The 9 Best Practices in Project Management

A group of colleagues participating in a meeting

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We’ve pinpointed 9 essential best practices to elevate your project management processes. When done effectively, project management can help your company deliver faster, stronger, more cost-effective results than ever before. When done badly? You run the risk of falling behind your competition.

It pays (literally) to follow the project management best practices. Without abiding by these golden rules, you risk falling at the first hurdle after spending weeks planning, sweating, and debating in the boardroom. In business terms, that’s wasted time, money, and resources.

Follow these 9 best practices in project management that you must follow if you want to nail your project. Of course, project management is made much easier with the help of software. There are plenty of systems out there, but we specifically recommend monday.com – it’s user-friendly and packed with helpful features.

1. Hold a Kick-off Meeting

Projects are complicated beasts. To ensure that everyone involved is on the same page, it's essential that you hold a kick-off meeting to discuss the most important objectives with all the project stakeholders.

In this meeting, you should also establish the project scope, which means answering these simple questions:

  • What are the goals?
  • What are the project deliverables? (the desired output elements)
  • Can you see any roadblocks or constraints?
  • What standards or performance do we expect?

By clearly answering these questions at the beginning of your project's life cycle, you stand a good chance of hitting the ground running. In this early stage, we recommend using a project management system to help you create a project brief and action plan, which are two of the most popular project management templates.


2. Set a Budget and Timeline

Budget and deadlines play a huge part in deciding whether your projects fails or not. They pull the strings. And in agile project management, your time and resources are fixed, which means you need to pay special attention to them in order to avoid failure – whether that's by overspending or missing the deadline date.

Thankfully, project management software has plenty of tools designed to help you set clear budgets and timelines. Specifically, we recommend using Gantt charts. They detail every step and aspect of the project in one calendar, giving you full visibility of your project's timeline – from day one to the deadline date.

The best project management software for Gantt charts is ClickUp. On this platform, you can include a detailed budget and timeline information all in one Gantt chart. 

Remember the potential risks you discussed in the kick-off meeting? Well, ClickUp's Gantt charts also have a dedicated board where you can list all the risks or constraints that could impact your project. Alternatively, you can use a similar tool known as a RAID chart (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies), which is offered by ClickUp and monday.com.


3. Understand the Desired Outcome

Projects have a purpose. For your project to be successful, every project stakeholder needs to clearly understand what that is and how you get there. Whether it's boosting sales by 40%, reaching one million followers, or driving traffic to a new web page, you need everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. That way, you'll end up with a clear, crisp, and powerful outcome.

To understand your desired outcome, we recommend using a MoSCoW chart, which stands for:

  • Must – the absolute necessities of your project
  • Should – what should happen if everything goes to plan
  • Could – ‘nice to have' features or elements that aren't crucial
  • Won't – tasks or elements that were too difficult or not worth the effort

MoSCoW charts show you the status of your project's multiple moving parts in real-time. With this insight, you can quickly decide which tasks to prioritize – or forget about – in order to achieve your desired outcome. If everyone understands the end goal, they can quickly and accurately update the MoSCoW chart to keep things rolling without a hitch.


4. Clearly Define Task Ownership and Realistic Milestones

In most sizeable projects, you'll likely have multiple teams bringing different skill sets. Without the right tools in place, the project leader may have trouble delegating tasks effectively, resulting in missed deadlines and wasted resources.

Understanding who's responsible and when tasks need completing is crucial. But when there's a will, there's a way that project management software can help. The best project management systems for small businesses will offer RACI charts, which stand for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.

These charts map out the roles and responsibilities of every single project stakeholder on one page, making it easy to delegate tasks or allocate resources. While they're available on most systems, we recommend trying monday.com if you want intuitive, user-friendly RACI charts.

Lastly, you also need to ensure your milestones are realistic. Ambition is great, but not at the cost of successfully delivering your project as planned.


5. Ensure Clear Communication

When it comes to project management best practices, clear and regular communication is king and queen. For agile project management, it's vital. According to research by McKinsey, well-connected teams see a productivity increase of 20 – 25%, demonstrating the power of collaboration. With regular updates, suggestions, and workshops, the overall quality of your deliverables should improve, too.

Instant messaging software is a must. It gives you quick access to direct chat or video calls, allowing you to maintain clear communication throughout each project cycle.

You can integrate your company's current messenger into your project management software, or use the software's in-built chat feature. In terms of collaboration features, you can't do better than Teamwork, with its instant messenger (only on the paid plans), project message board, task comments, and interactive calendar.

If you want to use in-built instant messaging for free, you can try ClickUp's generous free plan. This is what makes ClickUp one of the best free project management software.


6. Get Regular Feedback

If communication is key, then feedback is a gift. Throughout the product life cycle, you'll likely encounter less-than-satisfactory elements, whether it's unsatisfactory results or a snooze-worthy workshop. Hey, we're all human.

That's why you should organize regular feedback sessions, or frequently send out forms asking for feedback and suggestions. By focusing on feedback, you can learn from mistakes and figure out how to avoid similar roadblocks down the line.

If you want feedback features that are simple to use, then we recommend trying monday.com. Most notably, it has an interactive whiteboard tool that can be used to hold engaging feedback sessions. This method is more engaging than your standard feedback request, which means it's likely to attract more (and more honest) responses.


7. Plan for Setbacks

In project management, you must expect the unexpected. Sure, you've already outlined potential roadblocks at the early stages of your project, but you can never work with zero risks. That's why it's vital to prepare contingency plans.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 27% of companies always use elaborate risk management practices in their projects. The same survey also says that changes in the company's priorities, project goals, or initial project requests are the biggest reasons why projects fail.

