If you've ever been involved with developing a product or service, you know firsthand how critical effective project management is for delivering on time and within your budget. Regardless of your industry or your company's size, having a dedicated project manager can improve your chances of successful project completion.
However, with many companies moving to remote and hybrid workforces, project managers need new methods to plan, track, and control projects. Cloud-based collaboration and project management tools enable project managers and teams to work together, monitor project progress, and keep stakeholders updated from anywhere, on any device. All you need is a working internet connection.
Learn more about how the cloud simplifies and streamlines project management below.
What is traditional project management?
Traditional project management involves defining and planning a project, monitoring progress, and managing obstacles as they arise. The goal of the process is to deliver projects on time and under budget, which is only possible when teams have a clear idea of their responsibilities and can hold themselves accountable.
Common project management pain points include:
1. Lack of visibility
When a project manager has limited insight into their team's progress, teams can easily run into delays and conflicts. Poor visibility often results from a lack of communication between team members or from inefficient project management tools.
2. Scheduling conflicts
Project managers may accidentally overbook or double-book certain team members, leading to project delays. Traditional project management might also involve organizing in-person teams, accommodating everyone's schedules so they can work together in the same place, at the same time.
3. Scope creep
Scope creep happens when you add extra tasks that were not originally included in the scope of work. It can be the result of poor planning, or it can come from clients changing their minds after the project has begun.
Using the right tools and ensuring constant communication between team members are both efficient ways to mitigate these pain points.
The responsibilities of a project manager
Project managers are professionals responsible for planning and overseeing projects from initiation to closure. They may specialize in certain industries, like construction project managers, or have a more general focus.
Key responsibilities include:
- Defining important deliverables for each stage of a project
- Drafting an accurate timeline
- Keeping teams on track
- Creating a realistic project budget
- Sourcing required project resources
- Providing ongoing team support
- Keeping stakeholders updated throughout the project
- Predicting potential risks and planning around them
- Handing the project off to the client
A project manager needs to be adaptable, creative, and able to effectively manage stress to juggle these responsibilities. They also need to be able to delegate tasks and resolve conflicts, so communication skills are critical.
How does the cloud change things?
With more people teleworking than ever, project managers need new ways to manage remote and distributed teams. While the project manager's role stays largely the same, cloud technologies enhance their ability to manage certain tasks.
The cloud makes managing projects in the new age of work a streamlined, simple process. Cloud-based project management software programs are incredibly helpful tools for addressing the common pain points many project managers face.
Here's how the cloud is changing the game:
- High visibility: Real-time updates give project managers insight into progress as it changes, helping them determine realistic timelines and keep stakeholders updated
- Storage: Cloud projects provide teams with a centralized content database users can access from anywhere, on any device
- Agility: Real-time visibility into progress at various levels enables project managers to identify and resolve problems before they can affect project progress
- Collaboration: Cloud collaboration tools enable team members to work simultaneously on the same files whether they're down the hall from each other or across the country
- Schedules: Certain tools offer the ability to view all your team members' schedules in a visual layout, which can help project managers create viable schedules and assign tasks with confidence
Knowing how to manage cloud storage is essential for getting the most out of any cloud solution.
The 5 phases of project management
Every project can go through five measurable phases. Breaking the process down into each stage makes it easier for project managers to create and stick to a realistic plan for the project.
First, you develop your idea. The initiation phase is where you define your project — what are you creating, and why are you doing it? Answering this question requires you to do some research, like identifying market gaps, gathering user feedback, and potentially talking to your users. Revisiting past projects can also help you flesh out your ideas. Try to focus on answering the following questions:
- What specific problem will this project solve?
- Could this project open up future opportunities?
- What are the potential risks involved with this project?
- How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
- What resources will you need to complete your project?
- What are your criteria for project completion?
Deliverables for this stage depend on what you need to get buy-in from your stakeholders. Some projects may only involve a brief product requirements document (PRD), while others require a longer project proposal.
Once you've established a solid business case for your project, it's time to draft a plan. While this phase is typically the most labor-intensive for project managers, it's where they really get the chance to shine.
An effective project plan outlines individual responsibilities, methods, and team documentation. These are critical because your team will follow this information throughout the project. Key deliverables for this stage may include:
Define the start and end dates of the project as well as important milestones and goals. Factor in your available team members and be realistic about what they can do.
Scope of work (SOW)
This document outlines your goals and expectations for the project and serves as the single source of truth for everything related to your project. It's important to keep your scope realistic. Overly ambitious projects often run into cost overruns and missed deadlines.
This breaks up your milestones into individual, actionable tasks you can assign to specific team members.
This is the framework that will guide your team in tackling your project. Examples could include Agile, Scrum, or V-shaped project management. It's important to choose the best methodology for your team and project, because it will determine how you work.
List which team members will be working on the project and their responsibilities. Keep their schedules and skills in mind.
