Improving Your Small Business Project Management in 2018

It’s that time of year.  Sleigh bells receding in the distance, darkness shrouding your morning and evening commutes, and we can’t help but reflect and take stock of what has transpired and dream of what will become.

As a small business owner, new goals and objectives begin to take shape.  Project management is something many small businesses don’t necessarily realize they are doing, and often it is an overlooked skill in your early company configuration. Projects are a critical part of evolving and growing your small business, and if you are reflecting on your 2018 business goals and refining your project management represents one of the easiest areas to up-skill. Here are five simple changes you can make in 2018 that will improve how organized you feel and how well you deliver your projects.

Put the Spreadsheets in the Trash Can

I know it’s hard, 1987 was a good year, but it’s time to say goodbye.  Spreadsheets are like Gantt charts.  They offer limited information that is only communicated well to someone trained to use the tool; they require countless hours of maintenance to keep them up-to-date; and they lack the critical ability to foster needed communication amongst a project team.  In the age of organizational agility contributing directly to your bottom line, project planning requires a tool that supports change and encourages dynamic communication.  For 2018, we like the looks of Wrike for you Spreadsheet lovers.  Small teams of up to 5 users can get the basics of Wrike for free.  If you think you are ready for some additional sophistication, about $10 a month per user gets you full project planning and collaboration.  Guess what, Wrike still does your Gantt charts for you! If Wrike feels intimidating, you can take a small step out of spreadsheet land with Smartsheet. The only drawback is the initial $14 outlay for the software.   Adding integrated communication into your project planning tool will help your project teams connect quickly and effectively on your 2018 projects.

Take Your To-Do Lists Online

This is my favorite addiction for 2018. Set up a free account with Trello and create a board for each month. On each board is a list for the week, comprised of cards for each day.  Fill your card up with stickers to motivate you, checklists to reflect on your accomplishments at the end of every day, and be sure to download the Trello app onto your phone so that you can take your to-do lists everywhere.  It’s called a bullet journal, and if you want to read a bit more about it, check out Trello’s advice on how to be successful.  Organizing and prioritizing your tasks daily, weekly and monthly will help you stay on top of your 2018 projects and efficiently deliver them on time.

Conquer Your Inbox

Notifications burying important notes from your colleagues? Losing your meeting invites and notes?  Let 2018 be the year you say farewell to inbox chaos with another of my favorite tools.  You need to be a Gmail user to get the full benefit of this app.  If you aren’t on Gmail, add this to your tasks for 2018.  G-suite tools are some of the most affordable small business tools around. While you are at it, get optimal performance from your G-suite by switching to Google Chrome as your browser.  Download the Sortd Smart Skin for Gmail and prepare to drag and drop your inbox chaos into three handy lists (for free accounts). Check off your email to-dos and auto-archive the associated conversations to reach inbox zero status in no time at all!  Keeping track of the emails, you need to follow-up on and those containing tasks you need to prioritize will help you stay on top of your competing demands to keep your projects running smoothly.

Connect Your Tools

I’m hoping you already are using some cloud-based tools for some aspects of your business operations.  These tools are great, and I’ve just added some more of them to your list, but they will work better for you if they fit together into a seamless internal process that supports project execution.  Fortunately, you can now connect almost anything together in the cloud using tools like Zapier, or Cloudpipes. These tools are design to port critical data collected by your cloud tools between the systems to ensure each tool is up to date with the relevant information needed to keep your projects moving forward. Also consider that when you are adding new tools to your corporate toolkit, be sure to evaluate the integrations that come with the tool alongside your current toolkit to be sure you choose tools that make sense and enhance your productivity.  If you need help choosing your tools, ask your project teams about their pain points and look to address these areas first. You can also hire a project management consultant to assist you with designing your internal processes that support project delivery.

Take Your Proposals to the Next Level

Still drafting proposals for your customers and clients in Word? Or whiling away your precious hours at night fighting with layers in Indesign?  Don’t worry, I saved the best tool for last.  Take your proposals online with Proposify and whip up beautiful documents in no time at all. Don’t worry, for those clients who still want to receive a PDF, you can export something beautiful in seconds.   Ever wish you could be a fly in the room as your proposal gets opened by its recipient?  Now, see data about how long they spent on each page and improve your proposal impact by something other than gut feel and guesswork.  Get your projects kicked off faster with integrated signatures and client acceptance. Proposify can integrate with several great tools for small business CRM (customer relationship management) as well as Quickbooks and other accounting tools.

Project management is half art and half science.  I hope that thinking through things you might let go of will energize you for the year ahead and along the way you find something that helps you reach the next rungIn order to grow, you must be able to let go. – Richard Branson.

Best wishes for a successful 2018!