of the bigger idea. For example, successfully building a new website may satisfy the project deliverable, but building it with best practices that will contribute to continual growth and excellence puts it on a higher plain.
5. Insist on a Discovery Phase
The degree to which a project meets or exceeds its goals often depends upon the depth of its discovery phase. Discovery is associated with both hard and soft issues, such as facts about your customers and attitudes by your employees. Identify all the foundational elements that are critical to the success of your project and insist of the opportunity (i.e. time and cost) to uncover them.
How do you manage your complex projects? Please share your ideas in the comment box, below the following case history.
I was asked to provide a proposal for a new website. Although my involvement was initially focused on discovery and content writing, I chose to place the entire project into perspective.
What you see, below, is an outline of the project. It begins with Objectives. Note that the objectives section includes a specific business deliverable, an enhancement (focus on best practices) and a key component that is not part of the project but which will be required for client satisfaction (listening for expressions of pain-lowering the page rank of negative comments).
I used the inbound marketing model from Hubspot to provide the logic of the remaining phases.
If you would like to see details of the discovery phase, please contact me at don (at) metznik (dot) com.
1. Increase sales by _______through increased website activity (visits, leads, conversions), excluding PPC.
2. Reduce the visibility of negative SERs (search engine results)
3. Launch a new website by January 1 with best practices which foster continual growth and performance improvement.
RECOMMENDED PROJECT PHASES
Phase I: Foundation. Complete by November 10
Discovery, identification of source material, and strategic direction
Phase II: Build and Launch Basic New Site by January 1, 2011
- Website pages
- Landing pages
- Conversion pages
- On-page SEO
Phase III: Build Out Basic New Site
Step A. Inbound Link Building / Off-page SEO
Step B. Website Promotion
- Social media
- News Releases
Step C. Conversion Analysis
Step D. Performance Tracking and Reporting, including
- Keyword ranking
- # Inbound links
- Quality inbound links
- SM optimization
Phase IV: On-going building and optimization
The purpose of managing complex projects well is to acquire customers. Are you getting all you can?
How do you manage your complex projects? Please share your ideas in the comment box, below.Mission: To help small and mid-size businesses acquire customers by re-thinking their business and marketing strategies.