7 Reasons Why Startups Need Quality Project Management
Startups have a lot to think about. Do I have the right product-market fit? Do I have enough cash to get there? Am I building the right team? As startups and small businesses grow, their leadership teams are often bogged down by day-to-day operations when they should focus on leading and strategically growing their businesses.
As an entrepreneur, you need to wear many hats: financier, marketer, product manager, sales associate, and more. The daily grind of running a business can distract you from effectively, consistently delivering customer value, and meeting clients’ expectations on budget and on time. You have great ideas, but you need to hone the execution.
In today’s uncertain environment, top-notch project management is more valuable than ever. Startups need solid guidance to get their dreams off the ground. Here are 7 reasons why startups need quality project management.
Efficient Use of Resources
When we say “resources” in this context, we mean it in a broad sense: cash, people, time, equipment, etc. All of these are in short supply at a startup. One of the goals of high-impact project management is to use each resource in the most efficient way possible.
Most organizations have a specific person designated to manage each category of resource (CFOs manage cash, CTOs manage developers, etc.) But a great project manager takes these roles a step further by analyzing how the resources interact. These observations are enhanced by examining how changing one resource would impact the others and which moves would take the organization closer to its objectives.
Startups don’t have time to wait for perfect or even good data before making decisions. However, a project manager can provide the best available data to supplement a founder’s “gut feeling” or “instinct.”
Great project managers are constantly gathering data during their regular duties. Some of the most important questions every project manager should be able to answer include:
Is the product on track for the launch date? If not, why?
Is the project on budget, or are we at risk of running out of cash?
Which feature is most likely to produce the desired business outcomes?
What are the tradeoffs in time and money to make a change?
High-performing project managers aren’t just great at achieving their projects’ objectives but are constantly evaluating their overall impact on the business.
Improve the Organization’s Scalability
An organization consisting of two co-founders and no other employees may not need a project manager… yet. Lines of communication are typically clear, as is the next milestone. However, once a startup begins to scale in dollars and/or people, the processes that worked with those two people probably won’t work with five or 10 or 50 employees. Supplementing culture with the right amount of discipline does not have to mean loads of additional paperwork and meetings.
Effective project managers understand the value of planning for growth. Creating a one-page process document may make a world of difference for a small team, by setting clear steps, objectives and responsibilities. As the organization continues to scale, the process can, too.
Boost Your Credibility
When you talk about your business goals, do you think they’re actually achievable? What’s your plan to get there? These questions are on the minds of your investors, customers and employees.
Although you probably share different amounts and types of information with each of these stakeholder groups, the answers all come from the same place: the project manager. Whether you’ve acted as the project manager or hired a professional, you should have confidence in the data informing your decisions. When you do, your credibility increases.
Manage Unrealistic Expectations
A key component to every successful project is communicating realistic, consistent expectations to all team members and stakeholders. Unrealistic scope, targets and deadlines not only delay progress but can also severely impact team morale and motivation.
To avoid unrealistic expectations, clearly communicate the project’s scope and goals with a project charter and project plan. Compare the project’s timeline with the deadline to ensure the dates are aligned. If the timeline exceeds the project deadline, discuss with the team whether a change in resources, scope or timeline may be necessary to meet project goals on time and on budget.
Minimize Undocumented Changes
Often, organizations will start with a “standard” methodology, but intentionally or accidentally allow the project approach to morph over time. This is fine if it works better for the team. But you’ve got to document the changes and agree on the new methods.
Documenting changes looks different for everyone and don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the best methods for your organization. Even the most innovative founder can get stuck in a, “But this is how I’ve always done it!” rut when it comes to processes.
Another project management trap that inexperienced project managers can fall into is trying to stick to a project plan no matter what. Plans will always change, and change is not necessarily a bad thing — change should be welcomed as an opportunity to learn and innovate. Being too rigid during the planning process can hamper innovation and creativity.
The key to flexibility is managing these changes effectively so the project continues to move forward. For most project managers, this means building flexibility into the plan so changes can be addressed as soon as possible. An intuitive project manager will quickly raise issues to the leadership team and present possible solutions. This builds trust between the project manager and the team (credibility, anyone?) because they’ll know the project manager listens to them and has their backs. It also builds trust between the project manager and leadership team because it demonstrates that problems will not be hidden from them.
Want to Discuss Your Project?
As an entrepreneur, you have great ideas, but you need a way to accomplish your goals. Effective project management provides immediate value when applied correctly. No plan is perfect, but with quality project management, you can dramatically increase the chance of success.
Our proven Project Management Approach results in an achievable scope, schedule and budget that aligns with your organization's mission, values, and goals.
Do you have a specific project or product issue that needs attention?
Greenshaw Consulting is here for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can make your next project a success.