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When it comes to long term project planning and management, several challenges and difficulties can arise which require a total rethink of the project’s future or scope, all the way up to having to abandon it or adopt a whole new working approach. Loss of focus, the slowing of progress, a lack of immediate results, poor diligence and losses in productivity are only a few of the perils that can strike long-term projects. To avoid these, a good PM needs to be able to prepare for almost every eventuality successfully.

Although many will advocate that, “it’s the journey that matters most, not the destination”, in project management there is a need to achieve both: a productive journey and a successful arrival at the planned destination. As difficult as it may seem, there are always a few useful tips that, when put in practice, can shed greater light upon your path and assist in planning for long term projects, delivering them on time and, most importantly, successfully. Here are some ideas that can help.

Draft a plan that starts at the end

When planning for long term projects, there are many factors and decisive events that one might not be able to foresee from the beginning of the project. This creates a need to plan ahead and create a comprehensive timeline. One effective approach is to start from the end. As the final deadline is generally one of the most solid facts you can build upon, it is sometimes easier to consider the development of a project backwards.

Pinpoint the final deadline and start building the necessary steps that need to be made to complete a project, starting from the last and moving backwards to the first. Keep in mind that it is very important to make reasonable time estimations, update timeframes regularly as the project evolves and keep all stakeholders informed and on board. This method is proven to be effective in boosting the attitude of those involved as it is easier to keep track of successes, celebrate milestone deliveries as well as helping overall time management.   

Set SMART goals to track progress

As soon as you have the timetable configured, create small milestones that can act as waypoints that ensure you are meeting scheduled deliverables by their due dates. To do so you should consider setting SMART goals. This method has been proven to be effective in project management as work is broken down into Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound goals. Setting a series of SMART goals and decisive milestones will not only help to measure success as the project unfolds but also make it easier to notice which adjustments need to be made to ensure it stays on track.

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Use online management tools

Collaborative online tools, if you’re not already using them, may be the perfect solution for your precise project needs. Management and organizational online tools are an extremely effective way of keeping track of daily, weekly or monthly priorities in one place, while making the sharing of valuable information with all the relevant stakeholders a huge amount easier.

Today’s business landscape has evolved into a new era where one can easily find the proper tools to accommodate the demands of a constantly expanding and demanding market. From creating to-do lists, assigning and tracking the progress of activities, setting due dates and sharing information, cloud-based project management software has become the right hand of every well informed and successful project manager.

Ask for help

Never be afraid to ask for assistance or seek advice whenever you are faced with an extremely challenging obstacle. You can always rely on yourself to overcome the difficulties that might occur along the course of a project’s life cycle but remember that you are not alone. Technology can keep things on track but never forget to reach out to your peers, colleagues or managers for help with brainstorming, troubleshooting or any other barrier you may encounter.