Project management is something that’s often all too easy to overlook but, for startups in particular, doing so could be a costly mistake.
Great project management in startups allows teams to work effectively, minimising the use of vital resources by allowing them to get the job done in the best way possible. Forgetting about it can quickly lead to inefficiencies and wasted resources. When time and money is limited, this can cause lasting damage.
In this guide we’ll explore project management in more detail and explore why it’s so important for startups. We’ll talk about what startups need to be doing to nurture great project management and boost productivity, and we’ll take you through some of our favourite tools that allow teams to do just that.
Why Does a Startup Need Project Management?
No matter the size of a startup, project management is key.
Teams that focus on project management tend to communicate more effectively, allowing tasks to move freely between team members as they collaborate and share ideas.
Improvements in project management also mean enhancing organisation across the company, which allows resources to be used more effectively and team members’ time to be allocated to the tasks most likely to benefit from their insight. Startup project management softwares are designed to help businesses with the most challenging aspects of project management. From creating a central hub for project information to organising timelines and calendars.
Good project management practices, and the right project management tool, also enables teams to improve the accessibility of files and documents that colleagues need on a day to day basis, too. This accessibility is crucial in emerging startups where team members need information available to them at all times, if they are to have those bright ideas that turn a tiny startup into a unicorn.
Project Management in Startups vs. Enterprises
Startups benefit from a slightly different breed of project management compared to established enterprises. One big reason is because larger enterprises just don’t have as much to lose from inefficiency as brand new startups do.
It’s no secret that corporate organisations tend to require huge amounts of documentation from team members, with endless meetings still the norm in the vast majority of workplaces. In many companies that’s simply how things are done.
For some, inefficiencies like these are difficult to avoid - particularly in the largest, most complex enterprises where bureaucracy governs how team members work. That’s not necessarily a killer problem for such businesses, because they’re fully established with a reliable market share. Startups, on the other hand, are different.
Development cycles are shorter and deadlines are sooner. A startup also generally has fewer team members, many of whom will be taking on a whole range of different roles and responsibilities already. Inefficient working practices and wasted resources could proove deadly, which is why it’s challenging to apply complex project management processes to startup environments.
The other factor to consider is flexibility. Startups, more often than not, are still experimenting with their market fit. They need to be ready to try out new ideas as soon as an opportunity arises by iterating processes and pivoting aspects of their operations to fit. Speed and agility are key, and that’s only possible to achieve with efficient communication flows.
Documentation should be centralised and teams should have open and easily accessible ways to collaborate and feedback. For smaller teams in particular, all members should also ideally have an overview of the project so they know what to prioritise. That’s why lean and agile project management is really important for startups in achieving their business goals.
Goal Setting For Startups: The Basics
Project management depends on precise goal setting, but there’s more to this than simply thinking about what your team hopes it will achieve.
Set realistic, reasonable goals that give everyone a target to work towards and you’ll soon see improvements in productivity as team members get together to grow the startup.
Here are a few of our top tips on how to set goals for startups.
When we talk about brainstorming, we really mean getting teams together to share ideas and agree on goals for the company.
Think about issues separately, then gather the entire team to discuss problems and come up with a goal that will help your company overcome them. This will give every project your team works on a real purpose, and it’ll allow team members to see their success in action.
As you set the goals for your company, bear the SMART goals acronym in mind. By this, we mean setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and finally Timeline-based.
Goals should be quantitative in nature, meaning it’s always possible to easily determine how close you are to reaching them. They should come with a specific time frame in mind, and they should of course be manifestable with the help of your colleagues.
Time tracking will allow you to organise your goals and set deadlines to help teams work towards them.
Ensure that goals are concise and come with a specific time frame attached. Then start thinking about which departments will take responsibility for which tasks, and how long they should spend working on them.
Decide when progress will be reported on and how these reports will look, to ensure that every team member is fully aware of how much work there is to be done before goals will be reached.
Startup Project Management Tips for Entrepreneurs
Prioritise project management to get the most from the resources at your team’s disposal. Take a look at our startup project management tips below.
Set realistic goals
Goals should be realistic and easy to track (see above for our tips on goal setting). These goals should always be set with a reason and outcome in mind. Ask yourself why the goal is in place and think about how they can be achieved before deciding to set them.
It also pays to determine how team members will report on progress and how the success of different metrics might be measured. Most importantly, make sure your goals are achievable to avoid team members feeling demotivated.
Identify and plan for possible errors
A positive mindset is never a bad thing, but it’s always worth bearing in mind that things can (and probably will) go wrong. Identify possible challenges that your team may encounter and discuss errors that could occur during different projects. This will allow you to prepare for any setbacks.
