Whether you plan on launching your own startup or are already a small business owner, the odds are that the topic of Project Management has crossed your desk at least once. The idea might even be the cause of some irritation ("You mean there's a method superior to Post-it Notes and Spreadsheets? Gimme a break!").
Alas! Project Management is indeed here to stay and may be more applicable to your situation than you think. Check out these common misconceptions...
Why plan for contingencies? Just do it!: This approach may best be summed-up with the statement: "The tactical capabilities of Management are vastly superior to whatever surprises happen to appear during the course of a project." The thought pattern behind this approach (apart from the blatant hubris) typically originates from budget constraints and/or having unrealistic expectations (to put it gently, we can characterize the former as 'ill-advised frugality' and the latter as 'overly optimistic tendencies'). As we all know, or should know, the unexpected happens quite regularly. From natural disasters to employee illness, any number of events have the capability of derailing your projects. When (the lack of) money and (the onset of) reality clash, the end result is not pretty... it hurts the bottom line and can leave a trail of damaged egos in its wake. In short, contingency planning is a good thing. An effective contingency plan aims to protect that which has value (e.g., data), prevent or minimize disruption (e.g., product lifecycle), and provide post-event feedback for analysis (e.g., how did we fare? did we allocate funds correctly?).
Project Management software is too expensive.: If your idea of project management software involves renting a space in a colo, purchasing servers, and installing an enterprise-oriented software application from a major vendor (for your 15-person company) then, yes, your project management software is too expensive. If, however, you have gone cloud and elected to use a powerful web-based project management solution (such as Planio), then you are likely saving thousands of dollars while reaping the benefits of a pay-as-you-go price structure. Even if the application is free, going cloud means that you won't need an engineer or administrator to maintain, update and backup your software & data. Your cloud provider will do all of that for you. If you've chosen wisely (hint, hint), they'll also answer your special requests within hours or sometimes minutes. Gone are the days of reliance on the physical presence of computing technology—the present, and future, lie in cloud solutions that provide equal, or superior, functionality at a fraction of the cost.
Project Management methodologies will slow us down.: Sometimes Project Management has a reputation as being a process-intensive methodology that favors ideology over pragmatism. In some instances this may, indeed, be the case — particularly when there is a mismatch between a specific project management approach and the reality of an organization's needs (e.g., a process-driven method, such as PRINCE2, may not be appropriate for a slightly chaotic environment that favors an adaptive approach, such as Scrum). Just because a square peg won't fit in a round hole, though, doesn't mean an organization should discount project management as a whole. On the contrary, choosing the most appropriate method for your organization and implementing it in a constructive way makes a huge positive impact on your team's overall efficiency and your bottom line. Some benefits of successful implementation include: keeping costs and resources to a budget, using metrics to quantify and analyze hours spent, centralizing project communication to a single contact, and attaining quality control via formalized processes. So, in sum, put down the paint roller ("Project Management isn't for us!") and take out your fine-bristled brush ("The Critical-Chain method may not be our cup of tea, but Agile on the other hand...").
We wear many hats, so PM expertise is not really needed.: As mentioned in last month's post, Are you Startup Material?, bringing a professional Project Manager on-board is a step that every organization should consider at some point. Do you absolutely need a Project Manager? It depends on your situation. Generally-speaking, the benefits of a PM become more pronounced as your organization grows. If you're a startup with a small team, it's probably wise to follow the "wear-many-hats" approach so that everyone will have an opportunity to learn about project management; afterall, a Senior Developer today could be your future CTO — knowledge of project management, and how to interface with PMs, will undoubtedly be one of his/her primary tasks. At some point during your organization's growth, however, the sheer quantity and complexity of projects will probably reach a tipping point—this is the moment when the benefits of hiring a Project Manager surpass the effort required to manage projects yourself. As a business owner, it is critical to recognize and prepare for this eventuality before it becomes a reality. In other words, don't wait until you and your team are overwhelmed... strategize and bring a world-class PM on-board earlier rather than later, remaining aware of the ramp-up time that he/she will require.
Are you a startup founder or small business owner considering Project Management? Tell us about it in the comments below. Be sure to Like/Tweet if you enjoyed this article!
When not writing project management content, Brian enjoys reading novels and playing with his daughter.