Whether you’re running your own business or managing a department for your employer, there will likely be times when you need to supervise projects. If you’re just starting your career or are new to being in a management position and don’t have a whole lot of training behind you in project management, this role can be quite daunting.

However, since proper project management is so important, you need to look for ways to succeed ASAP. Read on for four top project management tips for beginners that you can apply today.

Learn About What’s Required Before You Start

Before you jump into a project, it’s important to be clear on what’s required for it. You need to do your research, listen to the clients or other parties involved and learn as much as you can about what needs to be done.

Start by researching the different parties involved. You need to know who your clients are, as well as who their customers are. Understand what your clients do and don’t offer, where they have a focus, what’s already being done in the arena and so on.

While it might be tempting to launch right in with all your own thoughts and suggestions straight off the bat, don’t do this. Instead, sit back and listen, so you can take everything in and be sure you’re understanding the different factors of the task ahead.

This will not only enable you to save time by avoiding unnecessary or unsuitable tasks, but patience and diligence also help you build relationships with stakeholders sooner. This in turn helps the project as it moves along and makes it more likely that your services will be engaged again.

Define the Project and Know the Desired Results

It’s vital for managers to specifically define their projects, right at the start. To do this, you’ll have to make sure you get a complete and detailed, project scope from the various parties involved. Always have approval from everyone before you start doing any work, and be sure you know particularly important details such as the project budget, its deadline, the interim milestones and the end results you need to achieve.

You need to have everything in writing, so all parties know what is involved and required of them. This avoids misunderstandings, too, which is key. Along the way, things might change in some areas, but having clarity at the start will give you a good foundation and make alterations easier if and when they’re needed.

It’s wise to set clear and measurable goals for the project at various points during its timeline. The results you’re aiming for should be achievable, too. By understanding this up front, you’ll be better able to manage your time by starting to work on the most difficult goals first.

Put a Plan in Place Early On

Since there can be so many moving parts to juggle in a big project, you should chart your course early on. Put together a plan for how you’ll manage everything to ensure you don’t miss out on any key steps or forget something and then find it’s too late to sort it out. Determine your project deadline, and working back from there, estimate when each different task needs to be done. This is especially important for projects which will go on for many months or years.

As you plot out a plan for yourself, take special note of any potential weaknesses or risks. Once you’re aware of these, you can plan to enlist support, so you don’t leave yourself in trouble. You may need to get some help from a different department, for instance, outsource part of the work or hire additional team members for a particular period. You will probably want to find some excellent project management software to help you keep a handle on things, too. The sooner you plan for all of these elements, the better.

Understand the Life Cycle of the Project

Lastly, you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself if you understand, up front, what the life cycle of the project will be. This cycle generally begins with the conceptualization phase (or the initiation phase, as it can be called), where you identify the need for the project. Next, is the planning phase, as outlined above.

After this you will have the execution phase which is, as you’d imagine, the time where all the key work of the project is completed. Lastly, the termination (or project closure) phase is where you finalize and evaluate the project. At this point, it might also be decided that the project needs to be extended.

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Ryan Kidman is a startup-investor and serial entrepreneur. Founder of Catalyst For Business and contributor to search giants like Yahoo Finance, MSN. He is passionate about blogging and covering topics like big data, business intelligence, startups & entrepreneurship. Follow him on twitter: @ryankhgb

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