Project management represents the application of specialized expertise, techniques, tools, and skills to bring about the delivery of a valuable outcome or product to individuals or groups.
It includes everything possibly related to a project, such as planning, resource acquisition and monitoring, budget management, production supervising, deliverables, and many other aspects. While project management takes care of individual parts of a project, it also takes care of the communication between them, reporting to authorities and stakeholders, PR, and unexpected problems.
The project manager oversees various initiatives, including new product launches, software development, and networking events. To ensure successful project outcomes, effective project management includes:
By implementing these practices, we strive to achieve project objectives in a timely and cost-effective manner, driving success within our organization.
It’s impossible to understand project management without understanding what a project is. A project is an activity that requires a series of tasks done in a precise timeline to achieve a goal. A project is very practical, with a clear start, end, steps, and purpose. It’s not something you would wish to happen but something you can do in a limited amount of time and with limited resources. If it doesn’t have a deadline and a plan, then it’s not a project.
To make sure you don’t mistake a wish or New Year’s resolution with a project, here are the components a project must have:
Project management helps you plan and track a project and ensures you will reach your goals. It enables you to keep productivity at a high pace, avoid making mistakes, and solve unpredictable issues. Furthermore, proper project management reduces expenses, improves team communication, motivates people to do a better job, and helps you comply with rules and legislation. You will meet deadlines, promote a healthier culture, and develop stronger teams.
In short, the key benefits that will convince you to pick up project management and use it in everything you do are the following:
Project management is a dynamic journey that consists of four essential phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. Let's discuss about each of the four phases:
By understanding and effectively navigating each project management phase, you can enhance your project's chances of success and deliver results that meet stakeholders' expectations. Each phase focuses your attention on a specific aspect of the project and equips you with the necessary tools to achieve your goals. By giving proper attention to each phase, you can confidently navigate your project and set yourself up for success.
Tip: Due to their importance, we have dedicated an entire article to project management phases.
So far, we’ve spoken about the importance of project management and what is included in this activity. It’s time to speak about how you implement project management, which means discussing methodology.
Project management takes you from point A, the desire to accomplish a goal, to point B, achieving the goal. You can travel from A to B linearly or iteratively. When you choose the linear approach, you are using the waterfall methodology. When you choose the iterative approach, you use the Agile methodology. Almost all project management types use one of these two methodologies.
The waterfall methodology suits predictable projects that managers can plan thoroughly. There is little room for unpredictable situations and unexpected issues. At the same time, there is no chance of feedback until the end of the project.
The Agile methodology suits unpredictable projects that know little about intermediary stages between A and B. The project receives feedback before its end and must adapt continuously. New features may be added. Others may be taken out.
For a visual example, imagine that your project is organizing the pantry. If you know exactly how much space is in the pantry, how many shelves it has, and what products will be stored there, you can thoroughly plan your project and receive feedback from your spouse at the finish line. However, if you don’t know how much storage space you have and how many shelves your spouse wants, you must adapt to whatever requests you receive. Feedback will also come before the end of the project. It would help if you worked iteratively.
You can try several types of project management, even though the project management phases are the same for all of them. The type dictates how you organize resources of all sorts and the way you track tasks, budgets, staff loading, and so on. If you choose the wrong project management type, you’ll find out sooner rather than later. Not all types suit any project, and your employees are most likely to get upset.
The traditional methodology acknowledges the power of planning and allocates much time to project planning. The entire activity is divided into tasks and subtasks and scheduled according to their dependencies. The progress is slow but well-determined, and you can hardly expect to have any iteration. This project management type is perfect when you know what you are doing and expect everything to work according to plan.
This type of PM takes the opposite approach. Instead of focusing on planning, this project management type focuses on continuously monitoring and adjusting the project. The project manager uses a visual workflow (a Kanban board or chart) and reacts quickly to any situation. This project management type is ideal for projects with a large dose of unpredictability.
Agile is a new sort project management type that underlines the importance of iterations. In this scenario, the project manager doesn’t try to solve everything from the beginning or on the spot. Instead, they make small iterations, trying to respond to feedback and incrementally reach the desired outcome. It’s popular in software development and other areas where projects can be divided into small tasks and receive feedback during the development.
Scrum is a version of Agile project management that splits a project into stages of one to four weeks each. It also has an incremental development and adapts to new demands but is not necessarily iterative. Furthermore, this type includes a lot of team organization based on precise roles. It’s usually used for marketing campaigns and creative projects.
Project management isn’t something you can do without proper tools. The good news is there are plenty of them, from dedicated solutions to generic software you can customize for project management.
The key tools you need are a dashboard, a timeline, and a visual board.
The dashboard provides an overall project perspective and includes tasks, resources, and budget. It allows you to carefully watch the activity of every department and part of the project. It also shows who’s on time, what tasks are delayed, and where a bottleneck may appear. You can use dedicated software for a dashboard or an Excel template.
A timeline shows the progress of tasks in time. It also shows the dependencies between tasks, their priorities and status, and who handles each task. Usually, you’ll want to use a Gantt chart to track the progress of your project.
A visual board, such as a Kanban board, allows you to visualize a task in its tiniest details. It makes tasks transparent and collaborative by showing who’s working on what, their progress, observations and decisions, productivity indicators, and everything in between. A visual board is your best tool if you want to keep a close eye on everything happening and take quick action.
Try project management software for complicated projects with elaborate tasks and various resources. But you can also use dedicated software only for specific project parts, such as writing a project proposal, people management and finance, and do the rest with Excel templates. Project management software may be expensive. If you can’t fit its cost in the budget, free small apps are a better choice.
For small projects, an app that provides time tracking and employee self-service may be all you need. Add an Excel dashboard and Gantt chart, and you are ready to start your project.
The project management team may have one or more members based on how big your project is. For a small project, a project manager may be all you need. Choose someone with leadership experience or a professional project manager. However, having a project manager doesn’t mean your team should be involved. Engage people by offering transparent project management, promoting collaboration, and encouraging your employees to be open and take ownership.
If you manage a large project, you will need a project team with members coming from all departments. Define roles and procedures and include people with a variety of experience and talents. Each can take care of a particular aspect of the project and report to the project manager.
Building a project management team has three steps:
Following steps and methodologies is the core of project management. They help you have a straightforward approach, avoid mistakes, and make your work efficient. And it’s easier to tackle one task at a time than starting all of them at once. However, a few tips are always welcome. So, have these in mind for your next project management assignment:
Project management is part of any business, small or large. It’s present in individual and team projects across all industries. But it can be extremely stressful and hard work. Using the right methodology and tools takes you a long way. Choose them wisely, and your effort and time will be considerably reduced. Remember that project management is rarely a one-person play, and engage your team and employees to take ownership and share the responsibility.