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Small Business Project Management: Planning & Tools

Instructor: Saranya Ramachandran

Saranya has a Bachelors in Science focused on Electronics and Telecommunication and a Masters in Business Administration. She has 8 years of Project Management Experience and is PMP Certified.

A small business has some unique needs with regards to project management. The lesson describes some of the planning techniques and tools that a small business can employ to be succesful in their projects.

Project Management Challenges of small businesses

Sally is the CEO of 'Angry Web Designs', a small business that provides web designs to various organizations. Rob is an independent project management (PM) professional who can see that Sally's business would be much more efficient if she incorporated some basic project management practices. Let's look at how small business project management can help Sally succeed.

Small businesses normally want to execute their projects in the most economical fashion. As a result, they mostly avoid project management practices thinking they might incur additional cost. However, they can improve their productivity and results by employing simple planning techniques and economic tools. Some of the other challenges that small business encounter while incorporating project management practices include:

  • Incorporating PM practices is additional time that small business have to invest which may take out of their other project time
  • Small businesses are started by owners who are very succesful in their own domain. They could feel they could be successful without Project management.
  • They may think they need to hire someone very expensive that they cannot afford.

Sally has similar mindsets and feels that incorporating PM processes might distract her from providing value to her clients. However, Rob makes the pitch for some tools and techniques that she can employ.

Planning Techniques and Tools Small Businesses can Employ

'Angry Web Designs' currently has an administrative assistant who emails all the employees to ask for the time they spent on the project and consolidates them in excel before invoicing clients on a monthly basis. On Rob's advise, Sally purchased a good time tracking software where employees can all log their time on a daily basis which would feed into their invoicing system. Now their administrative assistance can create invoices on the touch of a button.

Small businesses can create a project plan template which they can modify for every project. A project plan explains how a project will be executed in all aspects such as the schedule, resources that will be employed, any risks and issues and how communication will happen and so on. Sally started creating the first project management template with the assistance of Rob.

A project has a set of tasks and responsibilities and deadlines. Some tasks may have dependencies. All these must be tracked somewhere and updated. A simple excel sheet can serve its purpose or one can purchase a project management software where a team can collaborate and update all the items. Sally used emails to track tasks and deadlines. After meeting with Rob, she saw there were several free project management software that she could use to manage her projects more efficiently. Let's take a look.

The most important and crucial aspect of a project is the ability of a team to collaborate. Hence a small business should have some tools through which the team can collaborate. Some of the tools include

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