Question: What is Project Management and can I use it in my small business?

Answer:  YES you can!

Project Management is a tool that has been widely used for many years in large businesses to help them manage large complex undertaking, such as bridge construction, building design, software development, and much more. Until recently the tool has not been as widely used in small business.

That is changing now with the realization that Project Management software can be effectively used by small businesses also, primarily because it helps managers plan, execute and evaluate their operations through controlling the key variables of cost, time, and quality. These variables play an important role in the successful management of complex tasks whether they are in a small or large business environment. Use of Project Management techniques can help assure that what needs to be done and when, at what cost and will be clearly known by anyone involved with the task. Most of all, the outcome of the effort will be a high quality product or service meeting the standards set in the original plan and then some.

Setting up a project can be fairly easy. What needs to known initially are the overall objectives of the plan and when the work will start. It is possible also to work backward from a date when the work needs to be finished, and through the process of calculation of task start and finish time you can then develop a required start date.

The next step is to determine the tasks that need to be accomplished and their sequence. For example, the walls need to be up before a roof can be placed on a building. Tasks have predecessors and successors, which is the work that needs to be done before a successor task can be started. Tasks also have costs for manpower, machine time in some cases, and associated costs such as set up and maintenance. The total amount of time that the entire sequence of tasks requires represents the schedule. In other words the start and finish dates.

Next is a computation of total costs for accomplishing the tasks according to the schedule. Costs both human and nonhuman must be included in order to have a complete picture of the project budget. Once having totaled all costs, we have arrived at the figure designated as the budget.

We can then develop standards for quality in all aspects of the tasks and costs. The length of time for task completion is an estimate before the work is done, just as cost is estimated before spending begins. Performance standards demand that the work is done both on time and under budget with continuous maintenance of high quality.

Monitoring the progress of a project is accomplished by inserting milestones along the time period from start to finish of the work. A milestone is a point where scheduled tasks and expenditures as well as quality standards can be reviewed, and adjusted where necessary. It is possible that both schedule and budget may need revisions, but it is better to know this while the work is underway rather than at the end when all work is completed.

Small business results can be improved by the use of tools such as Project Management. SCORE mentors can help a business owner/manager make use of this and other productivity building tools. Call SCORE today to arrange an appointment with a mentor – 301-766-2043.



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