Project Management in 10 Minutes

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on September 24, 2010 in: Project Management, Tips in 10

If you or your business are anything like me or my businesses, you are looking at this title and thinking:

“Okay, now Heather has officially lost her mind – 90% of my job is project management.”

So true, so true! What I have learned, though, is that the key to project management is “organization”. A project is almost everything in your business – either a client’s work, or something as common as waiting on the web designer to update your web page. I always have at least 2 dozen things going on at any time and the way I keep it organized is through a simple spreadsheet. It was not simple to set up but it is simple to use.

Don’t worry, I am giving you that spreadsheet for free, so download it here – and let’s show you how to use it.

Initial Spreadsheet Set Up:

Note: This spreadsheet was developed in Microsoft Excel 2007. It has been found to work fine in older versions (97 – 2003) as long as you have the compatibility pack from Microsoft installed. It has also been tested in Excel 2008 for Mac and worked fine, as well as loaded into Google Docs and works like a charm.

There are 6 tabs:

By Project
By Client
By Project Manager
By Staff
Data Fields
Copyright Information
The last tab (copyright information) you can ignore – it just protects me.

Most people are going to use two tabs, but I have found that some use them all, so I have provided them here for you.

First determine how you want to keep track of your projects: By project, client, project manager or staff?

I prefer By Client, so I would select the By Client tab and begin working.

Prior to populating the data, I need to update my data fields, so I would click on the Data Fields tab.

The first column is Project Statuses. I have listed typical project statuses used in project management but feel free to change/update any of them.

Then the second column is Staff Names, the third column is Project Manager names, the fourth column is Client Names, and the fifth and sixth columns are the corresponding client details.

Go ahead and populate the fields to make them correspond to your business. (Note: It is set up for a list of 8, I will show you in a minute how to work/change those for larger lists)

Going back to my By Client Tab I can start entering my data, the first field under column name is a drop down box, it lets me pick from my list of clients in the Data Field. You will note that it then automatically populates the fourth and fifth column with the corresponding client data.

If this is an internal project I would just leave the client column blank, or I would customize my client name field to include company projects or company departments. Maybe I might put IAC (the name of my company), or better yet, I could put IAC-Web Department and then put my Web Guy’s email and telephone number where the client email and phone number are in the data field.
Then in the second column I enter my project name and in the third column my project description.

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth columns are drop downs. Again, I’m picking from Data in my data fields tab.

Then my notes column. Notes are very very important. The notes really should not be used to tell about the project. That should be the description. The notes should help you understand “where” the project is at any given time. Here are some examples of good notes:

Key: Adam = Project Manager, Keith = Graphic Designer, Daniel = Web Developer

Status: Waiting on Client | Notes: Adam sent mock up of 3 logos to Client and waiting on response. – 1/5/2009

Status: Waiting on Staff | Notes: Keith sent new icons to Daniel for placement in clients site. – 1/7/2009

Status: Waiting on PM | Notes: Project assigned to Adam. – 1/9/2009

So, the goal is to get all the data in for my open projects.

If you have more than 8 of anything, you need a larger list on your data fields page. That can be done by entering the additional staff, project managers, statuses, or clients, however you have to change the preset name array. I don’t have every version of MS Office to tell you how to do this so I will give you instructions in Office 2007:

Click on the Formulas Tab –> In the Defined Name Section click on the Name Manager Icon –>  A list of your array names will show up. You should have 4 clearly labeled as “ClientNames”, “ProjectManagers”, “ProjectStatuses” and “StaffNames”.

Highlight the one you want and click Edit –> In the Refers to: field you will see something similar to =’Data Fields’!$D$2:$D$10. What that says is the field array is Column D Row 2 through Column D Row 10. So if you now have names all the way going down to row 25, you would just change that last “10” to a “25” and click OK.

Once you have the project management sheet set up the way it needs to be:

When you start your day (or after you finish your email), it’s time to go through your list and make sure you have updated statuses and that everything is correct. What you have created is a snapshot of everything going on and you’ve created an ease-of-use factor.

Step 1: Make sure that you have updated the statuses and notes columns to correctly reflect any notices that you have received in the prior day (i.e. an email from a staff member saying it is ready for your review or an email from a staff member saying that they sent it to the client).

Step 2: Go through the list and see what is waiting on you. Do your part and turn it over to the person it needs to go to next. Then update your status and notes.

Step 3: Look at each status and note combo and see where the project’s at and what may need to be nudged along or updated. It very well may be that it is farther along than you think, but nobody has clued you in, or you have overlooked an email. Take Action.

To give you some examples, I will use my 3 statuses above. Let’s assume it is the 10th of January and I have these three statuses:

Status: Waiting on Client | Notes: Adam sent mock up of 3 logos to Client and waiting on response. – 1/5/2009

Status: Waiting on Staff | Notes: Keith sent new icons to Daniel for placement in clients site. – 1/7/2009

Status: Waiting on PM | Notes: Project assigned to Adam. – 1/9/2009

First one: We are waiting on the client. The client was sent the logos on January 5th and it has been 5 days, so it definitely needs to be updated. So I would send an email: “Adam, Logo Project for Client X is not moving along. Please check in with client and see which logo he wants. It has been 5 days, update me accordingly.”

Second one: We are waiting on Daniel to do his web development work with the icons Keith sent. It has been 3 days and developers get easily distracted. So I would send an email (and cc: Adam his project manager) “Daniel, please confirm that you received the icons from Keith 3 days ago and provide Adam and I with an ETA on completion.”

Third one: We are waiting on Adam to do his thing (signing it out to the staff), but it only has been a day, so we don’t need to do anything with that.

Step 4: Save and Close and work on it tomorrow.

Every business is different and it may be that you don’t want to do this or need to. It may be that your project managers are very efficient. So why not pass this email and spreadsheet along to them and just have them turn their spreadsheet in to you on a daily basis? Then it is all done for you. It may be that you don’t have a project manager and that you are the project manager. So in that case you can just ignore the project management column.

This easy 4-step process has proved invaluable to Coaches, Independent Professionals and Freelancers that outsource work to independent contractors.

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I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.