Project Management Best Practices

Project Success is being On Time, On Brief and On Budget

I’ve been running web design, development and marketing projects for close to 20 years now and have seen my fair share of terrible situations where I ended up beating myself up for allowing it to happen. I’m hoping all project managers out there don’t screw up your own projects and hence putting down some of the Project Management Best Practices from my own experience in short point form style for the benefit of you Project Managers out there.


Projects are constrained under defined SCHEDULE, SCOPE and COST. Project Managers are then expected to deliver projects on TIME, on BRIEF and on BUDGET while ensuring highest QUALITY.

On Time, On Brief, On Budget

These are some simple yet at times easy to overlook hard skills a Project Manager needs to have.

On Time

1. Have a USEFUL Project Schedule

  • Detail enough & clearly states who, what and when
  • Realistic timings that are checked with the team that are actually doing the work
  • Time costed for and turn around time for tasks are different
  • Dependencies factored in (eg. Other project activities, Holidays, Leave plans etc.)
  • Ensure relevant parties aware of involvement early (eg. Client’s IT team, other vendors, freelancers, etc.)
  • Ensure stakeholders are present during review & sign off periods
  • Plan time for revisions & buffer in time if needed

2. Milestones are your Best Friends

  • Milestones have a date and time
  • Major milestones should not be moved
  • It protects the project from going out of schedule
  • It allows good estimation on payment milestones

3. Define and Mitigate Risks Early

  • Don’t wait till shit hits the fan
  • Be paranoid
  • Some risks can only be mitigated by clients
  • Consult team members or domain experts for possible solutions
  • Resolve issues as quickly as possible before it complicate other activities
  • Be paranoid

4. Next Steps

  • Clients must always be informed what is the next step and when it can be expected
  • Do not allow clients to feel the project is floating or that your team is sleeping
  • Ensure regular communication with client and team
  • Always record agreements
  • Always do contact reports even after a phone call or a conversation over beers

5. Push Projects for Closure

  • Start non dependent tasks early
  • Projects should not stall
  • Project Managers are to push projects for closure so as to minimise opportunity costs
  • The longer a project stretches, the more money the company loses

On Brief

1. Only within the Scope Of Work

  • Scope of work must correlate back to activities and deliverables costed
  • Review the assumptions together with client and ensure they understand
  • Guard against Scope Creep
  • New scope is not part of the plan, hence complicates and jeopardises the planned activities
  • New items can go into next phase which can be costed for separately
  • Don’t be a nice guy
  • Project Managers are the bad guys, so let the Account Servicing / Business Development guys be the good guys

2. Common understanding on Deliverables

  • Client and Team all needs to be clear and aligned on their expectations of the deliverables
  • What is to be delivered?
  • Who is producing it?
  • In what format?
  • What are the specifications?
  • What are the mandatories?
  • To be submitted to whom? and When?
  • Where is it to be used
  • Counter check against checklists

3. Check and test for Quality Assurance

  • Have a Test Plan and Test it first yourself
  • Check against scope, plans, documents, brand guidelines, specs, wireframes, keyscreens, browser compatibility, etc.
  • For any build items, test that it works full circle
  • For creative and interactive work, ensure creative team checks interaction quality as well
  • Get fresh pairs of eyes to check

4. Know and Manage Client Expectations

  • Know success factors up front (ie. KPIs / ROIs)
  • Sometimes deliverables and client expectations don’t match up, so clarify
  • Common sense is not common
  • Don’t assume
  • Avoid reworking

5. Keep an eye on the Project Objective

  • Don’t detract from original plan too much
  • Don’t win the battle and lose the war
  • Always keep the project objectives in mind
  • Don’t have tunnel vision

On Budget

1. Time is Money in the Service Industry

  • Time spent is time spent (ie. Meetings, calls, look for images, helping your client tweak their slides, walk your client’s dog, etc.)
  • Spend only time allocated for as detailed in the scope of work
  • Any rework is time
  • Stick to agreed round of revisions and pre-empt clients when the number of revisions are going to be exhausted

2. Nothing is Free

  • Client will always ask for freebies
  • Value and respect you and your team’s work
  • Doing client a favour is doing your colleagues a disfavour

3. Up-sell when opportunities arise

  • New requests can be addressed in a phase 2 with a new quotation
  • Take note of other parallel complimentary projects in the client’s organisation

4. Time saved is money earned

  • Work smart
  • Use technology to automate tasks where possible (eg. Content Auditing, building a sitemap, data transformation, etc.)

