Taking a project from start to finish in a smooth and effective way is no easy feat. Even when the goals are clear, there might be some potential bumps in the road and other unexpected pitfalls that you’ll need to tackle.
The result? Costs and schedules can be overshot, targets missed and team members feel frustrated. And while, of course, you can achieve a lot through efficient project planning and management, there’s one extra element that you should also consider: workflows.
Effective project management workflows can ensure that any project runs smoothly and concludes successfully. Curious to learn more about this? Keep reading our guide below.
What is a project management workflow?
It’s fair to ask, before we begin, what is project management? Project management refers to overseeing and guiding a project, as well as those working on it, from its inception through to its conclusion.
Within project management, a workflow is a series of tasks that is organised in a logical progression to achieve an aim. Approaching a project in this way enables project managers and their team to reach the successful execution of a project by following logical steps.
Let’s look at six steps that can help you optimise your project management workflows.
1. Break down the project into tasks
This is important for both large and small-scale projects. It means defining the steps needed to complete the project and listing every one in order, no matter how small.
Depending on the nature of the project, you might be dealing with some steps that are out of the direct control of your team, such as getting permissions, licences, feedback, or input from an outside body or organisation. These steps must also be factored into your list of tasks, as their impact on the project as a whole can be crucial.
2. Define and assign roles
How much detail you include here will depend on whether the workflow you create is for a one-off project or will be used again. If it’s likely to be useful again, consider assigning roles to particular departments or skill sets rather than individuals.
You may assign different design tasks to different team members, depending on their skills and experience. It’s helpful for everyone to know — both collectively and individually — their area of responsibility.
3. List resources needed
This will be easier once you know who’s responsible for which tasks. Once roles are assigned, team members will be able to give their input on the resources they are likely to need.
Make sure you include every resource, whether financial, material, technological, or involving facilities, equipment, or even a particular solution such as virtual PBX services.
4. Create a roadmap
Having gone through the steps above, you are now in a position to create a project roadmap. This means looking again at the list of tasks, but thinking of them more in terms of groups of linked activities that, together, form stages.
These stages are the points in the project journey that must be reached one by one to achieve completion. Allowing enough time for each stage is what good scheduling in project management is all about. Set start and end dates for each stage, but make sure timeframes and deadlines are realistic.
Consult with team members, research similar projects if aspects are new to you, and make sure your scheduling is informed and achievable.
Ensure you prioritise the most crucial stages, both in terms of time commitment but also with financing and resources.
5. Automate and communicate
Automation is your friend for any tasks that are repetitive and time consuming, as it can take the heavy lifting off the shoulders of your team. This will save time and energy and will make hitting deadlines far more likely.
Automation may not be appropriate for the actual work of your project. But in most cases, there will be a place for automating some elements. Whether that’s using something like a form builder, or scheduling automatic communication updates, automation tools are almost certainly going to be involved.
Open internal communication is another vital factor to incorporate into your project management workflow. You can boost communication with regular team updates and progress reports, and by having the right technology such as internet phone services.
Encourage team members to come to you with concerns, and foster dialogue and cooperation between teams working on different stages of the project.
6. Analyse and improve
Once your project is complete, it’s important to take stock of the actions you took throughout your project management workflows.
You can use technology to calculate the effectiveness of the workflow in relation to time and budget. It’s also a great chance to get feedback from team members and stakeholders involved in the project.
Were there stages that took longer than they should? Did any unforeseen problems come up? Was there anything that could have been done to avoid delays or hitches?
In other words, which lessons did you learn that might help the next project be even more successful?
Effective workflows are visible and repeatable
The steps to creating an effective project management workflow all have something in common. They are approaches that make a project visible, both as a whole and in its component parts.
This type of workflow lets you see where time will be spent, who will be working on what, and the shape of the journey ahead. A visible, well-planned project is easy to assess and repeat, because its shape and dimensions are clearly laid out for the whole team to see. This helps unite all stakeholders and project workers in a common goal and successful conclusion.