Find your projects are always running late?
Well, you’re not the only one.
If you don’t have the know-how and experience needed to complete projects on time, it’s quite predictable that you won’t be able to.
But at Bitrix24, we’ve looked into project management theory to pull out 7 tips and tricks for keeping projects on time. We’ll cover both strategic and technological solutions that you can immediately implement in your work.
At the beginning of every project, you need to know what the end of the project will look like. Have a meeting with your clients to agree on the primary goals, and any secondary objectives that go along with them.
When all stakeholders are aware of the key objectives, you give direction and clarity to your mission which is the first step in how to complete a project on time. Rather than guessing at what the next steps should be, you can confidently embark on your tasks and see how they are related to the overall goals.
These goals have to be realistic. As a project manager, it’s easy to over promise what you can achieve when you’re tempted by a lucrative deal. But this tactic will increase pressure on you and your team further down the line and can result in work snowballing into a messy scenario at the end of your project.
Now here’s the important part — write all of these goals down in a project management tool.
You can add your clients to your project visualization as observers, so they can understand the entire process without being able to intervene directly. That way, you’ve always got a written record of every step taken, and you can offer full transparency.
Visualizations like Kanban boards help your internal team too. Everybody can see the bigger picture, with your key goals clearly displayed on the left hand side. However, when it comes to completing a single task, your team can focus solely on the relevant task card and give it their full attention when it is done. Shifting that task into the “complete” section is a great motivator for your team, and with the Kanban visualization, they can immediately see how it contributes to the overall success of the project.
One of the most important parts of planning a timeline is setting deadlines. By using historical data (which we’ll look at in more detail later in this article) you can predict how long each task takes and plan out a roadmap for your entire project. But what some managers forget is the importance of breaking a project up into shorter-term sprints.
Take a marketing campaign for example. It makes up a small part of a bigger project, and is made up of many individual tasks, such as visuals, drip email creation, paid advertising launches, and much more. By collecting all of these tasks into a clear, achievable sprint, you can focus all your energy on completing it by a given deadline before assessing your work and moving on to the next sprint.
Make sure to include flexibility into your sprints and the overall project. You may be diligent in setting deadlines for each task and even including time to review and correct, but in the world of project management, there are a million external factors that can delay your work.
Mature managers know how to calculate probability of completing a project on time and will always include a bit of breathing room in sprints. This way, if things go wrong, you can absorb the issue and keep moving forward, rather than missing your deadline and letting your project run behind time.
A final piece of advice on how to complete projects on time is to get started right away. Psychology suggests that the fear of failure is one of the biggest causes of procrastination, and being aware of this is the first step in a successful project. This is especially important for solopreneurs who don't have the luxury of colleagues or a vibrant office culture to motivate them.
Yes, you’ve set your expectations with your client and made a killer plan (with a bit of flexibility built in), but that doesn’t mean you should hang up the phone and disappear until the final deadline.
Good communication is essential in completing projects on time, but you need to be smart about it.
Throwing instant messages around like they’re going out of fashion and filling up people’s email inboxes with every thought that enters your head is not good communication. Instead, write up a communication policy to talk to your clients, as well as one for your internal team. Your strategy should include every kind of communication you expect to come across, and offer a few tips on what is acceptable and how it will help you complete projects on time. We’ll offer a few examples here.
As the cloud-based headquarters of your project, it makes sense to include any instructions, updates, and questions on the relevant task card in your project management tool. That way, you keep information predictably close at hand, which saves a heap of time and confusion.
Now, remote teams will often need a bit of information immediately when they’re in the middle of the task, so instant messenger does come in handy. However, it is truly a blind silo, so any key decisions should be copied straight onto your task card.
When overused, email inboxes can become a stress-inducing black hole of information, so in general, you should try to avoid them. However, general announcements are an area when an email simply makes sense. To make it more efficient, turn on read receipts so you know that everyone has opened and spent the time understanding it, and encourage people to avoid the dreaded “reply all” if they have any questions.
Rather than discussing availability one-on-one for your in-person or video meetings, check team calendars for availability. This keeps your team on task and saves you a lot of time in the organizing process. Everyone involved should receive a notification and an agenda, allowing you to keep meetings short and to-the-point and increase the likelihood that you will complete projects on time.
