Project Management Best Practices

As you are planning for and/or progressing through your project, we encourage you to keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Set clear priorities, including scope, definitions, desired deliverables and definition of completion to ensure agreement on project goals across all stakeholders, sponsors and project team.
  • Clearly define team roles and responsibilities, including optional or required involvement to ensure that the project team understands what is expected of them.
  • Prioritize opportunities using multiple factors such as importance, impact, risk and cost to identify key areas of focus.
  • Identify quick wins to gain momentum throughout the project and show tangible outputs to the campus community.
  • Communicate clearly and consistently with relevant stakeholders to gain buy-in.
  • Identify an individual who can serve as a connection point between the project team and project sponsors to be a voice to leadership and maintain consistent check-ins with sponsors, to keep the team on task and provide visibility to resources and other impacted areas.
  • Take time when needed to clarify and contextualize objectives, definitions, etc. to ensure that all individuals understand next steps and impacts to campus.
  • Identify opportunities to engage the campus community and request feedback to ensure that all perspectives are represented throughout the process.

Project Management


There is no formal budget line for Op. Excellence projects and all budget or funding requests may be submitted to Paul Redman, Executive Associate Provost for Budget and Resource Planning. Examples of past budget requests have included meeting space reservation fees and meeting supplies.

As you are planning your Op. Excellence project, we recommend that you consider the following resources for your efforts:

  • FTE (volunteer or dedicated)
  • Financial
  • Technology
  • Informational
  • Physical/ Space
  • Risk Management
Data Accessibility and Privacy

Often times, data accessibility and privacy is overlooked in the early planning stages of projects, however it is a crucial piece and legal requirement to ensure the success and applicability of projects on campus.

Accessibility: Information and technology must be accessible to individuals with disabilities and project teams should keep accessibility requirements in mind during their planning and development. To learn more about accessibility requirements at the University of Illinois, please refer to below resources:

Privacy: All technology services and information must be developed, collected and managed in compliance with university policies to ensure that individuals’ and groups’ privacy is respected. To learn more about privacy at the University of Illinois, please refer to the below resources:

Meeting Management

Recommended meeting frequency and format is as follows.

  • Kickoff: Meeting of entire project team. Usually led by project manager, though can be project sponsor in some cases. Send charter ahead of the meeting and review in detail during the meeting. Try to clarify any points of confusion regarding objectives and scope. Confirm meeting frequency, duration and location/ format. Establish expectations for participation and work effort asynchronously.
  • Frequency: Determined by team but no less than every 3 weeks.
  • Duration: Generally, under 2 hours per session, longer sessions periodically as needed.
  • Virtual vs In-person Meetings: Both are acceptable.
  • Physical Meeting Spaces Available for Op. Excellence Teams: Below is a list of rooms that Operational Excellence teams have used for in-person meetings and workshops.
Project Phases

The project phases below are an example of how you might structure your project plan. The duration and final output of each phase varies by project.

  1. Establish Goals: Review charter, objectives and deliverables.
  2. Current-State Review: Understand the current state, use process mapping exercises.
  3. Issue Identification: Identify pain points in the current process, gaps and root causes of the issues. Categorize and prioritize issues and establish alignment on the issues that need to be redesigned.
  4. Solution Brainstorming: Brainstorm solution to identified process issues.
  5. Action Plan: Establish next steps for process redesign and action plan to implement. If in scope, implement the proposed solutions, otherwise hand-off to an implementation team.
  6. Close: Confirm objectives met, complete final report, have formal meeting with team and sponsor to close the project.

Team Roles & Responsibilities

Team Size

The size of a team can have a significant impact on its effectiveness. A team with too few members may struggle to complete tasks on time, while a team with too many members may experience communication difficulties and a lack of accountability. For most Operational Excellence projects, a team size of 5-8 members is recommended. However, additional members (e.g., subject matter experts) can be brought in as needed for specific meetings.

Project Composition
SponsorA sponsor is a senior manager or leader who is responsible for setting the strategic direction of a project, overseeing progress and ensuring achievement of objectives. The sponsor assumes responsibility for decision-making while serving as a link between the project manager/team and other stakeholders.
Project ManagerThe project manager oversees the day-to-day operations of a project team and is responsible for defining the scope, objectives and deliverables of the project. The project manager supports the planning and monitoring of a project, ensuring timely completion of all deliverables and assessing/managing risks and changes.
Team MemberA team member is responsible for the execution and completion of tasks and collaboration with other members of the team. A team member should remain in consistent communication with the project manager to provide updates on progress and potential risks.
StakeholderAn individual or group that has interest or influence in your project. A stakeholder can impact or be impacted by the outcomes of your project.
Subject Matter ExpertAn individual with significant expertise or knowledge in a particular area. A SME may be brought in throughout the duration of your project to provide additional guidance or support.
RACI Charts

RACI charts are a useful tool for clarifying roles and responsibilities within a team by identifying who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who is Consulted and who is Informed for any given task or phase of the project. Having a RACI chart is helpful in many ways:

  • Clarifying Roles: RACI charts will clearly identify everyone’s level of involvement and accountability for tasks and phases throughout the project. A team member may be responsible for completing the task, but the team lead is accountable for making sure the task gets completed on time. A subject matter expert may be consulted when specialized knowledge is necessary for a task. A team member’s role and level of involvement may change throughout the project. For example, an executive sponsor may be responsible for creating the charge document but may only be informed about day-to-day tasks as they get completed. Having a RACI chart will be especially helpful for anyone who joins an Op-Ex project after it has already begun, helping them to quickly understand their role and the role of others involved in the project.
  • Understanding Time Commitments: Each team member will be able to clearly see their level of involvement as the project moves through different phases. This will help team members to manage time expectations and commitments better.
  • Identifying Points of Contact: Establishing who is responsible and accountable for each task makes it easier to know who to contact when questions arise.
  • Meeting Efficiency: Team members will be better prepared for meetings as everyone will have a better understanding of who is responsible for what and know what they will need to have ready for any given meeting.


Charge Letter

A charge letter tasks a group of individuals to serve on the advisory governance committee for a functional area and is a crucial first step to setting expectations for project management and success. View sample charge letter here.

Project Proposal

A project proposal is a written document that defines the scope, objectives and resources of your project. A proposal is submitted to an advisory committee to obtain their approval and when applicable, funding for a project. View a project proposal template here. A project proposal should include:

  • Project Identification: The official name of your project, a high-level description and the names of individuals and/or unit sponsoring the project.
  • Project Information: Describe the organizational need that your project is addressing, objectives and high-level scope. Additionally include key deliverables, major milestones, key assumptions, risks/mitigations, dependencies, alternatives that were considered and how your project’s success will be measured.
  • Project Timeline: List the desired start and end date or time frame for your project and the dates of any dependencies or major milestones if they exist.
  • Project Costs and Funding: Include the cost of labor and other project requirements (such as technology) as well as the funding source for your project.
  • Project Alignment: Indicate the strategic plan that your project aligns to, as well as its scalability (single unit, multiple units or university-wide) and describe how your project will improve services and achieve cost savings.
Project Charter

A project charter provides a brief, high level statement that describes the overall desired impact of the project or problem to be solved. It should clearly state what success looks like for this project. View a project charter template here. A charter should include:

  • Team Membership: Name and role on this team (e.g., member, lead, subject matter expert). Operational Excellence projects will often be cross- functional or cross-campus teams, so it is recommended to include home unit or department, as well as functional area (such as HR, IT, MarCom, etc.) or sub-specialization (HR Director, IT Networking, etc.) to help members understand the team composition and strengths.
  • Estimated Time Commitments: Estimate time per week or another period. This usually varies depending on the role within the team.
  • In/Out of Scope Statements: Simple statements to keep team focused. It is necessary to establish this early but add to as needed throughout the project.
  • Timeline/Milestones: Provide an estimated start and end, as well as milestones for key project steps.
  • Key Deliverables: List the high-level items that will be delivered as part of the project.
  • Key Assumptions and Constraints: List any known assumptions or constraints in the planning of your project, such as turnaround time expectations or resource availability.
  • Risk and Mitigations: List the initial known risks to your project and include any relevant details to be considered during planning.
  • Dependencies: List any known dependencies such as project or resource dependencies, purchasing process, software, other processes, external vendor or groups.
  • Process: Provide an overview of the work breakdown structure for your project and project management such as project planning, tracking, information storage, methodology and change management.