One of the best ways to prepare for setbacks is by creating a risk response team, on-deck to help with any risky situation as soon as it arises.  This team can view your projects in real-time using project management software, identifying – before it's too late – tasks that may go over budget or miss deadlines.


8. Track and Measure Progress in Real-time

Making responsive decisions is essential to agile project management. To do so, you need to track everything from KPIs to budget – in real-time. Without real-time insight, how can you expect to allocate resources or delegate urgent tasks efficiently?

This is perhaps the most important project management best practice, so it's vital you get it right. Thankfully, software has made this much more straightforward. Project management systems provide real-time data on your progress, with features like collaborative to-do lists, message boards where users can assign tasks and deadlines, plus multiple ways to update progress.

For example, Kanban boards display different tasks' status, ownership, and urgency, acting like digital sticky pads on a whiteboard. They're ideal for tracking and measuring progress in real time. In our expert opinion, no one does Kanban boards better than monday.com.


9. Hold a Retro Session

No matter how brilliantly your project turned out, there's always room for improvement. That's why you should hold a retrospective session at the end of every project, featuring everyone who joined the original kick-off meeting. But what are retro sessions all about?

In these sessions, you discuss everything. You need to learn what worked, what failed, and how things could be improved for the next project. You already know that project management best practice involves gathering feedback throughout the project in real-time.

But holding retro sessions allows you to get ideas, feedback, and suggestions from everyone, all in the same place, encouraging lots of participation. Even stakeholders that had a tiny role may have important suggestions to offer that they didn't feel were worth sharing at the time. As we mentioned, monday.com offers really useful feedback and post-project features, including interactive, ‘miro-style' whiteboards.

When discussing what went wrong, it's important to temper people's emotions. Retro sessions are designed to help you learn, and not blame others.


Which Project Management Software is Best?

These days, project management is made much easier thanks to software. Project management software makes long-term projects more accessible and digestible, offering intuitive tools, charts, and features designed to help you deliver projects on time and within budget. Tools like Gantt charts, task dependencies, and customizable calendars give you full visibility of your project's progress, resources, and milestones. Essentially, these systems allow you to make quick, efficient decisions to help you achieve your targets.

Our researchers say monday.com is the best project management software on the market, providing an incredibly intuitive interface and impressive features. However, to compare your options, check out our table below…


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Price

$9 – $19 per month

Price

$5 – $19 per month

Price

$7 – $25 per month

Price

$10.99 – $24.99 per month

Price

$9.80 – $24.80 per month

Price

$5.99 – $24.99 per month

Price

$10.20 – $30

Price

$7.75 – $15.25

Price

$4 – $9

Price

$5 – $17.50

Price

$22.50 – $25 per user, per month

Key features
  • Gantt chart
  • Over 200 templates for projects and items
  • Sub-task milestones and dependencies
  •  

Key features
  • Preset charts
  • Custom project templates
  • Custom automations
  • Gantt chart
  • Milestones
  • 24/7 live support
Key features
  • Email customer support
  • Gantt chart
  • Kanban board
  • Custom project templates
  • Custom automations
  • Team instant-messenger
Key features
  • CRM integrations
  • Kanban board
  • Custom project templates
  • Project message board
  • Task comments
  • Calendar
Key features
  • Email customer support
  • Kanban board
  • Milestones
  • Project message board
  • Task comments
  • Sub-tasks
Key features
  • Great collaborative features on every plan
  • Solid customer support
  • Gantt chart
  • Kanban board
  • Milestones
  •  

Key features
  • Comprehensive task management features
  • Solid customer service
  • Preset and custom project templates
  • Custom automations
Key features
  • Time tracking and turndown charts
  • Best support for Agile project management
  • Custom and preset templates and automations
  • Gantt chart
  • Kanban board
Key features
  • CRM integrations
  • Email customer support
  • Gantt chart
  • Kanban board
  • Issue log
  • Preset widgets
Key features
  • Robust automation builder
  • Nice, customizable interface
  • Easy-to-tweak systems
  • Kanban board and custom fields
  • Preset and custom project templates
Key features
  • Gantt chart, subtasks, milestones, and dependencies
  • Integrations with a lot of popular software
  • Preset and custom project templates
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Try monday.com Try ClickUp Try Smartsheet Compare Try Wrike Try Teamwork Compare Prices Compare Try ZohoProjects Compare Prices Compare Prices

Verdict

Project management best practices typically revolve around communication, transparency on the project's progress, and learning how to improve for the next project. Each one of the nine best practices we mentioned will have touched on at least one of those key concepts, whether it's discussing potential roadblocks or tracking your budget in real-time.

Without dedicated project management software in place, abiding by these guidelines all at once won't be easy, particularly for large projects. That's why we recommend using one. They'll make your project planning life so much easier, offering digestible data, interactive tools, and real-time insights. For more information on which system is right for you, check out our comparison page.

How We Test Project Management Software for Businesses

We tested 14 market-leading project management software to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, accuracy, customer support, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to US businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in five main categories of investigation and nine subcategories – in fact, we covered 51 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that's our algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for project management software are:

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular project management provider – the market position and reputation a project management tool holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities offered by the project management solution, including features such as task management, team collaboration, and project planning and scheduling.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the project management solution provider to users, including phone support, email or chat support, and online forums.

Usability Testing: this is where we get people just like you to test out the products to focus on evaluating the ease of use and user experience of the project management solution. We assess factors such as the user interface, navigation, and task organization.

Cost Factors: the financial considerations associated with using a project management solution, e.g. licensing fees, subscription plans, or additional charges for advanced features or add-ons.

 

Written by:
Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.
Reviewed by:
James thinks all businesses can improve if they use the right technology. At Expert Market, he utilises his 4+ years experience as a researcher to offer specialised advice on a wide range of categories from CRM to Fleet Management.