As a start-upper, every day is a new challenge. You have a new product, new suppliers, new clients – everything is new. If you want to keep your head above water, you need an efficient way of managing your project. But what can you do to make sure your project is a success?

Are you considering the benefits of project management for your start-up? Is it really efficient? Or is it actually just a fad? And how can you apply it to your organisation?

Project management is an organisational method which aims to save time and reduce costs through the use of milestones, helping you to limit risk and to boost your chances of success.

Project management in a start-up context

You can’t do everything on your own. You need to surround yourself with incubators, suppliers and other service providers. However, the more parties there are involved, the harder it becomes to track what everyone is doing while staying on top of deadlines.

This is where project management comes in, helping to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Project management is even more important in a start-up context, where you have to be ultra-responsive on all fronts. You have to schedule and anticipate upcoming milestones in order to handle any unforeseen events.

But rather than reducing your timeframes, the goal is more to optimise them. When will you be at your busiest? Could you spread a task out over several weeks? … ? The success of your project depends on it.

When it comes to project management, there are two main aspects: the organisational aspect and methodology. The first involves identifying the team that will run the project and what their roles will be, while the second involves working out which route to take in order for your project to succeed.

A well-organised team: the cornerstone of efficiency

Everyone knows that good organisation can help you to become more efficient, which means everyone having a clearly-defined role. There are three main entities within a typical project structure: the project manager, the project team and the steering committee.

The project manager: this is your team’s maestro, responsible for planning and coordinating your project and ensuring everything runs smoothly. If anything goes wrong, it is their job to flag this up and to determine how to get things back on track.

The project team: The project team is made up of experts from each field, focusing on the product and day-to-day running of the project. They must report back to the project manager at each milestone and ensure the relevant deliverables are produced.

The steering committee: The job of the steering committee is to take a wider look at the project, stepping back from the operational and technical side of things and focusing on business and clients.

In start-ups with smaller staff numbers, it might be tempting to forego these 3 roles. However, bear in mind that the aim isn’t to rigidify decision-making, but rather to be more responsive through a better division of strengths.

You should also identify those tasks that your team will not be able to execute and who the relevant stakeholders are, as well as what their roles will be.

Project management methods

Now that your organisational structure is in place, let’s talk about the methods you’re going to use. There are a number of project management approaches available to you (agile, waterfall, etc.), all of which have been well-documented. Whatever approach or method you choose to use, it is vital to keep a handle on the fundamentals: time, risk and costs. Let’s talk now about scope.

Neither your budget nor your timeframes are infinite. You have to determine what the limits are for your project. What can you not do without? And what could possibly wait until a later version?

Projects have to be broken down into phases, and then into tasks or work packages, each of which will have a deliverable. Keeping to such a structure will ensure you continue to move forward and enable you to remain on schedule. There are 4 phases to a project: initiation, planning, execution and closure. You must identify the actions for each phase, which you will then break down into mini-projects, each with an expected deliverable.

project management diagram
Diagram of the life cycle of a project (Project management method for start-ups)

Deliverables will be something tangible (documents, a product, the results of a test, etc.) that the team must come up with by a date agreed upon in advance. Regularly reviewing your deliverables will help to ensure you keep project risk in-check.

Risk is an ever-present in any project. But with project management, you will have a more comprehensive view of the phases to come and the potential risks linked to each milestone. This will reduce unpredictability, leaving you better prepared for the unexpected if it does arrive.

Far from costing you time, structuring your project is the only way to effectively coordinate activities and to ensure your project is a success.

See also: Start-ups: eliminating risk through pre-productions