A Short Introduction to Project Management
Project management does seem like the buzz nowadays but the data tells a bit of a different story. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), only 46% of organizations looked at in 2020 cared about project management enough to make it part of the company’s culture.
That’s despite data from PMI that showed companies that didn’t give much thought to project management wound up with 50% of their projects being unsuccessful. If you’re reading this, you probably can relate to this stat — and you want to change it.
This post is a good starting point, so let’s get into it.
What is project management?
Project management can be defined as a plan to see a given task to successful completion –either one-time or on an ongoing basis. At its core, project management is like a roadmap consisting of:
- What’s supposed to be done
- A plan to tackle the project at hand
- The expected outcomes (objectives)
- The approximate project timeline
- Various team members and their responsibilities
- The budget
All these ensure that the project runs as smoothly as possible and provide an opportunity for timely tweaks along the way.
Why Do We Need Project Management?
Here’s why a few more organizations could use project management:
- Risk management — having a clear roadmap makes it easier to see what could go wrong and plan for it accordingly.
- Establishes a predictable way of achieving the best results.
- Makes collaboration much easier across an organization’s different departments.
- Brings clarity as there’s a well-spelled-out set of objectives, the corresponding steps to get there, when to get there, and the specific people that are supposed to make it happen.
- It helps point out early on if a project is worth pursuing, saving tons of time and resources that could have been otherwise used to pursue a nonviable task.
- Having a project plan makes it easy to resolve issues as they arise along the way.
Stages in Project Management
As per the Project Management Institute, project management consists of five main stages/phases. These are
- Project Closure
There’s a lot to be said about each one of these stages. But for some basic understanding, check the following brief overviews:
Before starting a project, you must, of course, have an idea in mind. You also have to decide whether or not that idea is worth pursuing.
This is what the initiation stage is for.
At this point, the project manager gives a rough idea of the project in what’s referred to as the project charter. The charter will typically contain the budget, a timeline, assumptions and constraints, some goals, etc.
This first stage is also where the key people in the project are identified, alongside the various roles they’ll play.
The planning phase is technically where major work on the project begins. Remember when we said that initiation is basically just the project manager giving a vague idea of the project? Planning goes beyond that.
The key people from the initiation phase set up a specific project timeline, decide the goals/deliverables, work out the technical requirements, and create a communication plan.
Most importantly, the team also decides the project management methodology to be followed (more on that later).
This is pretty straightforward — less talk and more doing. Everything that has been discussed up to this point is put to the test in the execution phase which is where the actual project is worked on.
Here, communication across team members is of utmost importance to keep the project flow as smooth as possible. This also helps with the next phase — monitoring.
Ideally, this phase runs concurrently with execution. The basic idea here is to keep everyone on the path towards the preset objectives/goals.
Whatever the various stakeholders are doing, is it producing the intended result? If not, what can be done about it? Maybe switch up things a little? What would be the effect of such a change on, say, the budget?
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Critical Success Factors (CSF) are two common ways project managers use to monitor a project.
A project will have to be terminated eventually bringing in the last phase, closure. The activities here will vary depending on the project. But documentation, terminating contracts, and project post mortems are quite common.
Documentation, in this case, involves drawing up a detailed report of the whole process. This can form a basis for future project management endeavors in the organization in terms of what to do and what to avoid.
Project Management Methodologies
As we’ve seen above, project management will ultimately need a methodology along the way, which is basically a unique and more refined approach to handling, you know, the project.
And speaking of, there are quite a ton of these methodologies — Teamwork places the number at slightly over 8,400! That’s a lot of options, and the thing with that many options is not knowing the way to go.
Of course, you’re not going to try looking at each one of these. A few details about your project can help you pick your ideal methodology quite easily. These include:
- The number of people you have on your team
- Project flexibility
- Your budget
- Client/stakeholder collaboration
- Project timeline
With that out of the way, here are some common project management methodologies you’ll encounter:
- Agifall (combines Agile and Waterfall)
- Critical Path Method
That being said, you don’t always have to adhere to these methodologies (or the other ones that aren’t here). Some companies develop their own custom methodologies that work better with the kind of project at hand.
That’s a bit on project management — what it is, the various phases, some of the most popular methodologies, and how organizations can benefit from it. It’s a good start if you’re just looking into this area. So what’s next?
You can start by exploring the various project management methodologies. They’re a big part of any project management endeavor and can sometimes be the difference between the success and failure of a project.