Home Business Insights & Advice Six effective strategies to improve your project management skills

Six effective strategies to improve your project management skills

by Sarah Dunsby
20th Feb 24 12:34 pm

Your life as a consultant revolves around projects, and project management is one of your most important roles. It is essential to master this skill, as poor project management will result in a very short-lived consulting career. Great project management is based on excellent organisational and communication skills.

Here are 6 ways to stay on track and improve your project management skills.

1. Specificity is key

Your project plan will be a lot about what you will do. It must also include a description of what you will deliver. There may be many deliverables throughout the project. You might have a final plan for the project, a strategy to consult with stakeholders, a document containing findings, or a report. You should specify each key deliverable you expect to completed.

Clarify in your proposal what the project includes and excludes. You want to ensure the proposal is clear and specific enough to ensure the project is open to interpretation.

2. Clearly define timelines for all processes and deliverables

It seems so obvious, but can always be done better. It’s essential to be realistic and specific. I often see new consultants making the mistake of giving unrealistic deadlines for their proposals. Map out realistic timeframes and think through each significant task. This will help you estimate your time to quote and indicate realistic deadlines for the deliverables. Do your research and plan it out.

Timelines for major tasks

Your potential client wants to avoid being bogged down by details when they read your proposal. They want to know the main tasks, processes, and timelines you plan to complete. I use a table to make it easy for people to see and understand the critical information.

3. Flag areas that may be subject to scope creep

Scope creep is possible in every project. Your proposal should highlight any areas you believe are at risk. Do not ignore your niggling worries – make sure you document them so that the client is aware of the possibility of scope creep. You will be able to prepare for any future discussions or renegotiations.

Include the significant client responsibilities

Many new consultants need more confidence to clearly define the client’s responsibilities for delivering the project. This is important because, while you may be responsible for the overall delivery of a project, you will also work in partnership with your client. In every project, some responsibilities and deliverables are dependent on the client. They also contribute to the success and completion of the project, so you must discuss this in a way that results in tangible actions within your project plan.

4. Finalise a project plan

Once you have won the project, your first task is to agree with the client on a project plan. The client will receive the basic information from your proposal, but you can now have a briefing with them to fill in the details.

You have limited information during the proposal stage, and clients tend to be cautious with potential consultants until hired. They will now be more willing to share the background story and possibly some details you didn’t know. This information may lead to changes in the project plan. Use this meeting to gather all the necessary information and present an amended plan for the client’s approval. This signed project plan will serve as a blueprint for you and your client during the entire project.

Another important aspect that management consultants should consider is insurance protection against risks and liabilities, ensuring safety for themselves and their clients.

Be flexible with the process and tasks but mainly focus on alternatives that are still achievable within your budget. Be sure to inform the client if changes will result in higher costs or longer timeframes at the briefing so that amendments can be agreed upon.

5. Keep track of all project deadlines

As a consultant, your relationship with deadlines must be solid. If you want to build a reputation as a consultant who consistently delivers on time, then you should do so.

The project plan should contain multiple milestones aligned with the major events and deliverables. Setting smaller deadlines to maintain momentum and reach the final deadline is essential.

It can be challenging to manage deadlines, depending on the client’s completion or delivery. Do everything you can to ensure these deadlines are met. For example, remind clients what is due well in advance, or set up progress calls to keep momentum going. This only works sometimes; some deadlines will be missed due to client delays. In this case, you should go with the flow but let the client know how it will impact the other project deadlines. Always backup your phone or video conversations with emails.

6. Remember why you’re there

Remember that you have been contracted to complete a specific project, and your project plan clearly outlines the scope and requirements. Don’t go down rabbit holes or get distracted by other tasks. Stay focused on your project and do what you were contracted to deliver.

Ultimately, you are the project manager for your company as a consultant. You must perfect your project management skills to increase your reputation and client base. Follow these 6 effective strategies, and you will find your abilities increasing.

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