“Oh. No… This is going to take WAY longer than I thought”
How many times have you said that to yourself in the past week? The past month? The past year?
Why’s it so hard to estimate how long a task will take? How many people it’ll take? Whether you’re able to add it to your to-do’s?
Almost every project runs over deadline. Why does this happen despite everyone’s best efforts? You’ve got a vague sense that there’s some underlying cause of why a simple request from someone might have little effect on your workload or deadlines in some cases, but in others the same request can cause a huge delay, or mean you’ll be working flat out for weeks to catch up.
What’s going on? Should we just shrug our shoulders and accept “that’s just the world of modern work”?
I don’t think so. Not at all.
There is a way for you to plan for the many curve-balls that come your way when managing a project. It’s possible to develop a sense of intuition about whether a project is about to be delayed, or how to mitigate problems as they arise. Even better, it’s possible to plan projects that head off many of the setbacks that others’ consider an unfathomable, inevitable occurrence.
Whether you’re managing a project, or are part of one, there’s fundamental principles at play. Once you learn about them, you’ll spot them happening all around you. I’ll bet that if you go check your inbox right now – there’s at least one message that’s about to affect the lead time, critical path, effort, overhead or capacity of the projects you’re juggling. And Data Analysts end up having to do a lot of juggling.
Once you know what these fundamental principles are, you can plan for or mitigate them. If a project really goes up in flames, you can apply the right fix to them. Just like you need to learn fundamental concepts in maths or physics to be able to extrapolate solutions to more complex problems, so too will learning about the fundamental concepts of project management help you for the rest of your career. Frankly, as astonishing as it is that we send high schoolers out into the world without any knowledge about how taxes work, bills, credit or managing a household budget, neither do most Data Analysts get ANY training on how to manage projects. None at all. Pretty crazy given that with the growth in data worldwide, data professionals are finding themselves embedded in, and often leading, pretty complex projects in novel areas.
Learning is of course a lifelong exercise, but I don’t think many Project Management resources lend themselves as a good first introduction to the topic. Courses are quite long, the material a bit dry or a lot of more advanced esoteric stuff packaged up with the basics to justify high price tags.
In Project Management Fundamentals for Data Analysts, I’ve boiled the concepts down to the bare essentials which can be read in under 15 minutes – you can certainly fit that into your crazy schedule (and it will help your future schedule not be so chaotic!).
These concepts can be used to great effect on their own if you wish to never read another word on the topic. It’ll also provide a solid foundation if you want to dive deeper into more formal courses or sophisticated theory.
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