Project management is a highly sought after skill. Failing to find the right project manager, or deciding to try your luck without one, could spell disaster for your project.

project planningFrom IT to Infrastructure, every industry employs project managers to oversee every step in the process. A good project manager will be so unintrusive that you might not even know what they do. In fact, the best project managers are busy working away in the background on project planning ensuring the people in charge of delivering the project can focus on doing their best work.

Project planning and control is a key part of the project management lifecycle. For people on the outside, this might seem like superfluous tasks that could easily be skipped. However, these background processes are often the driving forces that allow projects to be delivered on time and on budget. Here are 3 steps for effective project planning and control that you need to know.

Identify your goals

A project cannot function without goals. These are what keep the individual workers on track and ensure that the project is always moving forward. Goals might include things like milestone events, budgets and timescales. By clearly defining what needs to be done, who should do it, when it should be finished and how much it should cost, you have a framework for delivery.

The project manager’s role is to ensure that everyone knows what needs to be done and when it needs to be completed. If things fall behind, it is down to the project manager to move resources around to ensure things get back on track. Once you know what your goals are, you can create a project map that will outline every step in the process. If you anticipate teething problems at any stage in the project delivery, it’s worth adding a time buffer to help keep things on track. At worst, you’ll deliver on time and at best you’ll be ahead of schedule.

Create a process for feedback

At every stage in the project, the project manager should be gathering feedback and using this to refine and shape the rest of the project milestones. If something isn’t working in the early stages of a project, you need the feedback loops in place to ensure that you aren’t still trying the same method at the end of the project.

This can boost efficiency by ensuring that feedback from all departments is taken on board, processed and turned into actionable insight. Miscommunication can set a project back, delay the delivery and even throw the budget out of balance. Avoid this by ensuring feedback is managed efficiently. This method not only helps to identify potential problems and opportunities, but it also creates a more harmonious working environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their ideas. By keeping all key stakeholders on your side, your job will be much easier should things go wrong.

Identify potential issues

A risk assessment is one of the best ways to ensure you have planned for potential mishaps before they even arise. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t going to cut it when you have a huge project on the line. As a project manager, you need to reassure your stakeholders that you have planned for any potential risks. It also gives your team confidence knowing that you have their backs should anything go wrong.

In the risk assessment stages, you will need to gather input from all corners of the business to find out what is most likely to set the project back. Once you have this information, you can then make a plan to offset these potential pitfalls. Some can be avoided altogether with careful project planning.