It is a common truth that every enterprise needs proper management, and since business operation consists of consecutive and concurrent projects, it is the art of managing your projects that your economic activity stands or falls with. In this article, we shall first explain what project management means and highlight the significance of the so-called Waterfall vs. Agile dilemma for the subject.
We shall then discuss timeboxing as one of the most powerful management tools and introduce some business software that can help you achieve the desired goals easier and more effectively. And we shall point out the most distinctive advantages of applying this technique to your everyday activities to improve your business operation and your life skills.
It will be a lot easier for you to achieve your business goals if you divide your overall activity into several tasks, distinct in both their content and the time allotted to each. Ideally, there should be as many of them as possible, since the smaller the task, the easier it is to complete it successfully.
A project is a set of such distinct jobs, and project management involves organizing, supervising and facilitating the constructive implementation of each set. Typically, it consists of many equally significant aspects, such as:
In addition, you will do well to acquaint yourself with the business management software applications as there are plenty of those available on the online market these days, and they can certainly make life a lot easier for you if you choose an optimal one for your specific business needs.
Also known as a quadruple limitation model, the project square accounts for the four most significant constraints in any business activity, namely time, budget, quality and scope. The two general assumptions that have been supported by the empirical evidence are:
1. All four constraints are interrelated, and a positive or negative change in any one of them will produce corresponding changes in each of the other three.
2. The optimal management strategy is to focus on any two while adjusting the others as the ever-changing circumstances demand.
Let us now have a quick look at each limitation separately so that you will have a better idea of what project management has to deal with.
Simply put, this part refers to prioritizing and scheduling your goals and activities in order to better coordinate them with your budget and clients' expectations. To achieve that, you will need to define the following aspects as clearly and precisely as possible:
Sequence of individual tasks
Interdependency map for the tasks in question
Major milestones for the project
Ideally, the tasks should be defined in terms of the expected results and the financial resources and tools required for the purpose. Moreover, the final plan should fit into a reasonable work breakdown structure for this particular project.
Needless to say, working out how much you need to invest in a project is essential to its successful implementation, as well as to determine whether it is going to be profitable in the first place. And it is not only the materials and production expenses that have to be accounted; you must also consider the labor costs in terms of the current pay rates for the skills required for the tasks.
Furthermore, you need to conduct reasonable risk management and assess the possible impact of inflation, cost escalation and other indirect financial challenges. And the final draft should be adjusted to the other three corners of the project square.
Effectively, this aspect refers to defining, in operational terms, the content and size of the final product expected from a project. Obviously, this part of the square should be closely related to the quality and budget constraints, and fit into a reasonable time frame too.
Thus, scope assessment involves deciding on the variety and quantity of the output and adjusting them to the resources and time available and the quality expected in the end. This is an extremely important part of effective project management that is, unfortunately, often overlooked in the process of task compilation. However, failure to do it properly can easily ruin even the most thoroughly planned enterprise.
Now, in theory, you could plan to implement a massive project in a very short period of time, investing minimal resources in it too, and you might even succeed in this endeavor. But the big question is, will your customers be happy with the quality of goods produced in this way? For if they do not appreciate it, after all, the entire project square becomes as good as useless.
Therefore, it is imperative that you take this constraint seriously, and this part of the job typically involves five processes:
Researching the market to determine the consumer needs
Establishing the tools and resources needed to meet their expectations
Coordinating the other three constraints in order to ensure that the required quality will be achieved in the end
Constantly supervising, assessing and, if necessary, modifying the ongoing implementation of the established goals throughout the project
Regularly evaluating all the factors involved in order to improve the quality, if possible
The overwhelming majority of project management theories and practices these days seem to be based on one of the two paradigms, namely Waterfall and Agile. Since the differences between them are extremely important for understanding everything we are discussing in this article, especially time management, we shall now briefly describe each one separately.
Effectively, this strategy aims to build efficient task sequences for the purpose of achieving optimal results. It is particularly useful for very complex projects that take a long time to complete and are relatively stable so that it is rarely, if ever, necessary to review and modify their basic structural and dynamic components.
In most cases, this approach involves five consecutive steps, namely:
Establishing and defining operationally your ultimate business needs
Drawing a global business plan
Implementing the project strictly according to the plan
Supervising the implementation process to obtain the necessary feedback
Assessing the output in the end in order to draw and share with your subordinates, business partners and customers some practical conclusions for future projects
You should keep in mind, though, that useful as the Waterfall approach is in many cases, this model is totally inapplicable if your tasks are by necessity vague or change constantly, or if the successful development of your project is heavily dependent on constant feedback.
Contrary to the Waterfall model, which is heavily based on an inflexible structure, the Agile principles seem a lot more functional and dynamic in essence. For example, they attach considerably more significance to negotiations, feedback and self-management. In addition, this approach is more concerned with effective teamwork and customer relationships, instead of betting all stakes on a thorough business plan and its immaculate implementation.
Basically, the Agile paradigm recognizes the phenomenon of constant change and treats it with due respect. Instead of helping you to draw an awesome business plan that will work for as long as your circumstances remain the same, it shows you how to go with the flow and adjust constructively to the inevitable changes.