Clearly, you will need to make sure you have all your communication channels up and running before you start work. From your project management and video call software to emails, instant messenger, and activated notifications, it’s your responsibility to have the right tools for your communication policy.
To complete projects on time, you need to be in control of what’s going on. But this doesn’t mean micromanaging every aspect and stressing your team (and yourself) out.
Earlier we mentioned that you can assign your clients as observers to your tasks. But accountability is more than just observing. Each of your tasks should have a responsible person, the individual in charge of making sure you get a quality task on time. This is delegation at its most basic, which helps you as a manager take a broader view of the project as a whole.
Delegation not only gives you one clear point of contact for every task, but the accountability goes hand in hand with ownership. When your team takes ownership of tasks, they get a sense of pride in their work, which is a great motivator that helps you complete projects on time.
It’s OK to hold your clients accountable too. As long as your communication is professional, yet assertive, and you explain the importance, you don’t have to treat your clients like royalty. If you need to give them a nudge, explain it through your project timeline and go through the consequences of their late work.
Make it clear that it's their responsibility to give you all the information and resources you need to complete projects on time. Any missing documents, slow responses, or last-minute changes can seriously affect your plans and cause delays.
Unlimited Users Free
Just as you need to delegate managerial tasks to complete projects on time, you can also seriously streamline work for your teams by being a master of automations. Knowing what your automation options are and how best to deploy them can be a key differentiator between you and your competitors, and you can use automations to gain more flexibility in your schedule.
If manually chasing up on every task and assigning the next is eating away at your time, it sounds like you need to automate your workflows. Keeping projects on time is easier if you get notifications for changes on your tasks, rather than relying on emails or messenger. Once a task is marked complete, everyone involved gets an update. This means you can quickly review and approve, and the subsequent task will be assigned automatically.
The last thing you want to do when you’re under pressure is to squeeze in an essential meeting. Avoid this trap by setting recurring meetings at the start of your project, so everybody can work their schedules around them. The right calendar software will take care of any reminders and alert attendees when you upload the agenda.
Automations don't only streamline your process to help you deliver a project on time, they also cut out the menial tasks which helps to keep everyone in your team motivated and performing at their best.
If you want to be taken seriously, you can't shift the blame to external factors or people when you don't complete projects on time. Reliable project managers therefore always put contingency plans in place for when things go wrong.
In a practical sense, this is a large part of a risk management plan. Start by identifying potential issues such as late deliveries, staff being off sick, or more specific risks related to your industry. Then ask your team (and yourself) for suggestions on how to be flexible and react to keep your project on track.
It’s important not to just get a general idea. Just like your plan A tasks, create workflow templates with instructions, deadlines, and costs, then save them, ready to go at any given moment.
In terms of keeping projects on time, pre-planning your contingencies will give you flexibility to deal with difficult circumstances. No client wants to hear excuses about why you can’t deliver your projects. They want to hear that while issues may have occurred, you were able to ride the wave seamlessly.
Project management software with analytical capabilities is the backbone of how to calculate probability of completing a project on time. Set time trackers to measure every task you do so you can get a reliable estimation of how long tasks take. When the task is done, the time will be registered in your software for analysis.
At the end of every sprint, pull out your data into a report and identify where you’ve been falling behind. Then you need to ask yourself questions to find the root cause. Were the instructions clear enough? Is there a morale issue in the team? Are you simply underestimating how long tasks take?
When your project is over, you can do a deeper analysis of your team’s performance. By answering the questions above, you can make structural changes to your team, offer specific training, or adjust your estimations to make your future projects more reliable.
Now you know how to complete projects on time, all that’s left is to get planning! And the good news is, you can take a giant leap forward in a matter of seconds.
By signing up to Bitrix24, you get instant access to powerful project management software and pro communications tools, as well as calendars, collaborative documents, cloud storage and everything else you need to set the stage for a successful project.So if you’re looking for the first step for how to complete a project on time, sign up for Bitrix24 today!
If you want to complete projects on time, combine the following aspects:
Agree on goals with your client.
Set deadlines for tasks, sprints, and the project.
Streamline internal and external communication.
Share responsibility and accountability.
Make contingency plans.
Analyze and improve your performance.
To complete projects on time, you should invest in the following tools:
Project management software.
Multiple forms of communication.