Why project management means success

Effective project management is as business critical for a startup as securing funding, hiring the right talent, and marketing yourself efficiently. Its importance cannot be understated: project management is a tool for streamlining decision making and team productivity, both of which are essential in the early stages of your startup and beyond.

As thought leaders and entrepreneurs, startup owners should look to build these management principles into the core of your business plan. In order to execute a successful system, we’ve assessed the main criteria for effective project management, with advice to take you from product ideation to launch.

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All startups will have different strengths and weaknesses. Whether you have a solid product plan or not, you should assess and advise on the areas which would benefit most from agile project management.

It’s crucial for executives to be involved in project management for startups, and as you’re ultimately the experts in where your business needs support, it’s even more practical to be involved in the conceptualisation stages. 33% of projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior management, so ensuring your input is considered from the beginning mitigates the chance of failure in the early stages. Many startups need project management help with the following:

  • Managing finances, from securing funding to allocation of cash
  • Building and maintaining relationships with clients
  • Securing appropriate space for your business to grow

If you are aware of these concerns and build them into your agile plan, then the project roadmap can include strategies, risk management techniques and even hiring plans to combat and resolve these issues as they arise.

A good project management plan doesn’t just cover product-focused items, it should address the state of play of the startup as a whole.

Setting milestones, not goals

The ultimate goal of most startups will follow the pattern of product launch, product success, and product scalability. While it isn’t incorrect to address these in agile project management considerations, goals should always be an end game to work towards and then improve upon.

In order to keep your staff motivated, you should incorporate performance management strategies into your plan as milestones along the path of your product timeline. These can look different depending on the sector and scale of operation, but the key thing to remember is that they should be intermittent, achievable in both the long and short term, and they should be clearly communicated to staff. Milestones can look like the following:

Major decision and discussion points

Like most collaborative projects, startups will have to deal with numerous discussions and decision processes to get a product off the ground. These should be included in your project management plan: i.e. mapping out a date for a key design to be signed off, or how a stakeholder’s expectations should be managed, or whether or not the product needs more work.

Hiring talent

Bringing on the right people at the right time is an important aspect of agile performance. This should be included as a milestone on your map for two reasons: it will encourage staff to perform well to help expand the team, and it will indicate that a certain point in product conceptualisation and development has been reached.

Moving into a new space

Originally, your startup may function fine with a network of remote workers, but there will likely come a point where it’s appropriate to move into a serviced office or coworking space. This should be on your project management plan as it’s an investigative, major move that will affect the way the company operates and interacts.

By including these milestones alongside leaps in product development, your plan will feel as though it is moving along at a steady pace.

Allow for hiccups and setbacks

It’s a fact that at some point, a startup will experience a setback or unexpected hiccup. These can take different forms: losing a client, a change in funding, or not hiring the right member of staff, but they can all equally devastate a poorly organised team. At its core, project management for startups is a tool to mitigate poor performance, and so building time for setbacks and recovery into the plan will ensure you are able to continue without too much interruption.

While it is impossible to predict what can happen, especially in a startup’s turbulent first year, project managers and executives can ask themselves the following questions:

  • If the product launch was delayed, what is the latest possible date it could be pushed back to?
  • Are there multiple candidates available for the roles the startup needs to fill?
  • What are the options around coworking or flexible office space, if production needs to move unexpectedly?
  • How can we move forward discussions with stakeholders if problems arise?

By building out plans around some of the key areas of worry for your startup, the risk of a setback becoming fatal can be minimised significantly.

Flexibility and scalability

Of course, agile project management principles take into account successes as well as setbacks. Don’t just plan for when things go wrong; have an understanding of how the product launch will adapt if things go well, or even better than expected.

Making a flexible management plan is a critical aspect of this. Agile working, as one of the main benefits of startup systems, allows project management to make short term shifts in planning and execution to accommodate success, which could look like anything from additional funding to securing clients or investors earlier than expected. Plan around this: include details of things like bookable meeting rooms for investor discussion, permanent workspace in popular areas like London or Manchester, lists of potential roles you would like to create to work on the project at an accelerated rate, and more.

Essentially: if your business critical management plan can be flexible for your changing needs, then it can be scaled up to reflect your startup success, too.


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