Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is part of a blog series on creating elearning courses by Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP. Sharlyn is a HR pro turned consultant with more than 20 years of professional human resources experience.
I have a confession to make. My elearning project is behind schedule. It happens to the best of us. Something unexpected happens—like getting a cold that slows you down, or having your computer hard drive go kaput, or other projects come along that need immediate attention. Being behind schedule doesn’t mean the project is over. The important part is getting the project back on track.
It was years into my professional life before I took my first project management course. If you’re new to the concept of project management, OpenSesame has some course offerings from Vado, which include downloadable project management aids that can be used while you are actually working on your project.
Prior to starting the project, there are a couple of things you can do to build a realistic project timeline.
- Identify all the tasks that need to be completed.
- Budget for all the resources necessary to complete the project.
- Prioritize the work.
- Assume delays will happen.
- Consider your normal project schedules.
Once you’ve got a rough timeline in place, commit to the timeline formally. What I mean by this is budget time for it on your calendar. A project of this magnitude will never get finished if you do it when nothing else is happening. We’re all busy, so allocating time is critical.
If you don’t already have favorite project management software to help you formally schedule out the project, here are a few suggestions:
Microsoft Project is a software program that offers the ability to produce a project timeline including resource allocation, instant messaging within groups, and team collaboration. The software has multiple versions to accommodate your project management needs.
Basecamp is a cloud-based software program that offers users the ability to create checklists with deadlines, upload project documents, and invite multiple users to a project group. It offers apps so you can follow the status of your project on any device.
Trello is a free tool that offers both a web and app version. It uses the idea of “cards” that can be moved from column to column, similar to agile methodology or scrum development for those that are familiar.
The key to selecting project management software is to find what works for you. Don’t purchase something because it’s the hot new trendy program on the market. There’s an old quote by celebrity chef Alton Brown, “organization shall set you free”. I know he’s talking about being organized in the kitchen, but the same applies here. Your elearning project will stay on track if you’re organized, so find the method that works best for you.
At this point, you’ve put together a reasonable timeline and committed it to your schedule. Now it’s time to realize that, at some point, there will be a challenge. I’m not trying to burst your bubble here—just being realistic. The good news is, if it never comes, think about how pleasantly surprised you will be.
If you do have to deal with a delay or multiple delays, however, establishing a good timeline to start will not derail your project very far. In my experience, it’s when you have an unrealistic timeline to begin with—and then you get a delay—that’s when the project can really get off track.
When a project does experience a delay, you are in control of how to fix the situation. Here are a couple of questions to ask:
- What is the reason for the delay?
- Do you need or want to extend the project timeline?
- Should you hire an outside consultant to assist with the project?
Using effective project management tools allows you to stay focused on the entire project and make good decisions when adjustments are necessary.
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender, whose blog is a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When she’s not “tending bar”, Sharlyn is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. Her personal goal in life is to find the best cheeseburger on the planet. Connect with her on Google+ or follow her on Twitter.
Additional posts in the series:
Part 1 - Planning Your OpenSesame Training Course
Part 2 - How To Write the Perfect Learning Objective
Part 3 - How To Brand Your Training Programs So They'll Last
Part 4 - How To Storyboard Your eLearning Course