Project coordination is a core element of project management. It involves managing and monitoring the web of processes that govern how teams approach specific, day-to-day tasks during a given project, streamlining them where possible and ensuring everyone is on track.
Project managers concerned with making their project processes as efficient and easy to follow as possible will spend significant time trying to improve their project coordination. Alternatively, they may employ a project coordinator or use project management software to help them.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at project coordination, the main advantages of coordinating projects well, and some of the best tools for coordinating projects of all shapes and sizes.
Project coordination involves working on specific tasks and responsibilities throughout a project, paying close attention to the finer details of certain processes and duties that you wouldn’t typically associate with top-level project management.
Project coordination also includes the constant improvement of daily project management operations and undertakings, to make teams more efficient and synergetic.
Project coordination may involve producing reports for stakeholders, holding morning standups to check if everyone is prioritizing their work correctly, and organizing workflows within a project management software application like Teamwork.
Although project coordination is a job that often falls at the feet of project managers, some projects have project coordinators to assist project managers with day-to-day process management, as well as creating reports and updates for stakeholders and managing project costs.
The Main Benefits of Project Coordination
While the benefits of having a switched-on project manager are obvious – every team needs an accountable leader – not everyone is clued in on the benefits of astute project coordination. Some of the main benefits of project coordination include:
- The ability to constantly improve and streamline workflows
- Higher quality reporting and clearer communication
- Easier to incorporate feedback from project stakeholders
- More oversight of day-to-day project processes and operations
- A better chance of staying on budget and ahead of schedule
- Team members have a clearer understanding of project goals
- Nimble resource and employee capacity management
Not spending enough time coordinating the finer details of projects can be fatal. Poor (or a lack of) project coordination can lead to scope creep, the uncontrollable widening of a project's scope, which in turn inflates budgets and makes for unhappy project stakeholders.
Project Coordination vs Project Management
In the context of team roles, a project manager is responsible for defining a project's goals and objectives, running premortem planning sessions, assigning tasks to teams and/or individuals, signing off on work, and ultimately, a project’s success or failure.
A project coordinator, on the other hand, is more deeply involved in the execution of day-to-day tasks that follow from a project plan. There’s less high-level planning involved in this role – it’s more about making decisions down in the trenches once the project has begun.
Project managers and project coordinators will tend to work closely together. A project coordinator will usually report into a project manager, and despite their differing responsibilities, these two roles may have significant overlap.
In some projects, a project coordinator may simply assist with a project manager’s duties or take on specific coordination-based roles dictated by the project manager. In other projects (especially small ones), these two roles might be carried out by the same person, usually under the title of project manager.
Alternatively, some project managers may call on team members with specific soft skills to coordinate certain aspects of their project, especially if they're using the Agile framework for project management, which encourages teams to self-organize.
For example, a marketing executive may be asked to coordinate the social media campaign for a new app, while a lead engineer might be asked to coordinate app testing and rollout.
Project Coordination Tips
Now you're a little more familiar with project management, we'll discuss some tips to improve your project coordination.
Define your project's goals and aims
Putting it bluntly, you can't coordinate without any purpose or something to coordinate toward – so defining your project's goals is the first thing you should be doing. Crucially, these goals have to be clear and easily understandable to everyone working on your project, as well as realistic and achievable. If you set an impossible goal from the outset, coordinating your project is going to be difficult – your team will quickly become disgruntled and demotivated.
Defining a project's specific goals and aims is increasingly considered a team activity, especially if you want buy-in from your team – even if the over-arching purpose of the project is defined by a group of external stakeholders.
If your team has had a hand in defining what it's working towards, the logic is that they'll be pulling in the same direction from the start – making your efforts to coordinate their workflows and day-to-day duties a whole lot easier.
Set expectations from the get-go
Setting expectations is a key part of project planning that makes coordinating projects so much easier. Letting your team know exactly what you expect in terms of both behavior and workload will cut down on confusion further down the line and ensure that baseline standards can be communicated.
One of the most difficult things to deal with when coordinating a project is the “that's not my job” attitude – and expectation setting is an easy way to nip this kind of approach in the bud before you even commence any project work.
If you're a project coordinator, you're going to be concerned with how your team's processes are being used on a day-to-day basis, and ensuring everyone understands exactly how the team should be operating before your project is underway will give you the best chance of ensuring they're running smoothly.
Create a detailed project schedule
Coordinating a project without a schedule is like looking for buried treasure without a map – it's going to be very inefficient, take you a hell of a lot longer, and if you do eventually achieve your goal, it'll be more down to guesswork than intelligent forward planning.