For these reasons, it is especially beneficial for:
Projects that must be implemented under the circumstances of constant volatility of whatever nature
Companies with lively or unstable internal organizational dynamics
Tasks in which deadlines are not of critical importance
This model has developed several powerful techniques for achieving the specified goals, and we shall now describe the one that has become especially popular worldwide for its effectiveness and ease of implementation.
Get your team together with Bitrix24. All of your project’s tasks and stages can be easily visualized in the form of a Gantt chart, Kanban board, Scrum, Calendar, or customizable Planner - the choice is yours.
In simple terms, this technique involves dividing a project into clearly defined time slots, called timeboxes, and further subdividing them into sub-boxes, and so on until all the individual tasks become as manageable as possible. Following one of the two fundamental principles of effective project management, namely that you should focus on two out of four constraints, it chooses to concentrate on time and quality, especially on the former.
The technique has proven to be especially useful in the following cases:
1. Projects that consist of multiple stages
2. Tasks that require short periods of time to complete
3. Assignments that can or must be completed concurrently
4. Jobs that have clearly defined and easily predictable temporal frames
The reason this strategy is so powerful is that it allows you to coordinate all four constraints most effectively. If you do not do proper time management, you will either need more time for the job, or have to invest more money in some emergency measures (employing additional personnel, for example), or by necessity sacrifice the required quality of the final product.
In real life, however, you will most likely fail in all four: that is, you will be late with your delivery, produce either a poor quality commodity or the one that will be more limited in scope, and you will have to spend more money to produce something, at least. And this is the situation that the Agile technique of time allocation helps to avoid.
Time slots help you to constantly assess the progress of your enterprise so that you can decide which measures to apply in order to meet the deadline without sacrificing the required quality, namely:
Reducing the scope by omitting the less important tasks in order to concentrate on truly critical ones
Establishing the realistic budget for tasks at hand
Negotiating the quality in case an extension is not feasible, which is normally the case in the strict application of this strategy
Ideally, if you implement the technique correctly, there will be no need for any of these measures at all, since the four factors will all be taken into account at the stage of timebox building.
To achieve these goals, you will need to do the following:
1. Create one box for one task, assess realistically how long it will take, and add some more time for unforeseen circumstances.
2. Set reminders to help you stay alert to where you are within the box and how far you are from the deadline.
3. Rest between the boxes, keeping in mind that burning out halfway through the next time slot is not going to help you meet the deadline.
4. Every time you complete a task or an entire project, evaluate your progress in order to draw practical conclusions for your time slots in the future.
Incidentally, this approach has also proven to work quite effectively for the successful performance of everyday chores in one's personal life. For instance, you can achieve a lot more during the day, and invest less energy in it too, by following the three-step program:
1. Select and schedule five tasks which you will have to complete the next day. (It may be three, seven or, in fact, any number of tasks, depending on your particular case, but five seems to be the optimal number, for some obscure reason.)
2. Build the time boxes required for the tasks in question.
3. When you get up in the morning, start with your tasks and do not stop until all of them have been completed. (Remember to rest between the boxes, though.)
Note: apart from that, this strategy has also been effective in helping to overcome one's perfectionism, as well boosting one's concentration and creativity.
If you think that this model might be too daunting for you or require more time than you can spare, you will be glad to know that there are plenty of highly professional and perfectly reliable business management software providers that will do the job for you to let you concentrate on more important aspects of your economic activity instead.
To give you an idea of what you can expect from such software, we will describe one company that seems to be one of the best options on the relevant market today.
This online operator has become famous worldwide for offering high-quality and cost-effective time management services by applying the most advanced management strategies and digital technologies. In addition, it provides a wide range of tools to cover virtually all aspects of business activity so that you can choose which ones you need the most.
The incredible versatility of Bitrix24 allows you to focus on the tasks of your choice, delivering the responsibility for other aspects of your enterprise to their knowledgeable and experienced professionals. The examples of the areas covered by their software include:
Human resource management
Public relations and social integration
Overall project management
It also does a good job integrating all these aspects into one smooth and harmonious operation of one's enterprise. Moreover, it is available on PCs as well as on numerous multifunctional and user-friendly mobile devices of all types and operating systems. And as a cherry on top, all their services come absolutely free of charge at the entry level.
If you ever require some urgent assistance or advice, Bitrix24 customer support is at your service via e-mail, on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Telegram and Viber, and through live chat on their official webpage. Besides, its support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it is 100% free of charge at all levels as well.
Proper time management is absolutely essential for the effective implementation of your business projects. However, it will do you no good unless you also take into account the other three constraints of the project management square, namely: the scope of work to be done, the budget and the quality of the final product required for successful marketing purposes.
Timeboxing is one of the most powerful project management techniques, best suited for an effective integration of all four constraints into a harmonious and productive business activity. The strategy is easy enough to implement too, yet it helps to know that there are some professional and reliable business software providers, like Bitrix24, that can take up that part of your work and let you focus on other duties instead.