It’s Monday morning. You’ve just arrived at work, and your boss comes to your office with exciting news. You’ll be managing the next project with a key client, and the kickoff meeting is on Thursday.
That's fantastic news, but this now looms over your week. You’ll have a lot on your plate — from negotiating with the project stakeholders to directing the project team and ensuring everything runs smoothly.
To make sure everything is accounted for, you'll need a project management checklist. That will help you and your team focus on the work that matters — without distractions from budgets spinning out of control and tasks going off track.
We've created this guide to help you understand everything about project management so you can streamline your tasks and prioritize important duties.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What is project management?
- Types of project management approaches and when to use them.
- How to be successful in project management.
- Project management checklist.
- How Scribe Pages and other automation solutions can strengthen your project documentation.
- Final thoughts: Simple project management checklist for new project managers.
What is project management?
Project management uses established procedures and principles to guide a project from start to finish. A project can be anything from expanding sales into a new market to developing software to improve business processes.
You'll need a project management plan to help complete the project within a set budget and timeframe. After all, projects aren’t meant to last forever.
Every project plan typically has the following core components:
- Project scope.
- Project deliverables.
- Work breakdown structure (WBS).
- Project schedule.
- Project budget.
We’ll cover most of these components in the later sections. But first, let’s look at different techniques for managing a project.
Types of project management approaches and when to use them
With project management methodologies, all roads lead to the same goal — a completed project. But they all have different strategies to achieve that goal.
So how do you know which approach to take when managing a project? Here are the three main types of project management and when you should use each:
Waterfall is a simple, linear project management approach where you divide a project into distinct phases that progress in one direction — just like a waterfall. The next phase of a project can't start until you complete the previous one.
In this approach, each team member’s responsibilities are clearly defined from the start, and they’re expected to remain the same throughout the project's lifespan.
Because of that, each member needs to pay close attention to timelines and task sequences.
The waterfall approach is ideal if:
- Your team members understand the project requirements, which are unlikely to change.
- The project budget is set in stone and can't be increased.
- The project timeline is fixed and can’t be moved.
Unlike waterfall's linear nature, the agile approach focuses on continuous monitoring and improvement of deliverables.
Agile works well for projects that need collaboration, modification, and innovation. That's why it's popular in software development — where customer needs and tech constantly change.
When using agile methodology, your project will have several iterations — giving you many chances to adjust along the way.
You can break bigger goals into smaller, more manageable ones that your team members can work on simultaneously, reducing the time they need to complete a project.
The agile approach is optimal if:
- You're trying to create something new and innovative.
- You don't have strict processes and can afford to work flexibly.
- You need to complete the project in a short time.
- You have some budget flexibility.
Agile can be subdivided into scrum and kanban. While both emphasize completing project tasks in small increments and continuous improvement, each uses different processes to achieve that.
Scrum uses short development cycles called sprints that are small, self-organized and typically have one scrum master and product owner.
In contrast, kanban monitors tasks to reduce project inefficiencies. It's built around a physical or digital kanban board that divides project phases into columns. You write the tasks on cards that are moved from one column to the next until you complete each task.
Lean focuses on increasing efficiency and adding value to stakeholders by preventing resources and time from being wasted.
In this approach, you must first define what value means for stakeholders. Once you understand who you’re creating your product for, you can better determine how to make it more valuable.
Next, you must identify your project’s value stream — your current and ideal workflow from project initiation to completion. Then, identify waste in each project management phase to eliminate processes that don’t add value and maximize efficiency.
Since lean project management is an iterative process, you can make continuous improvements to your project workflow. Do so by assessing your product value and regularly analyzing the workflow for waste.
How to be successful in project management
- Make sure the project’s scope is clear.
- Identify and meet all the stakeholders.
- Create a list of deliverables.
- Have open and clear communication.
- Use the right project management tools to track progress.
Let’s look at each step in detail and see how you can implement them to succeed in project management.
1. Make sure the project’s scope is clear
When managing a project, you don’t want to aim too high or too low. Instead, your project size should be just right — large enough to include all your deliverables but small enough to achieve the project’s goals.
The best way to do that is by defining your project’s scope. That’ll enable you to hit your project deliverables within the budget and timeframe — without overworking your teammates.
Defining your project scope will also help you:
- Manage stakeholder expectations and get buy-in.
- Ensure all stakeholders understand the project boundaries.
- Budget and resource plan appropriately.
- Avoid scope creep.
- Reduce project risks.
- Align your project to its primary goals.
2. Identify and meet all the stakeholders
Stakeholders are all the people affected by your project's results, including your end-users and customers. You should engage all stakeholders and keep their interests in mind while creating your project plan.
Here are some ways you can better engage and influence your project stakeholders:
- Identify stakeholders early while initiating the project.
- Invite key stakeholders to the initial project meetings when creating the project charter to resolve conflicts and answer key questions as soon as possible.
- Understand your stakeholders before encouraging them to understand you. People often want to know you're interested in hearing their point of view first.
- Ask your team members for estimates and help stakeholders understand that early estimates are usually provisional. Commit to offering refined estimates as the project progresses.
- Develop and maintain a clear communication plan.
3. Create a list of deliverables
You may hear the word “deliverable” used casually every day at work. But in project management, a deliverable is a specific output that:
- Is within the project scope.
- All stakeholders have agreed on.
- Is a result of deliberate work.
- Has a specific role in achieving the project’s objective.
Identify the project deliverables and strategies needed to meet the project's objectives. Estimate the due dates for each deliverable and set firm milestones to ensure you meet those deadlines. Continually monitor how your project progresses and keep your stakeholders informed.
4. Have open & clear communication
Imagine being the only one involved in a crucial project.
That’s horrible, right? You simply can't manage a project on your own. Even with the best task management tools, you'll be ineffective without your team members and open communication.