Importantly, it shouldn't just be the project coordinator who has 24/7 access to this schedule – it should be shared widely with the team, and in some instances, even stakeholders. This way, everyone will know where to find coordination-based changes updates, and need-to-know information.
Project management software tools like Wrike and ClickUp, which have a huge range of project views you can use to display your project schedule, can function effectively as the single source of truth that all projects need.
Selecting different project views in Wrike. Image: Tech.co
If you're currently getting by with an overflowing spreadsheet that you dread opening up every morning, you'll appreciate the dedicated tools apps like these have that help enormously with project scheduling and in turn coordination.
Hold regular standups and check-ins
While setting expectations and creating a project schedule will provide you with the organizational foundation you need for project success, leaving your team to their own devices once the project is underway and catching them up with them on deadline day is a recipe for disaster.
If you're a project manager or coordinator, providing regular opportunities for team members to touch base with you will ensure that problems, issues, and obstacles are raised as quickly as possible before they get out of hand, creating fewer coordination headaches.
If a team member feels like they're struggling to meet a deadline, and you find out with hours to go because you hadn't checked in with them for a week or two, you'll have to coordinate cover for their work and extra support for them in a flash – and there is no guarantee will even rectify the problem.
Regular check-ins will help you understand your team's workloads, interests, strengths, and weaknesses – which is exactly the kind of useful information you'll need for scheduling. Standups, on the other hand, will promote accountability – a point in the day (or week) where everyone has to provide information on what they're working on is a good way to ensure everyone is taking responsibility for their tasks.
Monitor your critical path closely
The critical path of your project is the sequence of key tasks that will make or break your project, and they usually have to be completed in a specific order. If you're a project coordinator, you should always have your project's critical path in mind as it'll help you decide what to prioritize – which in itself is a key part of project coordination.
Keeping a close eye on your project's critical path isn't to say that tasks and duties that fall outside of it aren't important – but suggesting that every project responsibility holds equal weight will make it impossible to respond to changes or challenges you may experience once your project is underway.
Project coordinators are expected to make tough decisions on scheduling and workloads, and a comprehensive understanding of your project's critical path will help you avoid decision paralysis.
Align your reporting formats
To support your scheduling and overall project coordination, align your reporting formats as quickly as you can, and ideally before the project even starts. If you want your project to run as smoothly as possible, you want everyone to know what they should be reporting, who they should be reporting to, and where they should be reporting it – more specifically, the software tools or platforms they should be using to create their reports.
For example, if everyone is updating tasks they're working on in monday.com – and everyone has a specific workspace for their specific part of the project – this is going to be a lot easier for you to digest as project coordinator than a flurry of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, emails, and Microsoft Teams messages.
Communicate clearly – and often
Naturally, you can coordinate a project as well as anyone can, but if you're not communicating changes to your colleagues, this will all be for nothing. Many of the tips above – such as setting expectations and holding regular check-ins – are supported by good communication.
Crucially though, this has to continue throughout the project, and if you're in a project coordination role, a lot of your day will be spent communicating changes and feedback to team members. Firm, honest, clear, and kind communication is always the key – coordinating just isn't possible if you can't convey new information to the other people working on your project.
If communication is important to you and your team, ensure you're using project management software with ample communication tools, such as Teamwork, which has a project message board and a chat tool that you can add to your workspace.
Tools and Software for Project Coordination
Luckily for project managers and coordinators, there are loads of simple project management tools and apps available online specifically designed to help teams improve their project coordination.
monday.com topped our recent project management ease of use tests, and the clean, minimalistic interface makes coordinating projects a stress-free experience. monday.com’s wide range of task management tools available on its affordably-priced plans, from task dependencies to milestones and sub-tasks, ensure that you won’t miss out on any granular details of any task in your project.
monday.com's Kanban board. GIF: Tech.co
ClickUp, on the other hand, is your best bet if communication is a top priority for your team. ClickUp’s chat view – which lets you set up conversations with any group of team members of your choosing – will ensure coordination is a collaborative, group effort. It also means you won’t have to leave the ClickUp app where all of your work is just to clarify something with your team!
During testing, Wrike impressed us when it came to providing tools for resource management, which is a key part of coordinating any project. We found Wrike to be well-positioned to support team leads managing complicated projects due to features that'll let you keep track of your team's workloads, assess individual capacity and effort, and create weekly work reports.
Wrike also has a wide range of preset project templates that aid with project coordination, such as this all-purpose business operations template:
Wrike's business operations template. Image: Tech.co
If you like the sound of Wrike, ClickUp, or monday.com, check out how their prices compare to other top competitors on the market.
All prices listed as per user, per month (billed annually)
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