Project management enters small business arena

Introduction

The ability to scale project management processes and methodology to a specific project or business requires special techniques and approaches. Many of us think in the broadest sense of project management and others in specialized areas. Entering the Small Business Arena requires many changes to successfully assist small businesses in their needs.

Focusing on the needs of the small business may be the skill set of the owner(s), but expanding the business to succeed in auxiliary areas can be the focus for Project Management.

Evaluating Small Businesses

Everyone has their own approach to evaluations. Some are very detailed and take a considerable amount of time. Others are done at a much higher lever and take a brief amount of time. Whichever you choose, be sure that you are getting the key points evaluated in order to offer useful and valuable services.

Some of the questions you may want to ask are:

Does this small business have a PRODUCT or SERVICE to provide?

Does the owner(s) have a desire to make improvements in how they do business?

Is the PRODUCT or SERVICE of substantial value to potential customers?

Is the PRODUCT or SERVICE new to the marketplace?

Is there a specific geographical area that this business is servicing?

Is the market area virtual?

Is the market area serviced domestic only or does it include international?

What is the competitive market in the area for this PRODUCT or SERVICE?

What would Project Management Processes offer to the small business owner(s)?

Would the cost of Project Management Services provide a reasonable ROI in a short period of time?

Feel free to add questions that can provide more information or delete questions that are not appropriate to the small business you are evaluating. Take these answers seriously and make notes so as not to miss any details.

At this point, you may be wondering: “Where do I start to find these potential clients?” They may be knocking at your door (virtually) or in your neighborhood, at professional events you attend, or recommended by others. Another resource maybe through Direct Marketing to small businesses found at the Chamber of Commerce. Some of the areas to pursue are people who have especially commented to you about your business successes and how they would like to be as successful. Other opportunities will come from networking with friends, family, and professional organizations. More recently, several successful small businesses find it worthwhile to market via the internet with email and web sites. All of these and any other means of promoting Small Business project management can and will work.

Evaluation techniques and processes are excellent topics of study. You may want to spend some time researching approaches and preparation of evaluation questions you find most valuable.

Utilizing Scalable Processes, Forms and Approaches

Start with the basics. Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Project Management Processes as shown in Exhibit 1 below.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

Small Business Standard
■    Contract
■    Statement of Work
■    Invoice
■    Project Plan
■    Schedule
■    Deliverables
■    Feedback
•Project Agreement
•Statement of Work
•Billing process
•Project Plan
•Milestones
•Accomplishments
•Success of project

Choose ready made forms OR design basic forms yourself:

The CONTRACT should be kept short and to the point. This is not a major endeavor for your small business owner. This is more of an opportunity to work their business more efficiently and/or grow the business. They are going to keep focus on their primary efforts trusting that you will take care of the specific project(s), process or product.

The STATEMENT OF WORK (SOW) will delineate the agreed upon requirement of this assignment. Keep it simple and to the point. Make the SOW as understandable as possible even if it means using the owner's description or words. The better outlined the SOW is for the assignment at hand the easier it will be to get consensus. Remember this is a SOW between you (Consultant) and the small business (Your Client).

INVOICES range from very simple on a plain piece of white paper to exceptionally complicated with graphics and color. Many software packages (i.e. QuickBooks) contain pre-designed invoices that can be easily customized for your business. This may be an opportunity to incorporate your invoicing process with your bookkeeping process. Again, this reduces the amount of time it takes to manage your business as well.

A PROJECT PLAN is a Project Plan, but it can range from a few high level milestones to a detailed and complicated list of tasks to be done. When preparing a project plan for a small business remembers to keep their primary focus in mind. Utilize activities that reference the point of arrival for your owner. You may not need a detailed Work Breakdown Structure for a small project. You may only need milestones to allow you to build suitable time frames and provide progress reports to the owner. Share the project plan from a high level with your client so they can see the effort you have put into accomplishing their goal, but do NOT spend much time in this area. Remember this is your point of focus not theirs.

The SCHEDULE, as usual, is part of the triple constraint (time, scope, cost) of project management. If your project plan includes the milestones, all the better. If not, briefly outline the key points your client is focusing on in a separate document.

DELIVERABLES are a part of all projects. They may differ tremendously from project to project and product to product and client to client. Once you have established a contact, defined the statement of work, outlined a project plan and schedule, the deliverables will be obvious to you. At this point, be sure to review them with the client to assure there is no misunderstanding. From a small business prospective there is no time to waste going over items again and again. Be clear and get started.

