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Important Steps to Ensure Project Success

A project manager walking up stairs.When you start out on a brand new project the end can seem an impossibly long way away. However, the very first days are no less important than any other stage along the way.

In fact, the entire project lifecycle is filled with essential steps which you simply can’t afford to miss out. The list below isn’t exhaustive but it does cover some very important areas.

Step 1 – Find Out What It Is All About

I realize that you are unlikely to go into a new project without finding out anything about it. The point I want to make it that it is too easy to not give this step the respect it deserves. The most important part for me is that at the outset of the piece of work you are perfectly entitled to ask basic questions such as, “What does this button do?”, “What does this acronym mean?” and “Who are you?” However, if you let this stage pass you by and then start asking things like this after a few months of the project then the stakeholders are going to lose faith in you pretty quickly, while you start to feel bad about asking such silly things which you should really know the answer to by now.

Step 2 – Get a Team Going

The team you have around you is a vital aspect of the project. You will need a good blend of skills and a lot of enthusiasm in there if you are to make a success of it. You can obviously train team members and get them motivated as it goes on but you need to be sure that you have at least a reasonable starting point to work from. Hopefully you will have the chance to get involved in the recruitment process, as this is when you can make sure that you obtain the team members you really need. The next phase is to get them up to speed and contributing as soon as possible.

Step 3- Get Organized

This is quite a broad heading as it covers an awful lot of things. Getting organized on a new project means pulling many strands together in a short period of time. This can seem daunting at the start but once you get into it is – in my opinion – the most rewarding part of the whole process. This is when you get the chance to create things such as project plans and business cases. It is also when the full purpose of the project should become clear in your head and when you get to clear up any lingering doubts or issues. That’s not to say that after this stage it will be plain sailing but you will feel a lot more in control of the work once you get past it.

Step 4- Stay Focused

For me the biggest challenge can be to keep my focus, especially on a long and tiring piece of work. There are some tricks for doing this and you might want to ask some of the more experienced project managers around you for some advice. Personally, I like to switch tasks on a regular basis and organize some away days to keep my attention on the job at hand. The focus of your team also needs to be a concern of yours and hopefully you can keep them on the right track as well.

Step 5 – Test and Sign Off

Once you get your solution sorted out (I know I skipped a stage or two there but I wanted to spend more time on the ones which are really important and which often cause a problem) you will need to test it. The approach you take will vary depending upon what you are actually testing but it needs to be pretty exhaustive. I enjoy this phase too as I started out as a tester but I understand that some other people get bored to tears by it. Remember to keep all of your results nicely cataloged and easy to access. Finally, the project sign off should be a moment of triumph for you, although a lot of the time it comes simply as a relief. It may be only a few weeks after the successful conclusion of the project that you start to fully appreciate how great a job you just did. Enjoy the feeling of having got through all of the stages and you can then begin to look forward to doing it all over again on something completely different.

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