Four Challenges and Solutions to SMB Project Management

management challenges and solutionsSmall to mid-sized businesses have unique challenges when it comes to managing projects. SMB’s often don’t have the processes or systems in place to efficiently support the current size of the organization or its future growth, so projects are critical to future success. At the same time, SMB’s have limited resources and small training budgets which can adversely affect projects. SMB project failure can result in investment dollars and staff time down the drain, not to mention disruption in your organization. Don’t jeopardize your operations and profitability.

What is the best approach? Consider these four challenges and solutions:

1. Lack of full-time resources – Resources in SMB’s often have multiple responsibilities. It’s rare you have extra people that can be reassigned full-time to a special project. When not carefully managed, projects without adequate resources can lack buy-in and fail to meet business requirements.

Solution: Obtain commitment from managers on what percent of an employee’s time can be used on the project. Create a schedule and assign resources. Share the project plan with all participants, and make sure managers know when their resources will be needed on the project. Don’t miss key input due to availability issues.

2. Lack of project management expertise on staff – Projects often go without a project manager or have a project manager with limited experience. Projects go over budget, aren’t finished on time, don’t produce the expected benefits, or in the worst case, are canceled.

Solution: Project management expertise is critical. If an existing staff member will be managing the project, make sure he has the experience and time available. If not, a project manager who can organize and keep the project on target can be brought on as a consultant. As a side benefit, an outside consultant may have an easier time questioning current practices and raising issues than an employee would.

3. Unpredictable scheduling – In small and mid-sized businesses, a serious production problem may require an all-hands-on-deck approach to solve the issue. A new customer may require extra time from multiple departments during implementation. An employee’s illness can require backfilling by the management team. Business events often pull employee time from projects, threatening dates that have been previously set.

Solution: Set dates based on the best information available. If business priorities get in the way, be flexible. Do have an approval process for moving dates and understand any cost impacts. Don’t push a project through with inadequate input or testing; it will cost more in the long run.

4. Tight budgets – Your finances probably don’t allow for a team of consultants to implement your new system. Yet, your internal resources have never successfully completed a project like this.

Solution: When you need expertise or additional manpower, find consultants who can assist on a part-time basis. Avoid having full-time consultants when your users aren’t available to participate full-time. You will have an easier time taking over the system when the consultant leaves if your resources have been involved throughout and your budget will appreciate the lower “burn” rate.

Projects can bring exponential efficiency to an organization with a strong return on investment. Don’t avoid the project and lose the benefits brought by the project. Rather, minimize the risk by implementing these four solutions. Increase the likelihood of your project coming in on time and on budget so your organization will be better positioned for the future.

Laura Pettit RusickAbout The Guest Author:   Laura Pettit Rusick helps small and mid-sized businesses enable growth, reduce costs and improve efficiency by optimizing business processes and technology. For those interested in benefiting from business process efficiency projects, sign up to receive the PDF “Ten Critical Success Factors for Optimizing Business Processes“. Laura’s website is http://www.optsolutionsinc.com.

7 Comments Four Challenges and Solutions to SMB Project Management

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Laura Pettit Rusick: Have you read the Critical Chain book by Eli Goldratt? It was an eyeopening piece of literature for me during my studies in international project management (coordinator). I will explore the Theory of Constraints in more detail in the near future.

    Reply
  2. PM Hut

    @Martin,

    I have published quite a few articles on Critical Chain Project Management, they can be found here: http://www.pmhut.com/category/critical-chain-project-management.

    Laura, 2 points of the above typical PM Risks that can be seen in any Project:

    - Lack of PM Expertise
    - Unpredictable Scheduling

    I would also add tight budgets, not because there’s not enough money in big companies, but because of departments being restricted to their budget set at the beginning of the year.

    Reply
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  4. PR Bailey

    Really appreciate the variety of executive-style briefs on so many strategic and tactical topics necessary for small business success! Thank you for time and talent well directed.

    Reply
  5. Laura Pettit Rusick

    Thanks for the comments! As to budget, I find that SMBs often do not have a rigid budget process. There are budget constraints which projects must accommodate, but these organizations are not as adverse to changes. You’re absolutely right that that is common in larger companies.

    Lack of PM expertise seems to hit SMBs particularly hard, because staff tend to have multiple duties as opposed to being able to afford experts in particular areas. Larger organizations are a bit different as they often have project manager positions, but may struggle with quality and competence.

    Reply
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