Though they may seem like minor players when it comes to successfully completing a project, templates can be tremendously helpful in closing some significant gaps in the planning and execution process. Without templates, your team may have trouble communicating effectively with stakeholders. They might omit crucial details when handing off a multi-part task to a fellow team member. It’s even possible they could forget to include key datasets when developing the project’s scope, timeline, or budget.
In short, project performance could suffer if your team doesn’t have a strategy to keep track of information, activities, resources, and supporters in an organized and consistent way. That’s exactly the usability templates were designed to deliver.
If you haven’t reviewed your team’s suite of project templates lately, consider where better standardization of backend processes could help avoid problems. But don’t wait until challenges interfere with progress. To ensure your team has the best tools at hand, schedule proactive reviews of your most-used templates as part of your broader project performance improvement program.
Build better communication channels
The list of people sharing information with your team throughout a project’s lifecycle is extensive. Some stakeholders are only involved in an initiative for a short time while others are active participants from start to finish. You need to juggle that ever-changing list of supporters and make sure each of them is part of the information chain at the appropriate time. Templates are a good solution to keep everyone in the loop.
Begin by establishing a format for routine communications such as progress updates and meeting alerts. By standardizing your message structure, even new stakeholders will learn how to scan incoming e-mails and identify the information they need. This type of template also saves time internally, since team members don’t need to recreate the wheel for every new message. A template with a similar structure—fillable fields for the data points you want, for example—can also be used when requesting information from stakeholders.
Avoid missed or incomplete activities
Your project team members are skilled task managers who don’t often forget to execute their duties, but there may be touch points between sub-groups where the risk of an activity dropping through the cracks increases. It’s at these junctions where templates are most useful.
Think about how templates can enable your team members to cleanly hand off tasks across barriers—from one discipline, department, or division to another. You want to standardize the information they pass along so no one loses sight of the task’s current status, everyone knows the necessary next steps, and important data remains accessible to help move the activity through subsequent phases of execution.
Ensure consistency in data gathering and reporting
There’s a lot of information flowing through your project team, but that data won’t provide real value until you can capture it and put it to use. Whether it’s estimating how long a task will take, providing figures on actual expenditures to date, or forecasting how many workers will be needed during peak periods, you don’t want to interpret incoming data incorrectly. Templates are the key to ensuring information is consistent and standardized, even across multiple information streams.
Think about the ways templates can provide guidance on gathering data and using standard units of measure when reporting information to the team. How do you want timeframes represented in task duration estimates? How should people calculate hours for full-time versus part-time labor? When they provide activity progress reports, what methodology should they use? These aren’t trivial matters. A template will help maintain consistency and ensure that project decisions are based on sound, reliable data.
PMAlliance, Inc offers project management consulting, project management training and projec