Many project managers say that their projects are not completed on time or on budget, meaning that successful project management is an important and valuable skill.
Because of this, knowing the current best project management practices is vital for success in today’s hyper-competitive world. The best teams get the best reward, while the most skilled project managers end up being in huge demand.
This article outlines the top 10 best project management practices in 2023. It is intended to help you ensure you are up to date with the latest thinking, so you know where you might need to improve and can upskill your team where you need to.
We’ve taken these insights from some of our top clients, as well as our own research. As a result, these examples come from a variety of industry sectors and are relevant to the majority of project management teams.
What is project management?
According to the Association for Project Management (ABM), project management is “the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.”
How that we have a working definition that is easy to understand, let’s dig into what the top 10 project management practices are right now.
The 10 best project management practices for 2023
Practice #1: Build a clear business case for the project
Without a clear business case from – or approved by – senior management, the entire reasoning behind the project may be flawed. This results in a project that is impossible to deliver on time or on budget.
Look at your business objectives as well as your long- and short-range goals to understand how this specific project fits into the bigger picture. Think about the various project requirements, resources, potential hurdles, and workflows needed to get across the finish line.
Every business case should successfully answer questions around the project’s strategic context, potential ROI, risks and rewards, and having the budget and resources to complete it.
Before starting any project, you need to ask certain key questions to establish the business case, such as:
- Why does this project exist? (Why is it important?)
- Why now? (Why is there an urgent need for change?)
- What benefits will we get from this project in terms of cost savings or increased revenues?
- How much is it likely to cost?
Practice #2: Develop a project brief
The project brief is a short, concise document that gives a high-level overview of the project and its scope. You can use it to get approvals and buy-in from the relevant stakeholders. You’ll also have to revisit the brief throughout the project to ensure it is up to date.
The project brief should include the following information:
- Project name
- Client name
- Project Overview
- SMART objectives: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time-based
- Success metrics
- Budget, timeline, resources
Once you have all this information agreed upon, you can add it to your project management software. A good PM software such as Teamhood offers templates you can use to set out your project’s budget, timeline, and resources. Here’s an example of how that could look:
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Practice #3: Create a project plan
Once you have agreed on your project brief with your key stakeholders, it’s time to work on your project plan. This sets out the detail of how you intend to achieve your brief. It should outline how you’ll manage the project, the process for your team to meet objectives, and how you’ll reach the finish line. It should include:
- Scope and mission
- Evaluation and control
- Risk assessment
- Quality standards
- Tracking and variance analysis
- Escalation and issue management
- Work authorization and change control
Best 12 project management books to help guide your process.
Practice #4: Communicate clearly
Poor communication is a common reason why many projects run over time or over budget. This is why it is so important to establish clear and consistent communication amongst team members, and between your team and key stakeholders. You may need regular face-to-face meetings or you may prefer to rely on a communication app. Whichever option you choose, you must communicate clearly and often, and be able to spot and resolve any misunderstandings before they grow into a problem.
Practice #5: Maintain a schedule and cadence
According to the PMI, “only 23% of organizations use standardized project management practices”. However, companies that build strong project practices enjoy a whole host of benefits. Compared with companies without mature value-delivery processes, they’re more likely to meet their project goals (77% vs. 56%), stay within budget (67% vs. 46%), and deliver on time (63% vs. 39%). They’re also less likely to suffer scope creep (30% vs. 47%) or outright project failure (11% vs. 21%).
This is why it is so important to set a schedule that’s realistic and achievable—and can get the project done on time. The goal is to avoid overloading your team’s workload while still making consistent progress.
To achieve this, you need to work backward from the estimated completion date to create a project schedule. Ask yourself what milestones you need to achieve. Which tasks do you need to achieve? When do they each need to be completed?
This is how that schedule could look when using Teamhood:
Learn more how to prevent exceeding the project deadline.
Practice #6: Expect and accommodate change requests
Even in the best-managed projects, setbacks will occur and obstacles will arise. That’s why you need to plan and be prepared for them. One way to do this is by tracking the variances within the team. This will help your team understand why a project might not be going to plan and allow you to prevent any reoccurring issues from happening again.
Sometimes, the smallest change requests combine to become a huge headache for the team and in the end, the project spirals out of control. This is called scope creep, a huge challenge that affects a high proportion of projects in most sectors. This is why it’s a good project management practice to document every single change request from the clients – as is our next best practice.
Learn about integrated project management.
Practice #7: Closely monitor your project for scope creep
As already mentioned, documenting change requests is one way to monitor your project for scope creep. Others include making clients and stakeholders aware of the implications of making changes.
Also, avoid the temptation to add too many project milestones. This can also lead to scope creep and exhaust your team, slowing them down and making them unproductive.
When the scope does change, ensure that you communicate it effectively to everyone on the team as soon as you can.
More tips on controlling productivity with rising work item count.
Practice #8: Ensure proper documentation
This practice goes hand in hand with clear communication and monitoring your project. You essentially have to track everything related to the project, including:
- Tracking KPIs
- Tracking variances and taking corrective action where needed
- Focusing on quality assurance
- Managing risk
- Checking for scope creep
With thorough documentation, you can easily get any new team members up to speed. Similarly, you and other project managers can also refer to the project record if they run into a similar problem later.
Also, by keeping a close eye on your data, risk levels, quality, expenses, and other information – and by minimizing variances from your initial estimates – you’ll be able to take care of issues before they get out of hand.
Practice #9: Ensure all your documentation is up to date
This best practice should go without saying, yet it is easy to lose track of even your essential project documents during a project. The most important documents to keep on top of are:
- RACI matrix (listing who’s Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for each task)
- Risks and issues log
- Change requests
- Project schedule
- Project expenses
- Retrospective log
If you do that, it will be much easier to close the project once you’re done. As well as, of course, documenting and tracking and significant changes to the project as they occur.
Practice #10: Hold a retrospective meeting
This is an important step that many project managers miss. The retrospective meeting is a concept taken largely from the Scrum method of project management typically used by designers or developers working in Sprints, but they work well for any sort of project.
Basically, these are meetings that you use to review what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what could be improved. Every project management team has areas for improvement, and holding these meetings is important even if a project was completed on time and within budget.
Make sure to capture insights and feedback from everyone on the team. Remember to emphasize what went well and to offer praise as well as focus on areas for improvement. That way, you help to keep the team motivated while also looking for ways you can improve on your next project.
Get to the root cause of issues with the 5 whys template.
Here’s what you can do next
We hope you found this article useful. As you can see, there are many benefits to effective and successful project management. These include improving the odds of successful project delivery, more effective use of resources, improved project scope and quantity of work, happy project stakeholders, and employee growth and development.
For more information on the basics of project management and how to get started, download our free Ultimate Project Management Guide.
2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games
Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.
Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing