If you are an employee of a small organization or of a research institution, or just a freelancer, you are likely dealing with one-person projects. You are the team, you are the project manager, so you are responsible for all project documentation, communication, and, of course, project work.

Before you start looking for the right project management software and methodology, make sure you were assigned a project and not just a task or a set of interrelated tasks to accomplish a goal. A project has a definite beginning and end, and its aim is to create a unique product or service. It also has definite resources and usually its timeframe is defined by the organization. If indeed you were assigned a project, it is useful to approach it from a project management perspective in order to complete the work in an efficient manner, taking advantage of the knowledge, tools, and techniques of project management.

All projects have scope, deliverables, resources, and budget. For one-person projects, you are in charge of planning, executing, and monitoring your work, and you are accountable for the project’s outcome. Almost any project management methodology can be applied to one-person projects, with some exceptions. For example, applying Scrum is arguably not possible because there is no Scrum Master or Product Owner. But if you have volatile project requirements, an agile management approach is likely to fit your project, so you can use Scrum or other agile process as a basis to create your own version of the methodology and tailor it for your specific project.

In many cases, one-person projects are a simplified version of multiple-people projects. An important thing that is sometimes overlooked is the identification of the project’s stakeholders. In one-person projects, you tend to consider only the manager who assigned you the project and probably the customer as the stakeholders. In reality, there are many more people that are your project’s stakeholders, from the upper management, the organization you are part of, the customer, the end users, to your family members. Project stakeholders include not only the people and organizations effectively involved in the project’s execution, but also anyone who may be affected by the outcome of the project or who may affect the project in any way. It is crucial to identify all major stakeholders to ensure you establish a communication plan so that each main stakeholder is informed of the progress of your project and can offer timely feedback.

Obviously, your project planning is much more than identifying stakeholders and creating a communication plan. It usually involves creating a schedule with milestones, a work breakdown structure, a Gantt chart if you wish, and much more. This is where project management tools such as RationalPlan can help, keeping in mind that using project management software does not replace project management knowledge. Especially if you have more than one project going on at one time, keeping all projects’ relevant documents in one place and being able to access them from anywhere are essential for each project’s success. Once the planning stage is completed, it is time to do the work and stick to the plan, if possible.

Cristina Neagu

Cristina Neagu, PhD, is a freelance editor and proofreader, and a Certified Associate in Project Management. She loves creative writing and managed a virtual team of writers for three years. When she's not working, she likes to read, spend time outdoors, and travel. Visit her website, www.languageediting.com, or contact her on LinkedIn.