Project communication is so important that project managers spend 75–90 percent of their time communicating.
You can establish open and clear communication by:
- Considering your team members’ points of view. That will help you identify ideas that may improve the project.
- Regularly engaging relevant stakeholders with project reports to update them on new developments and changes.
- Holding regular team meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding deadlines and deliverables.
5. Use the right project management tools to track progress
The right project management tool enables your team members to function at their optimum level. But selecting one that perfectly matches your team's needs is challenging.
It can be harder than choosing which Netflix docuseries to watch next!
To make the process easier, here's what you should look for when choosing a project management tool:
- It has features such as Gantt charts, time tracking, and kanban boards to help your team monitor their progress.
- It can grow with your company. That way, you won't need to buy another tool later.
- It has a minimalist design with a simple dashboard to avoid distractions — the less double-entry your team needs to do, the more efficient they'll be.
The right project management tool should minimize inefficiencies, increase productivity, maximize margins and offer a more significant return on investment (ROI).
For example, Scribe is an efficient tool that can help you record any project process in seconds. Let’s say your remote team uses Zoom for project meetings.
Here’s a Scribe to help you launch Zoom from Google Calendar.
Now, let’s look at what a project management checklist entails.
Project management checklist
- Understand and manage the expectations of project stakeholders.
- Create the project’s goals and objectives.
- Design the project plan.
- Determine the project budget.
- Monitor the project’s progress and performance.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, here’s a project management checklist template you can download:
Understand & manage the expectations of project stakeholders
The key to good stakeholder management is supporting them throughout the process and empowering them to shape the project's outcome.
Doing so will help stakeholders see that:
- You understand the process.
- You’re open and honest.
- You know the boundaries and understand what is or isn’t possible.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you keep stakeholders calm and reassured throughout the project:
- Identify who the major stakeholders are. Sounds obvious? Not always. If the key players aren't fully on board, it may cause dissent in your team. So, before managing stakeholders’ expectations, you need to know who they are.
- Identify how each stakeholder would want you to reach them. That way, you'll ensure they remain updated and content with how the project is progressing.
- Engage stakeholders before making crucial decisions so they feel involved in the process.
Create the project's goals & objectives
Your project objectives should be time-bound, attainable and contain specific goals you can measure when you complete the project. That way, you can know if:
- Your project succeeded.
- You met your project vision and goals.
- You missed your target.
When your project objectives aren't clear, your team's productivity will suffer. An Asana survey shows that 27 percent of employees said that one of the main barriers to productivity is unclear processes causing a lack of clarity.
Project management is becoming more complicated, so you need to look beyond the standard requirements, timelines and budgets and set SMART goals.
Design the project plan
Every project tells a story about its team, goals, deliverables and timing — and getting the story right requires detailed project planning and management.
The project plan's purpose is to map out the resources and steps you'll need to complete the project on time and within budget.
Here are some tips to help you design an effective project plan.
- Define the what, why and standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the project and explain these to key stakeholders.
- Write the project goals and implement stakeholder requirements as they address them.
- Examine each deliverable and define the tasks you need to complete to accomplish each one.
- Create the project schedule using a Gantt chart to help visualize the project timeline easily.
- Define the communication channels everyone should use throughout the project and keep information in a central place so everyone can access it.
Determine the project budget
A project without a budget is like a vehicle without fuel. Funding is crucial to kickstart a project and set all processes in motion. And as a project manager, creating a project budget and keeping the wheels spinning will most likely be your sole responsibility.
The project budget will tell stakeholders exactly how much money you need to button up the project and when you'll need it.
Before assembling the project budget, consider the following factors:
- Cost estimates for capital expenditures, direct costs, indirect costs, operating expenses and project deliverables costs.
- Budget contingency (emergency fund for the unforeseen).
- Budget monitoring to detect costs before they start exceeding estimates and making necessary adjustments before the budget is blown.
Project managers often overlook some costs, such as maintenance and training. So it’s crucial to plan and see if there are expenses related to the project that might come up once it’s completed.
Monitor the project’s progress & performance
Monitoring project progress can mean the difference between project success and project failure. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. With some dedication, you can lead your team to successful project completion.
Here’s how you can monitor your project’s progress.
- Use a project management tool to generate automatic reports on your progress.
- Make the project visible to every team member so they can see how tasks are moving through the phases. That way, everyone will know what tasks are late, who needs help, who’s waiting and what needs to be done next.
- Be consistent and make a project schedule for yourself to track the goals you’ve created with your team.
How Scribe Pages & other automation solutions can strengthen your project documentation
Project documentation helps you monitor how well the project is progressing and ensures everyone works from the same playbook. As we mentioned above, you can generate project documents with an automation tool.
Project documentation tools like Scribe make it super easy to capture your project processes.
With Scribe, you just need to click the record button. Then Scribe automatically captures your processes and turns them into screenshots and how-to guides in seconds.
You can then edit screenshots, redact sensitive information, modify instructions and more.
If your team members or stakeholders ask a question about a particular stage of the project, you can always check the technical documentation record and share the step-by-step guide through:
- A generated link.
- An embedded Scribe.
For example, here’s a Page with our project management checklist to help you get started:
If you need a unified workspace where you can organize all your project documents and processes, project management software like Nuclino and Confluence can offer just that.
Final thoughts: Simple project management checklist for new project managers
An effective project management checklist contains all the necessary aspects of your project and will help you be effective from the moment you plan the project until its completion. It will also empower you to maximize your team's performance and keep stakeholders happy.
Scribe helps you capture your processes while you work and automatically generates a visual step-by-step guide — that’s ready to share with the click of a button.
Create your project management checklist in seconds with Scribe and Scribe Pages for free.