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Four Tips for Managing Technical Projects

Perhaps you've decided to re-do your web site. Or maybe you are looking to install a time tracking software for your business. Whatever the case, you'll likely need someone with technical expertise to help you out if you don't really understand all of the technical ins and outs.

When managing or overseeing technical projects, it's critical to know the essentials. Based on the experience of many small business owners, we've outlined the basics on what to expect, the questions to ask and tips for managing technical projects in order to get the results you need.

The Basics

Regardless of the nature of the project work, project management processes help define the beginning and the end of a project, as well as provide the framework for managing all the work in the middle.

The term "project management" refers to the definition and planning, and the subsequent monitoring, controlling and conclusion of a project. All projects need some level of project management. The larger the project and the more complex it is, the more there is a need for a formal, standard, structured process.

Obviously there is a cost to the effort associated with project management as well. You want to be sure to apply the right level of project management to a project to ensure that the value gained is greater than the cost incurred.

Four Top Tips for Outstanding Technical Project Management

Based on ours and other small business owners' experiences, we've compiled four top strategies for technical project management:

Tip 1: Outline, discuss and document your project's goals at the outset.

There's no way around it: if you want your project to be successful, you need to establish the forums for communication at the beginning. Be sure to discuss both technical goals and business objectives. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and clear on the project's objectives, steps and timeline. Your technical resource will likely compile this information based on your input; be sure to strive for clarity with regard to your expectations.

Tip 2: Set milestones.

Be diligent about scheduling check-in meetings at regular intervals so your provider can report on milestone progress. While many providers may hesitate to let you see a work in progress, it's a must. In this way, you can catch problems early on and avoid costly delays and rework down the road.

Tip 3: There are no stupid questions.

A solid business provider should be able to provide you with answers to your questions in real business terms. Keep asking until you are clear.

Tip 4: Be prepared for challenges.

No matter what the size of the project, there are variables that no one can control. Be prepared for challenges and don't hesitate to ask your provider for contingency plans and risk assessments to make you feel more comfortable.

As the owner of your business, you must keep current on the work being done on your projects. Information is the lifeblood of most projects. Regular, timely, accurate status reporting is critical. While different projects have different information needs, all of them share the basic need for complete status updates on a regular basis.

For more reading on project management, visit the Project Management Institute web site.

Andrew Brown and Small Business Guru provide Coaching, Inspiration and Practical Advice for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs. Subscribe to the free, weekly newsletter at