Project management encompasses many tasks and activities. It is so multi-faceted that it’s not easy to explain in just a few words.
In this post, we’ll dive into a beginners guide to project management, explore the project management process and provide actionable tips for successfully managing projects.
What is project management?
Project management is “the application of processes, expertise, and tools in order to meet project goals and requirements within a specific timeframe.” In this context, a project is an endeavour carried out to achieve specified objectives. Building a new website is a project, such as launching a new product or rolling out a new company initiative.
Project management relies closely on the efforts and work of dedicated project managers (PMs). The responsibilities of project managers are to:
- Ensure task and projects are complete within a set timeline
- Act as a liaison between clients and internal teams
- Set and managing expectations
- Plan and defining project scope
- Create and implementing processes
- Resource management
- Analyse risk and roadblocks
- Monitor project status
- Report and lead project retrospectives
While every department requires some form of project management, many companies still fail to understand project managers’ value fully.
Benefits of project management
Organisations that apply project management principles quickly discover that it brings many benefits. When you have processes for creating, executing, and controlling projects, you’ll reach the finish line in time, and your results will be successful.
Boosted efficiency: Project managers use industry-proven methodologies to plan, execute, and monitor tasks and projects to ensure they’re on track. When project roadblocks occur, project managers are skilled in resolving disputes and finding solutions to ensure projects meet their deadlines.
Higher accountability: A well-managed project will have a clearly defined scope of work and clearly defined roles. Not only does this make responsibilities more evident to all stakeholders, but the ongoing monitoring of the project manager ensures that everyone is held accountable for the delivery of their tasks.
Cutting costs: Experienced PMs recognise when projects are at risk of scope creep and can nip it in the bud. Project management will also save you money by reducing wasted time and effort while identifying opportunities for increased efficiency.
The project management process
Project management is a set of processes that remain consistent regardless of the type of project. When you begin with a solid and proven framework, like the one below, you increase the likelihood of a successful project.
Initiation (research and discovery)
Before a project begins, it’s essential to research to determine whether to proceed. This stage of the process can include market research, competitive analyses, brainstorming, focus groups, and other forms of user research. Within this stage, the project goals and objectives are determined, and there is an understanding of what is required to achieve the project goals.
Once the project scope and objectives are determined, planning can get underway. The planning stage is where you’ll figure out what exactly needs to get done and how it’s going to happen. With proper planning, you’re able to manage your team’s time, the project cost, risk, as well as budget and timeline. The planning phase is where you’ll list the schedule of all tasks, the work breakdown structure, resource planning, a communications strategy if needed, and anything else required to help prepare for the project to begin. Once you’ve identified the actual work, created a detailed schedule, and built an appropriate budget, you’re ready to move on to the execution phase.
The execution stage is where the project gets put into motion — and where most of the project manager’s time is focused. In the execution (or implementation) phase, team members carry out their roles and tasks within the project. The project manager is there to provide guidance, check in, and respond to requests.
Monitoring and adjustment
Once a project is underway, the project manager also needs to ensure everything is on track. They do this through constant monitoring. When an issue or roadblock gets identified, they facilitate adjustments as needed. This phase of the project often includes a testing period. The results of these tests either guide further changes or confirm that a project is ready for launch.
The final stage of the project management process is its completion. Here, the project manager makes sure that the stakeholder or client has all the project deliverables, any relevant project documentation, and the closure of the project gets communicated. Once the client or stakeholder is satisfied with the project deliverables, you can start planning your project retrospective to identify lessons learned and celebrate successes.
How to better manage projects
Now that you understand the basics of project management, it’s time to look at performing better and achieving more success. Here are some tips to help you to be a successful project manager:
Use the right tools
The right tools can make all the difference when it comes to effective project management. From creating projects and tasks to analysing data and reports, countless tools are available to make your job help you better manage projects.
If you’re looking to elevate your experience and streamline your tools, you can use different project management apps that help with team coordination and project management. You can break down project silos, automatically keep projects up to date, effortlessly share updates with key stakeholders, and manage clients — all from your tool of choice.
Manage risks properly
Every project will have some degree of risk. Your goal should be to manage potential risks before any issues arise.
A good PM will dedicate time (before the project begins) to think about any outside forces that could impact timelines, the quality of the work or your team’s capacity. For example, if you know a particular stakeholder is an extensive editor, ensure you’re leaving an adequate amount of time to address their revisions.
Get to know the lingo
When starting as a project manager, it can often feel like everyone around you is speaking a different language. Become familiar with project management terminology and definitions before starting to ensure you’re not missing crucial information.
Arguably the most crucial skill for any project manager is transparent and efficient communication. According to the Project Management Institute’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, about 75-90 percent of a project manager’s time at work gets focused on communication.
Successful PM’s begin by establishing structured communications frameworks (so everyone understands expectations and process), and they practice mindful listening (both to words and body language or actions).
Avoiding scope creep
Scope creep occurs when significant changes get requested during a project that ultimately increases the amount of work required.
As you plan a project, ensure that you and your stakeholders become perfectly aligned on the overall scope. You can collaborate on a change process in case any significant changes need to made mid-project. You should also get buy-in for that process from both the stakeholders and your team before the project kicks off.
Feedback is an invaluable resource for any project manager, and especially for those just starting. The best way to learn and grow is by doing the work, gaining experience, and receiving constructive feedback. Feedback can help you make better decisions in future projects, and it’s a good idea to encourage those working with you to provide feedback both as you undertake a project and after completion.
As you can see, good project management is a critical component in any business. From the numerous roles of a project manager to the many phases of the project management process, it’s clear why successful project managers are hard to come by. But with the proper support, tools, culture, and teamwork, organisations employing project managers can make and do wonderful things.
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