Project Management Excellence for SMEs

 Low Cost Strategies to Improve Project Management discussed the importance of adopting a simple, tailorable, project management (PM) methodology and inexpensive, possibly cloud based, PM tools. Since then many people have asked for ideas on which methods and tools to evaluate and also guidance on how to perform the evaluation. So how should Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) select PM Methods and Tools, and which methods and tools should they consider?

Evaluating PM Methods and Tools

The same way you would select any other service or product. Start by doing some basic research so you understand what a PM method is and isn’t; what PM tools typically do; and which methods and tools are used by others in your industry. Then define your needs, what functionality do you require? What level of support and training do you need? How much can you afford to spend? Set up a spreadsheet with all of your requirements listed to keep track of your evaluations. Next select a number of different methods and tools to evaluate. Use the product web sites, vendor publications such as product fact sheets, etc. to evaluate your selections against your requirements. Narrow down your selections to a shortlist and arrange a trial or demonstration. Make sure you thoroughly check out licencing, terms & conditions, support and fees & charges before making your decision.

Selecting a Simple PM Method

A Project Management Methodology is a set of defined, repeatable, processes for managing projects from their inception to their conclusion. Typically it will include a PM lifecycle, processes, role definitions and templates. Project managers need a methodology that is simple to use, tailored to their organisations business processes, supports the core PM processes and doesn’t over-burden the PM with unnecessary tasks and documentation.

 

There are as many PM Methods available, some are free, some aren’t actually PM methods, some can be purchased online and some can only be obtained by engaging a Consultant to tailor and implement the methodology for you. Here are my thoughts on some of the more common methods:

 
  • Free methods – buyer beware, some of the free material is good, some is not and some is just misleading.
  • Inexpensive methods – personally, I like Method 123. Its high quality, covers all the essential requirements, is supported and has a range of licencing options to suit most small organisations and budgets. There are other similar methods available for purchase and download.
  • Prince2 –It’s freely available, is a very comprehensive methodology and can be used for projects of any size. But, it’s a high formality management approach which will not suit all organisation cultures; it must be tailored to suit your needs, especially for small projects; training can be expensive; it doesn’t come with any templates. If you want to use Prince2 I would strongly recommend engaging a Prince2 Consultant and purchasing Project In a Box.
  • Methods provided by PM Consultants – engaging a PM Consultant to tailor and implement a PM methodology for your organisation is a practical way of gaining the expertise required. You should still evaluate the methodology, training, support and costs against your requirements. Also look out for intellectual property issues.
  • PMBok – this isn’t a methodology, it’s a framework for project management. Many methodologies have been developed based on PMBok.
  • Agile, Scum, XP, Waterfall, RUP – these are all software development methodologies, not to be confused with PM methodologies.

In Part III of this article I’ll discuss selecting an inexpensive PM Tool Suite for SMEs. In the meantime I’d like to hear from you – what is your preferred PM Methodology? Why, what are its pro’s and cons? Have you tailored it and why?