If things do go wrong, it’s also important to use these mistakes or errors and learn from them. The only way teams will be able to do this is by having visibility over the major stages of their project.
Create milestones to boost engagement, keep productivity levels high and ensure end-to-end alignment. Set milestones during projects to give teams smaller goals to work towards. Effective milestone setting encompasses the entire project timeline. This means there is a target in place for every major stage ie planning, funding, training (if applicable), testing etc. Not only will this keep teams working towards common targets, it’ll also significantly improve motivation levels as milestones are reached and work is celebrated.
Communicate with your team
We can’t overstate the importance of communication and collaboration amongst colleagues, particularly in smaller startups where team members tend to have a huge range of responsibilities. Communicate with your team effectively and encourage them to do the same by equipping them with the tools and equipment they need to do so.
Trust and assign tasks to others
Delegate tasks to those best-suited to completing them, and make use of task management software to keep everyone on the same page. Such software can make a huge difference to how well senior team members are able to delegate. Task management software can also improve communication by creating more opportunities for team members to discuss tasks amongst themselves.
Define the scope, budget and time
Clearly define the scope of all projects, outlining how much budget has been allocated and the timeframe in which they should be complexed. By being thorough about such aspects of a project, you’ll give team members more of an insight into the importance of different tasks, allowing them to better organise their own workloads.
Common Startup Project Management Mistakes
Startups aren’t long established brands, so it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made as they grow. But if you want to avoid errors as you build your company look out for some of the most common project management mistakes we see amongst startups.
Setting unrealistic goals
Goals have to be realistic, because if they aren’t there’s simply no point setting them. Make sure yours are achievable to avoid alienating team members.
Not devoting enough time to important projects
Determine the importance of different projects and prioritise tasks as you go. Some projects will have a far greater impact on your startup’s rate of growth, so don’t be afraid to divert your team’s attention from one project to another as new opportunities arise.
Mismanaging vital resources
Startups work with a finite pool of resources, so any wastage can cause real damage. Manage resources well to make the most of the time and money at your disposal.
Overlooking project management tools and software
Time management can be significantly improved with the help of project management tools and software. Make sure you explore these options. You’ll be amazed at how much of an impact some of the best project management software can have.
Not considering potential challenges in advance
Think about what might go wrong, so that if it does you already know what you can do about it. Don’t be blindly optimistic as you set your goals. Mistakes will happen, and that’s not necessarily a problem. It’s just a case of knowing how to overcome obstacles as they arise.
Not delegating tasks effectively
Delegate tasks to those best equipped to complete them. Use project management software to keep track of who’s working on what, and keep your team members on the same page as you work towards your goals.
Project Management Tools for Startups
Today’s startups are spoilt for choice when it comes to project management tools. These tools can help with key areas of concern for many businesses, including:
File and document organisation
Feedback and reporting
There are some incredibly clever tools and platforms available to teams now, with options to suit everyone - from the smallest startups taking their first tentative steps into the marketplace, to those that are already making a name for themselves and growing at a rapid pace.
For startups in particular, finding a solution that provides flexibility and agility is incredibly important. Our platform Hello Ivy give startups access to everything they need to grow.
The software is designed to bring ideas together, helping companies grow from startup to unicorn by managing projects, tasks and team communication in one place. Providing an easy way to visualise project timelines , plan and manage calendars and store and share files, Hello Ivy provides a newer, simplified way for startups to manage their tasks. With an intuitive interface and modern design, Hello Ivy doesn’t overcomplicate project management - it lets startups focus on productivity instead.
Try if for free to see for yourself.
Asana is a well-established name in project management - particularly within larger enterprises. It has pricing tiers that allow corporations to take advantage of premium integrations and features that make large-scale project management a lot easier. Team members can login to platforms like Asana to get a full to-do list for their day. Projects can be created, shared and assigned on the platform, and everyone has visibility on deadlines as well as how far a project is from completion.
The visualisations Miro provides can rapidly boost the productivity of teams, allowing them to share their thoughts in a different format that just might inspire new ideas. Team members can make use of thousands of different templates on Miro, to create visualisations, whiteboards, Gantt charts and so much more.
Hive is a project management tool that focuses on different project views, goal-setting and analytics. Their product works for many different use cases, think marketing teams, design teams, HR, remote teams and startups.
We’ve talked about communication and why it matters. Don’t be afraid to try out different platforms that might help your team communicate more effectively.
Slack is one of the best-known tools that allows teams to discuss and share ideas easily, without having to pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.
Brilliant for start up project management, Slack keeps team members focussed and avoids all those meetings that could’ve been an email.