Depending on your company and project needs, you may need to create additional documents, like risk management or communication plans.
Now that you have a completed plan, it's finally time to put it into action. The project manager assigns tasks as necessary, and all team members begin working. Throughout this phase, the project manager periodically checks in with team members to ensure everything is going according to plan.
The project manager's primary responsibility in this stage is thoroughly monitoring and documenting team progress. Project managers also provide their teams with ongoing support and motivation to help keep everything moving along smoothly. When team members encounter obstacles, they can go to their project manager for assistance.
4. Monitoring and controlling
In this stage, project managers focus on keeping the project on track. Regular check-ins are critical for holding your team accountable and keeping team members motivated.
Cloud-based project management software programs are helpful tools for managing this phase because they provide helpful visualization features like burndown charts, velocity charts, and reporting.
The data you gather in this stage is essential for keeping stakeholders updated on your progress. It's significantly easier to ask for more resources or make alterations to your plans when you can prove the impact of these actions to your stakeholders.
Congratulations! You've reached the end of your project. You've completed all required deliverables, and you're ready to hand the project off to the client.
This stage provides a great opportunity to reflect. Consider what went well and what didn't go so well, and document the lessons you learned so you can refer to them for guidance on future projects.
Project management strategies in the cloud
Project managers have a wealth of frameworks to choose from to give their projects a structure to follow. Cloud-based tools provide ways to enhance each framework and make project management possible for even remote and distributed teams.
Waterfall, or traditional, project management is a strict, linear framework that requires teams to work on tasks in a specific order. This strategy is best for teams who need a rigid structure and thorough documentation. However, since testing only takes place after every other step is complete, it's often incompatible with iterative projects like software development.
A cloud environment facilitates an efficient traditional workflow by providing a centralized place for storing, viewing, and editing project documents. Integrated cloud collaboration tools catalyze seamless communication between team members, helping prevent delays resulting from poor communication.
A virtual Gantt chart can help visualize projects following traditional or V-shaped methodologies. A Gantt chart defines important information about each task, including who's working on it, how long it'll take, and how it overlaps with other tasks. Using a cloud-based Gantt chart makes your team more adaptable by allowing you to update each task as the project progresses, providing increased visibility and agility.
The V-shaped project management framework takes the Waterfall methodology and incorporates testing into its early stages rather than leaving it for the end. After each stage in the process, you have to complete the validation and verification step, where you test your progress before you move on.
Cloud tools that integrate with various software programs consolidate all your project content, enabling teams to test and document products from anywhere, on any device. Report-generation features help quickly create progress reports, easily synthesizing all your project information into an easy-to-digest format for your key stakeholders.
The Agile framework is an iterative methodology that prioritizes fast processes, frequent releases, and user feedback collection. Because this framework requires teams to respond to user feedback throughout the process, documents like a full requirements list are generally unnecessary.
Agile processes require teams to work in short sprints of a few weeks to a few months. There are several different subtypes of Agile methodologies that each work for different projects, including Scrum and Kanban.
Software development teams frequently use an Agile framework because it enables continuous product updates throughout the development process.
Using cloud solutions can enhance Agile development by facilitating easy collaboration. Cloud communication tools like video conferencing and instant messaging enable team members to stay in touch and keep moving through sprints. Specialized Agile project management software provides more specific features for visualizing and organizing project materials.
Kanban is a spin on Agile methodology that categorizes project tasks according to status, enabling you to track them as they move through your workflow. It's a useful framework for visualizing how much you're actually committing to, which can help you minimize your in-progress work.
Another benefit of this approach is that it enables you to create a framework that reflects the way your team works. A basic example of Kanban categories could include:
- Work in progress
- Completed work
Depending on your project, you could use different categories. For example, a content creation team might break their Kanban board into the following states:
- Ready to publish
Traditionally, you use sticky notes and a whiteboard to move tasks through the workflow. But some specialized cloud-based project management tools have virtual Kanban boards that enable remote and distributed teams to leverage this methodology from anywhere.
Scrum is an Agile methodology where teams work in short sprints. Each sprint involves the following four ceremonies:
- Sprint planning: The team plans their goal for the upcoming sprint, the tasks they complete to meet that goal, and how long the sprint will last
- Daily standup: Every day during the sprint, the team meets to evaluate the previous day's work and plan for the current day
- Sprint review: Once the sprint is over, the team meets with stakeholders to present their work, where stakeholders may provide feedback for the next sprint
- Retrospective: The team meets to reflect on the sprint, like what went well and what lessons they learned for the next one
Scrum is most appropriate for experienced teams that need a structured approach to development. Cloud video conferencing tools enable distributed teams to run daily standups from anywhere. Scrum-specific cloud tools provide more specialized features for tracking tasks and generating progress reports, like burndown charts and Scrum boards. These features improve project visibility and transparency for project managers and stakeholders.
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The Content Cloud can streamline your project management
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