5. Profitability depends on Project Management

  • Your rates can be sky high, but if projects are badly managed, you will still lose money

Being a Project Manager

These are some in my view critical soft skills a Project Manager need to have.
1. Be the Heart of the Project

  • Business Manager = First Impression, Project Manger = Sustained Impression, so how well this heart pumps will determine if there is going to be a next project
  • Project Mangers responsible for Happy colleagues
  • You are the central node between clients and team
  • Motivate your team to victory
  • Ensure client satisfaction

2. Be the First-line of Defence

  • Know the scope and assumptions
  • First to push back unreasonable requests
  • Nobody likes a yes man
  • Aim to be loved by both client and team
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Ask for help when needed

3. Effective communication

  • Don’t have email diarrhoea (Digest for team)
  • Listen, don’t just hear
  • Be paranoid, document even calls
  • Contact Reports is a must
  • Nobody likes to read long emails, good to talk in person with a short summary email
  • Efficient communication (10 sentences vs 1 sentence)
  • Build Rapport
  • Choose words carefully
  • Don’t reply impulsively
  • Be professional
  • Set email sending delays (ps. this saved me many times)
  • Understand & express urgency

4. Know the next steps

  • Lead the team
  • Always know what’s next & when
  • When in doubt ask
  • Bring in knowledge experts when required
  • Escalate when needed
  • Provide clients weekly updates (What was done this week, what is to be done next week, risks, mitigation recommendation, overall timeline review)

5. Know what you are managing

  • Learn enough
  • Keep up to date
  • Don’t be shy to ask
  • You can’t provide consultation if you don’t know it

6. Avoid common pitfalls

  • Do ensure clear scope & guard against scope creep
  • Do involve the right people on the project
  • Do ask for help & learn from others
  • Don’t be a yes man
  • Don’t underestimate complexity
  • Don’t suppress bad news

Hope these help. So go forth and be awesome and lead your team to victory.

WPP StreamAsia 2014

Stream Asia 2014
Stream Asia 2014

I had the privilege to attend the by invitation only StreamAsia 2014 unconference which happened at the Berjaya Langkawi Resort in Malaysia.

Named by WIRED as ‘one of the world’s best tech conferences’ and described as the ‘Bilderberg of Advertising’ by the Guardian, Stream is the WPP unconference.

My Makey Makey session on the Big Board
My Makey Makey session on the Big Board

The key of any unconference is participation and I went prepared with a bunch of carrots and Makey Makeys to share how easy it is to connect the real world with the digital world. I represented VML Qais at this event, so was really looking forward to get to know more people, what better way then with carrots right. :)

A minute of silence for MH370
A minute of silence for MH370

But before we started the whole event, there was a minute of silence as everyone is still shocked my the tragedy of MH370.


On of the first events was the Gadgethon. Individuals each had 2 mins to demo a cool gadget and of cause I used it to demo the Makey Makey carrot piano setup and also marketed my unconference segment which was on another day.

There were some real cool stuff shared. Robotic arms, Smart homes, an remote droid thingy, etc.

WPP UnConference
WPP UnConference

The main meat of the unconference happened in tents on the beach. How awesome is that. Marketing professionals talking about really current issues and challenges faced by brands and marketers. There were also some really future thinking topics like how will online advertising be like in 10 years, many industries were covered, from Hospitality to Kids. Here is Jason Oke facilitating the discussion on Click Fraud. I also attended a session where we talked about the idea of reality TV funding our first Mars colony before Nasa can.

All these were done in berms, flip flops, shades and a coconut in hand. How classy.

The Tech Lab
The Tech Lab

There were lots of cool gadgets displayed at the Tech Lab which allowed everyone to get some hands-on. I think there were easily about 15 items on display including the Oculus Rift, Cubelets, many many different kind of mobile phones especially affordable smartphones from China, Interactive Digital Kiosks, an Instant Instagram photo printer and more.