A RAID-C log is a tool that identifies, tracks and addresses items that may impact your project’s progress and success. RAID-C logs ensure that challenges are addressed in a timely manner, improve team communication and enable informed decision making. RAID-C logs should be completed at the beginning of a project and updated throughout the duration as challenges may arise. A RAID-C log is an impactful tool employed by many project managers in different use cases. Here is a sample RAID-C template. The SPMO utilizes the following categories for RAID-C log completion:

  • Risk: identify potential risks that may impact your project’s success and progress and identify ways to mitigate them.
  • Action: identify actions that need to be taken throughout your project and assign an owner to ensure that they are completed.
  • Assumption: document any assumptions made during your project to ensure that all project members are aligned.
  • Issue: track issues that arise during your project and document how to resolve them.
  • Decision: document key decisions made throughout your project to ensure tam alignment.
  • Dependency: identify any dependencies between tasks to ensure that your project timeline can progress as scheduled.
  • Change: document any change requests throughout your project to assess its impact and determine next steps.
Stakeholder Analysis

A stakeholder analysis helps identify the individuals, groups and/or organizations that may be impacted by your efforts or influence your actions. A stakeholder analysis helps to understand the interests, needs, or expectations of your stakeholders to ensure the success of your project. A sample template for stakeholder analysis can be found here.

Communications Plan

A communication plan identifies the manners in which you will engage with your stakeholders throughout the duration of your project. This template may help you set up your plan.

Closing Report

A closing report contains the project objectives, original deliverables, summary of deliverables achieved, changes implemented, method that will be used to track/measure impact and a date for a post-implementation review or check-in with key stakeholders. Briefly explain any objectives that were not achieved or scope changes that occurred throughout the project. A brief summary of key learnings or recommended follow-up projects should also be included.

Lessons Learned

The lessons learned process plays an essential role in the success of a project. By documenting lessons learned, project teams record experience gained while executing a project. Knowledge collected from projects during lessons learned sessions is applied to future projects, providing a mechanism for continuous improvement. The SPMO will complete the lessons learned process for all managed projects. Here is the form template used by the SPMO.

Information Sharing

Private channels are created within Microsoft Teams for Op. Excellence project teams. A central, hosted location is recommended for continual communication, sharing and posting files. It is recommended these continue in Teams; please contact the SPMO for initial access or to discuss alternate documentation locations.

Data Management Plan
  • Initiate & Manage: Have one point person primarily responsible to organize project files within Teams and manage access for other members/contributors. This is usually the project lead or project manager but can be a designated team member.
  • Define: Determine what data will be acquired or generated and establish a structure early in the project to facilitate team effectiveness. It is recommended data be organized by phases of the project.
  • Security: If you will be collecting or viewing high risk or sensitive data, consult with experts to confirm your data storage and access plan is acceptable.
  • Timeliness: Though it may be challenging, post templates, drafts and final documents throughout the project as work progresses.
  • Other Best Practices:
    • When possible, use common file formats such as Word (.docx) for documents, PowerPoint (.pptx) and Excel (.xlsx).
    • For other file types, such as Visio flow diagrams, Project files, etc., consider saving both the original and a PDF copy for those that may need to view without that software.
    • The project team may have access to drafts, in-process and revisions of files, but consider having a separate folder for “final” or “official” reports that will be shared or for easy future reference after project completion.
    • Long term management, archiving and final repository of Operational Excellence projects will be the responsibility of the SPMO.