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Project Management Tips for Beginners

Updated on August 8, 2010

Tips and Advice

The field of project management has grown at such a geometric rate over the years that its processes and knowledge areas have become pervasive in many professions. If you find this to be your situation and feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available on project management, this hub will serve as a starter guide.

I will share my project management tips that will save you time and avoid common project mistakes. It is important to be aware of all of the fundamentals as there are no short cuts. You will find all of the abc's of project management by visiting the Project Management Institute's (PMI) website. That will serve as the guide to becoming a project management professional.

Chances are you are already involved in an ongoing project and need a quick start, and you do not have time to delve into hundreds of pages of material. The first piece of advice you need to be aware of is that you should never be 'hands on' in your project. Do not let this counterproductive habit develop by getting too involved, for example, in the technical designs of your project as you are taking yourself away from other more important project management responsibilities. This distracts you from looking at 'the big picture' which is the project. If you are a technical person with a lot of knowledge in your field you most likely will be tempted. This is not what being a good project manager is all about. While it is important to have technical knowledge of the subject, it is more important that you have a good project team established where each person has a clearly defined role and responsibility. You need to identify the resources of your project team. Human Resource Management is a PMI knowledge area (there are many PMI Knowledge Areas which I will introduce).

A key mistake that new project managers make is that they become so absorbed in their day to day duties that they forget to take the time to step back once in a while in order to get a better perspective on the project. You do not want to develop tunnel vision when it comes to your project. A project management tip I offer is to talk to other project managers as much as possible to gain from their experiences. Ask questions! I have alway found this to be a great way to learn, and to avoid mistakes which cost you time and money. Don't let that silly ego get in the way of learning to become a good project manager.

However, before you can identify your project team, you will have to identify or confirm the need, product or service that is required to be satisfied, as this defines your project. Once all requirements are defined, your scope of work should be vetted by the customer/owner or key stakeholders for acceptance if project requirements are not altogether clear. This information is written in a document simply called the 'project charter'.  In order to properly define the scope of work you the best tip I recommend is to perform a work breakdown structure (WBS) exercise.  The WBS defines the tasks in your project which together account for your scope of work.  There are many websites that you can search to learn the WBS technique.

Upon acceptance of the scope of work, you would set upon defining or confirming the project's preliminary costs. The items which were identified in the Work Breakdown Structure are the cost elements that you will have to estimate.  Your preliminary cost estimate can be based upon past projects where historical data can be used as a basis, otherwise you could draw upon your project team for cost info, get quotes from suppliers, etc. It is important not to unintentionally mislead suppliers when asking for quotes as they may expect to get a contract from you. Scope and Cost are also PMI knowledge areas.

With cost estimates defined, you can then work on the project schedule. For a preliminary schedule you would undertake the same exercises as with the costing.  Again, you would use the WBS information to extract the major activities which are to be scheduled.  These activities may or may not be dependent on each other.  If they are independent then you would have multiple activities occurring at the same time.  If they are related then you have to schedule them one after the other.  With each activity in the project you would have to estimated the duration, usually in days.  What I have just described is the basis behind the activity diagram. This can be picked up from websites or various books.

What I have been describing are tips which you can undertake yourself or delegate to a member of your project team.  If time is tight you can also engage a technical consultant or project management services, which would also be a part of your project team.


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