Project maintenance—the process of tracking and enabling project activities in accordance with the project plan—is an essential, but often overlooked, factor in overall project success. After spending so much time in the planning phase, many project managers have a tendency to take a step back once the other members of the project team start their work, but experienced project managers know that project monitoring is every bit as important as project planning.
Enterprise projects, in particular, require a steady commitment to project maintenance, simply because they tend to have much longer durations than projects undertaken at smaller organizations. The longer a project runs, the more likely it becomes that a small deviation from the project plan will snowball into a serious issue as the project progresses. No matter what size projects you’re managing today, an appreciation for project maintenance can only improve your chances of success. These strategies below can help you keep your eye on the prize even during the longest-running projects.
Collaborate with Your Team
Most project managers understand the importance of collaboration between team members during a project. However, it’s also important for project managers themselves to collaborate with the team during each of the stages of project management. You can actually get a head start on your project maintenance by getting the team involved in the planning phase and using the bottom-up approach to task estimation and scheduling. This will not only allow you to develop a more realistic project plan, it will give team members a sense of ownership in the project, and make them more likely to identify and report issues that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Once you enter the execution phase of your project, you can use your organization’s collaboration tools to maintain regular contact with your team without interrupting their work. A quick check-in via instant message, for example, is much less disruptive than a scheduled meeting or face-to-face chat. If your organization uses powerful project management software, you can access other team members’ collaborative interactions and stay informed about task progress even when no one is available to meet or chat.
Be as Flexible as Possible
Rarely, if ever, does a project move from the initiation phase to completion without at least a few changes along the way. If you find yourself altering the timeline or adding new tasks to the project plan, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at project maintenance. After all, maintenance is not only about keeping project activities in line with the plan—it’s also about finding ways to adjust your course in the middle of a project. When tasks run past their target dates and activities exceed their budget allocations, don’t waste time pointing fingers. Assess the real impact to the project as a whole, and then work with your team to create a revised plan that will allow you to reach your intended outcome in the end.