At the end of the project, be sure to include a CLIENT FEEDBACK process. This will not only provide an opportunity for the client to provide feedback, but gives you the express opportunity to thank your client for choosing you. The feedback will give you what you need to make specific and general improvements in your servicing.

Statement of Work for Small Business

One of the primary documents that you will need to perform your services is a Statement of Work. Many of us are accustomed to extensive Statement of Work documents that require a considerable amount of time and information.

You must scale down that process to meet the needs of the Small Business and keep the expense at a minimum.

Here is a an outline of a SOW for a small business in Exhibit 2 below.

Project name Title of the Project.
Overview of project Include a brief description of the project
Project objectives Define the project objective(s).
Work breakdown List the activities to be completed at a high level.
Accountability Determine your accountability to the project.
Project schedule Include the project timeframes (start, end).
Milestone Due Date
1 List Each Milestone
2 Assign target due dates
3 Review milestones periodically
4 Revise dates accordingly
5 Note on time delivery to client when appropriate
6 Include milestones in the project plan
7 Remember, milestones are not tasks
8 Milestones are often noted at the end of an activity
9 Milestones may be vendor deliverables
10 Milestones may be accomplished dependencies

Billing comments: Note invoice terms.

Start / end dates of agreement: Explicitly note agreement start and end dates here. They may be different than the project schedule especially if there are multiple phases to the project.

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2

Creating the Project Plan

Creating a project plan is generally a team effort. All team members contribute to the task list, sizing, duration, start dates and end dates. In addition, after the first pass of drafting the project plan, usually a second pass is required to determine predecessors and successors for each task and resource assignment. It is possible that a third pass is used to identify milestones and note risks or exceptions.

When working with a small business you have very tight time constraints and financial resources. It is in your best interest to outline at the lowest level during the first draft, thereby leaving minor changes to a possible second pass.

You may choose to use a prior project plan that is similar to the new project at hand or you may want to design a standard template that suits most of the clients you encounter.

In Exhibit 3 is a high level project plan that you may use as a guide:

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3

It is a good idea to baseline your plan as you would baseline any plan. It will help you evaluate your success with this client and allow you to make minor changes for future clients. As usual, you should review your plan periodically to see that you are on track and have not missed any items. Even with a small project, each step is critical to its success. Monitoring your work, vendors, and team members is important to deliver the best possible solution for your client.

Satisfied clients spread the word, and that helps you grow your business.

Delivering Quality with Affordability

Let's look at some of the challenges of delivering quality with affordability in small business project management. The triple constraint: Time, Cost, Scope keep us focused on our priorities. In the small business world these are also the areas of high influence to keep the small business successful and financially viable. Often small businesses will reach out to consultants at a time when they want to expand their business. It may be in the same focus as previously OR it may be in a new business arena. Either way, they will be constrained financially, therefore, the time and scope must meet the financial constraints in order to succeed.

Exhibit 4 is one way to look at scaling up:

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 4

This example demonstrates growth over a period of five (5) years. As sales increase and client base increases, the need for Project Management services increases. Based on additional sales and clients, the affordability of project management services is more manageable. Hopefully, with a success in place, the demand for your services increases as well.

Summary

The results of Project Management in Small Business remains to be seen. To this author's knowledge, only a few project managers have ventured into this arena. Extensive experience with Project Management practices is required to enter this new market. Many project managers like the comfort of their particular areas of expertise and will not take on a new idea that has yet to be proven. Some experts in project management will venture into a new area to satisfy curiosity, add variety to their work of choice, and to expand their knowledge base for future opportunities.

References

Krainski, Dolores A. (2004, August). Martin Training Associates: Quick Guide to Project Management in Small Business.

Guided Design Model img © Kevin Oliver, 1999 Guided Design Process This slide show is based on the following resources: Wales, CE, & Stager, RA (1978). The guided design approach. …
http://www.edtech.vt.edu/edtech/id/models/powerpoint/guided.pdf

Guided Design img Term: Guided Design. Record Type: Main. Scope Note: Reasoning-centered instructional method developed by Charles E. Wales and Robert …
http://ericfacility.net/extra/newauth/thesfull.cfm?TERM=Guided%20Design

PMBOK, (2000 Edition). Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

Mixed-Method Evaluations: Start img … User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations. … User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations. Edited by. Joy Frechtling Laure Sharp Westat. August 1997 …
http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/EHR/REC/pubs/NSF97-153/START.HTM

D.A.K. Consultants, Ltd. (2003, March). Phoenix, Arizona: Sample Statement of Work

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2004 Dolores A Krainski
Originally published as part of 2004 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Buenos Aires, Argentina

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