Keeping Project Management & Collaboration Simple and Effective

With all the different types of projects that we are constantly managing, there’s no question that we need a project collaboration and management tool for communication and efficiency. Using one like Projecturf gives us some definitive advantages over trying to manage things using email, notes, various word docs, and bloated localized software. Not only does such a tool help to give a clear vision of what we’re dealing with, but it also helps us stay organized. Just last week, a good article (http://www.freelanceswitch.com/productivity/a-guide-to-simple-project-management/) popped up in my alerts called “A Guide to Simple Project Management” by Leo Babauta that discusses some smart ways to manage projects and communicate efficiently (I pasted in parts of the article below as reference – 1 through 7).  Projecturf has been very beneficial to freelance developers and designers and is uniquely positioned to help you. Below are some points I’m highlighting in reference to the article as examples on keeping projects moving quickly with clearly defined goals and expectations. These steps really save us time and enhance the productivity of everyone on the project, as well as simply make things easier.

The first thing before a project starts typically involves setting some structure around deliverables and requirements.  Usually you’ll see project components change direction mid-course, but the initial setup is a critical step in order to meet the end goal for customers, clients, and co-workers. Using Projecturf, simply set up contacts in both the Address Book and Contacts page of a project, and then begin communicating from the Discussions section. Here is a good starting point for any project from Leo Babauta:

1) Clearly defined outcome. Before you even start on the project, you should work with the client to get a clear picture of the desired outcome of the project. Often, the client doesn’t even have a clear picture. But neglecting this step will lead to delays and frustrations down the line. You can communicate through phone, email, or in person, but however you do it, be sure to ask questions to clarify what the client wants, make suggestions, and get a clear picture in your head that shows you how the project will look when it’s done (of course, “look” is a term used loosely here — if the project isn’t visual, you should still have a clear picture in your mind). Once you’ve gone through this process, and have a good idea of the outcome, restate it back to the client to get his or her agreement. Now you have a clear target to shoot at.

Projecturf can be used for entire team collaboration, including discussing different topics on multiple projects. For an overview of each project, we create briefs within the Projecturf dashboard that explain the overall goals of that project. This is critical when working with clients on a project as well.

2) Set up the process. Once the outcome is clearly defined, talk to the client about the process — how you’ll work with him to manage the project. If it’s a simple project that can be done in a day, this step isn’t necessary — you can just do the project and turn it in, and revise it if the client wants revisions. But a longer-term project will require some kind of timeline and communication process, and you’ll want to be clear about this with the client. The following process is recommended, and it’s at this step that it should be communicated. A detailed timeline, however, isn’t recommended — it can be done if the client insists upon it, but detailed timelines have a tendency to fall apart after a week or two, so it should be clear that it’s a flexible timeline.

Projecturf can be used for simple to-do’s on projects, and to set important milestones to provide clear direction for everyone and help the team prioritize. The master calendar is very useful because it lets the user know what important due dates are across all projects.

3) Focus on the next action. Instead of having a step-by-step process outlined, with deadlines given to each step of the project, tell your client you want to focus on one step at a time. Now, tell the client the next step required to move the project forward (or in this case, the first step), and set a deadline for submitting that to the client. Don’t worry too much about all the other steps needed to finish the project — you’re just going to focus on the next one. That will reduce the intimidating/overwhelming aspect of a large project — just focus on one step at a time. Make sure that’s a step that can be completed in a day or less. One to three hours is ideal. If it can’t be done in less than a day, break it down into smaller steps.

Using Projecturf, you can break milestones into steps using simple tasks. There is no need for cumbersome gantt charts and spending several days setting up dependencies either. Projecturf allows users to enter tasks quickly, and they can be checked off the list once completed. This is a fast and simple way to get things done.

4) Send it to your client. Once you’ve completed that first step, send it to the client within the deadline you set up. This will show the client you’re moving along, and keep you accountable. If you don’t have to turn in a project until it’s completed, there’s no one to know that you’re procrastinating until the very end, when you cram to get it finished on time (and possibly bust deadline). But if you send each step to the client, even if it’s not finished yet, you are holding yourself accountable.

Projecturf has specific sections for freelancers. Designers can present ideas to the client in the design section, and developers can show work on various servers by bookmarking URL’s, as well as logging development progress. You can also track hours in the timecard, which includes billable hours as well as personal tracking. A helpful feature customers rave about is allowing clients to approve designs and documents directly in Projecturf. This speeds things up and eliminates unnecessary meetings. You’ll also receive automatic email notifications of all the activity on each project (and you can subscribe to the project’s RSS feeds as well). Additionally, clients and co-workers can access documents directly from the email notifications.

5) Communicate. The other great thing about sending each step of a project to the client is that you can get feedback from the client, and modify the project accordingly. This can actually make the project take longer, but in the end you’ll have a better product and the client will be happier. This continual feedback loop is actually integral to a successful project, and building it into the process makes sense.

The Discussions section comes in handy since it helps to centralize all communication. The user can easily track back without going through hundreds of emails. When there are changes discussed, the user can simply update milestones and tasks to reflect the latest discussions and all users in the discussion can quickly see what changes were made and why.

6) Focus on the next action Now that you’ve sent the client the first step, and gotten feedback, focus on the next step. Again, focusing on one step at a time keeps it from being overwhelming. Be sure that you set a deadline, and be sure that the task can be done in 1-3 hours (or a day at the maximum). When it’s done, send it to the client for review and feedback.

The Project Completion Report gives an in-depth overview that helps to keep projects on track – including a full break-down and percent complete for each milestone. Also, your clients are able to see what you are working on and the progress your team is making. Projecturf offers private document sharing for items deemed confidential. In our next release, Projecturf will include a variety of additional privacy features for customers who wish to use them.

7) Repeat until completion. You get the idea. Just keep focusing on one step at a time, setting a deadline for each step as you go along, and sending the completed step to the client. This will keep you on top of things and running smoothly, without the need for a boss.

Projecturf helps users stay on task and meet deadlines. Customers also find that they spend fewer hours on the phone explaining each step of the process and getting feedback from clients. This helps complete projects much quicker and keeps the team on the same page. Clients find it extremely helpful in keeping them organized and more productive throughout the process!

Our customers enjoy getting things done and not wasting time on learning and managing difficult software on various computers. Try projecturf today; we’re confident it will help you be more efficient and productive.

These steps are referenced here:
http://www.freelanceswitch.com/productivity/a-guide-to-simple-project-management/

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