by Tarryn West, PMP
What’s a small project?
For the purposes of this article, I’ve defined a small project as a project with a budget of less than $30.000 which is generally completed within 2-4 months.
Businesses that engage in shorter-term or smaller projects, are generally those that are producing these on a regular basis (my own experience with Island Media is specifically based in digital projects which includes branding, design, development, and advertising).
This generally means that often, there are multiple ongoing projects running concurrently – this drives a real need for strong project management. However, historically, project management frameworks have been developed for large scale projects, and while exemplary, it’s not always possible or financially viable to run small projects abiding to the same frameworks.
Agile certainly can be a great solution for smaller projects, however, when stakeholders are not always within the same business, it is still usually necessary to follow a waterfall framework at least within the initiation and planning processes.
Here’s a short guide on how we manage smaller projects, while maintaining alignment with the principles of PMI.
The first step in any project is usually the project charter and this remains true regardless of project size. Starting with a strong template and customising this to your project is an easy way to cut down on the time it takes to create the project charter.
The next step is to ensure that you have a clear idea of the requirements, as well as a scope agreement, and that everybody understands where the project begins and ends. We have found it best to have standard scope documents, which can be edited and modified based on the needs of the project.
Remember the future (imagine we are in the future, and you are looking back at the project, what made it successful?) collaboration games are a great way of determining what your stakeholders’ definition(s) of success look like.
The last step in small project planning is to set and agree on a timeline for the project. This usually involves checking in with stakeholders to ensure that the timeline and dates where their input will be required aligns with their other responsibilities and time constraints.
Some clients are keen to get the project done quickly and can commit to shorter turnarounds, others require input from multiple stakeholders, and so require additional time to provide feedback. Having a timeline which everybody can commit to ensures that everyone has realistic expectations for project completion, and resources can be blocked and assigned at the right times.
Use Free Digital Project Management Tools
Smaller projects have smaller budgets, it’s not always possible to have access to the best digital software, however, these days, there are so many incredible solutions available, and often, for a smaller project these work just fine. Here are some of my favourites:
- Google Sheets – an easy place to create timelines, SOW documents and resource planning documents.
- Asana – this is a brilliant project management tool. Smaller teams up to 15, can use the free version which allows you to assign tasks and set deadlines for task completion.
- Trello – on average, we run up to 40 small projects at a time. Ensuring that the whole team can access a Kanban board which shows the status and overview of each project ensures that we are all collectively working towards the same goals.
- Loom – see below.
- Discord – the gamer version of Slack. This is a great tool which allows communication between large teams, the use of channels and threads makes it easy to ensure clear communication between stakeholders. Roles can streamline users’ communications by hiding or locking channels which are not relevant to their work.
When you have a smaller team, and are managing multiple projects at one time, it can be daunting and overwhelming to keep up with all the communication required to keep each project running smoothly. Time is the ultimate scarce resource, so it’s always important to ask yourself whether two-way communication is really necessary.
Asynchronous communication can be a great tool to provide quick status updates and visual information to stakeholders. Loom is an excellent free tool which allows you to easily record and send screen recordings. The benefits of this are that stakeholders can watch these at their own convenience, perhaps at an increased speed, and save them to review again later.
When working in multilingual teams, Loom is an excellent resource to share information as some team members may find it easier to be able to play back the video.
Even on smaller projects, it is so important to document and mitigate project risks. Having a company wide risk register which documents the common and historical risks associated with your projects is a great way to ensure that these are mitigated, without perhaps the need to undergo a full risk management assessment for a small/ short term project.
Ensuring signoff and retrospectives is a valuable part of all project completions, even small ones. This is the perfect time to update that company risk register and to document ways to improve for the future. It’s also important to ensure full project sign off so that the project can be closed.
And that’s a wrap. I hope you enjoyed this short guide to digital project management.