I setup the Makey Makey to allow people to play Pac Man and Tetris. Here is a video of how the 5 player Tetris turned out. Real fun.

Google Glass Selfie
Google Glass Selfie

Finally I managed to try out the Google Glass. Its really cool, but I feel the technology is still very rough. Can’t wait for it to be mainstream.

Xbox One Demo
Xbox One Demo

Managed to get a demo of the Xbox One also from someone at Microsoft. I have to say the capabilities of this console is quite amazing and the amount of stuff it can sense is just jaw dropping. If I tell you It can sense your heartbeat would you believe me?

Stream's Got Talent
Stream’s Got Talent

There was also lots of opportunities for individuals to showcase their other talents. There was a band, an Opera singer, Powerpoint Karaoke, cooking and of cause drinks as well.

#StreamAsia 2014
#StreamAsia 2014

One of my favourite photo of this trip would have to be this one where I used some luminous paint and wrote the event’s hashtag #StreamAsia on me hairy leg lol.

It was an awesome experience and I manage to have real interesting conversations with many new people. An amazing feat as I do feel this is not what introverts do. Hope to get re-invited to this inspiring event.


Shirakawa-Go, Japan by Tatuya SSS on Flickr
Shirakawa-Go, Japan by Tatuya SSS on Flickr

The grass is greener on the other side. This is a very common phrase and I believe many of us subscribe to it on some subconscious level. We read things like 100 Trips You Must Take In Your Lifetime, Top 25 things to do before you die, Top 10 iconic travel experiences, Top 10: Manly Life Experiences or maybe even those crazy Kickstarter projects that get a million in a day like the Elevation Dock or Double Fine Adventure game. Then we ask ourselves, what the hell are we doing staying in this dead end job? Is there more to life? Should we just quit and go do things we like?

There is definitely some truth in it, but quitting your day job now without a plan is a huge move and many live to tell the tale of great experiences after quitting and even some great success stories of riches and amazing lifestyle, but even more are too embarrassed to mention anything as they dry up their savings, adjust their lifestyle to the best they can and maybe some end up going back into another dead end job.

The question can be “is your current job right for you?” or maybe we need to think “am I right for my employer?” If you are not getting your increments, if you are not being put in increasingly important roles, if you are not solving problems for your employer or co-workers (or your customers if you are self employed) then I believe there is a problem. Look at the company and look at yourself and don’t kid yourself, where do you think is the problem? I don’t know and I’m not trying to say where the problem is, but we all do need to take a serious look and ask ourselves honestly.

The seduction of change for change sake is very real and I believe we are telling ourselves something.

Ever since I’ve followed Airows on tumblr, I’ve came to the realisation of one thing. We all desire something else, something different. We want new experiences, visit new places.

This very simple Tumblr blog serves up visual inspirations. It shows up suave guys and alluring women, magnificent landscapes and awe inspiring architecture, lust worthy products and much desirable lifestyles. Its a pure visual treat. Life should look like this. Life should be like this.

I believe at this point, my altruistic friends will label me materialistic, seduced by the world. There are people suffering, less privileged, famine, rape, war, bad stuff, ugly stuff. True. Very true and you know what, these less privileged-suffering-hungry and abused-people in war stricken places desire the same thing. They desire change. Something else, something different.

Its not hard really.

Just get off your lazy ass and do something about it NOW. Take a short trip this weekend, renovate your room, cycle to the neighbouring country, save up for that trip and spend the money happily, pick up a skill, start ticking off your bucket list. If you don’t have a bucket list, than your ass is lazier then I’ve imagined.

Unfortunately we live in a society that primarily uses money as the yardstick of what we can and cannot have. Fine, if you still think quitting is it, then i’ve got nothing to say.

I’m very blessed because I love the people I work with and I dream of them all the time. Many are in different stages in their life, some young and figuring things out, some are at the brink of becoming an awesome manager, some at the brink of becoming an amazing individual in their craft, some are just enjoying themselves.

I could have chosen to view some as irresponsible, selfish, untalented or even downright useless, but then I’ll i’ll then be surrounded with idiots. Why would I want to do this to myself. I choose to truly believe I’m blessed and surrounded with awesome people. People who have great life stories, people who have great potential, people who I can be friends for life.

I desire change. Change for the better.