Projects are created everywhere: at home, at educational institutions, and at work. However, project management is only practiced in a workplace where time and money are involved. And not to lose these two precious resources, project managers are given a goal that they are tasked to achieve.
Consequently, a project team is assembled and pitched their responsibilities to achieve great things.
Although it sounds straightforward, project success is hard to attain. A shocking number of failed projectsreaches 65%, despite the big budget and months of work allocated to them.
Before you blame your team for not doing their job, you should look into your company’s project management methodology and find out whether it works counterproductively.
Keep reading to learn more about the basics of project management, methodologies, and execution.
How Is a Project Defined?
To understand the basics of project management, you need to know what a project is. Projects are an essential part of personal and business lives that many don’t need a definition to explain them.
A project has an end goal, and when achieved, it can be considered complete. It is common for a project to have a deadline, within which the target is expected to be reached.
From an early age, projects are given to us at school, and we keep receiving those ongoingly until we land a job and start treating projects differently. Hence, projects acquire a new definition as we move from one stage of life to another.
Project Management Institute (PMI) defines ‘projects’ as
“…temporary efforts to create value through unique products, services, and processes.”
PMI adds that projects can be short- and long-term to either solve a smaller problem or deliver an improved outcome of an existing product or service.
Fundamentally, a project is a core element of project management that consists of tasks and expected results. It comprises an achievable goal that includes other pivotal components. Those components contribute to the wholeness of a project, and they are:
- Goal: Every project needs to have a goal. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be different from day-to-day business operations.
- Timeline: Another factor that differentiates projects from daily operations is a deadline. Projects are temporary goal-oriented processes.
- Budget: To conduct research or perform improvement, a project needs investments.
- Project manager(s): Project managers should be put in charge of a project to oversee its progress from initiation to closing.
- Stakeholders: This factor may not be present in every company; however, there may be someone who finds this project indispensable for further development.
Among these components, a timeline is the most significant factor that sets projects apart from routine business operations. Without a defined end date, a project becomes a standard part of running a business.
Examples of Projects
Examples of projects that may exist in organizations are:
- Developing a new product category
- Designing a company’s website
- Expanding to a new market abroad
- Constructing a new highway
- Improving sales revenue
The teams that will collaborate will depend on the project’s kind.
Now that I have discussed the definition of a project and its examples, it brings us to the basics of project management.
What Is Project Management?
Following the definition of Project Management Institute (PMI), project management is
“…use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.”
The project management definition is further explained by the International Project Management Association as
“The idea is to simplify things, make work visible to people assigned to the project, and provide a sense of direction to get the job done efficiently. In hindsight, as such, project management is expected to promote order and certainty (as much as is practically feasible).”
In short, managing projects means planning and executing tasks in a non-chaotic and effective way.
Those who manage projects – project managers – need a set of soft skills to eliminate confusion and avoid oversights within the project team.
Project Management Example
Project management can be divided into 5 phases. A project’s life cycle looks like this:
- Planning Phase
- Monitoring and Controlling
A project life cycle will be discussed in detail later in this guide. For now, I would like to clear up any confusion you might have and give an easy example of how project management works.
During initial planning, a project needs a goal. For this example, it is to increase the visibility of a brand.
The desired outcome is to gain the attention and recognition of the target audience.
During the planning phase, a project manager needs to choose a methodology that will ensure smooth and problem-free execution.
Some of the popular project management methodologies will be explained further in this article. For now, here are some of the common methods:
Once your methodology is adapted to your project, the next stage begins.
In order to carry out effective execution, your project needs to have a set of assignments. There are numerous project management tools that help project managers create a roadmap with necessary steps for the whole team.
To increase the visibility of a brand, your project manager may choose to:
- Focus on a social media platform that resonates with your target audience
- Deliver content pieces that are of value to your target audience
- Encourage your target audience to engage with your company
- Respond to customers in a meaningful and personalized way
These and more tasks can be added to your project management software. Software programs are used to track deliverables.
Monitoring and Controlling
At this stage, a project manager keeps track of tasks, prevents delays, and handles risks.
Certain deliverables have to be approved by other members of a team, which may be declined or approved. Therefore, your project manager mitigates problems upon their arrival throughout the whole cycle.
Your project team successfully achieves the initial goal and brings the results to the client or stakeholders.
Six Must-Have Roles in Project Management
In the last decade, project management has been highly praised for its ability to deliver projects on time and under budget. Project teams are often exposed to immense pressure to yield expected results within a limited time.
Having an incomplete or undertrained team may result in a project draining the company and bringing it down. Assembling a set of motivated people on board who share the same vision as a project manager immediately puts a project on the road to success.
Here are six team member roles to make your project failproof:
At the top of the team hierarchy, there is a project manager. This role is critical to complete the project successfully. No matter how qualified and prepared your project team is, a project manager is needed to coordinate them and keep every member working in unison.
Without a strong leadership role, your project team may be left on the thin ice of weak collaboration and miscommunication.
Project team members
Project team members are employees working for your organization. Their responsibilities are to complete given tasks and assignments and to report and contribute to the project in different ways.
A project manager usually picks a team with the skillset relevant to the project. Their main responsibilities go beyond completing tasks but also working closely within the team and brainstorming issues that may arise during the process.
Depending on the project, you may have a team of people working outside your company (e.g., contractors, consultants, suppliers, etc.). Regardless, all members work to achieve one goal.
Management Representatives or/and Stakeholders
Projects are created to bring a valuable outcome for people, specifically for high-level management.
The board of directors (or stakeholders) is a group that has a particular interest in a project and can benefit from the valuable outcome it brings.
Management representatives and stakeholders also oversee the progress of projects but do not get directly involved in them. Instead, a project manager can escalate issues to them or propose critical changes such as a budget limit, or a new deadline.
The project board is the backbone of any project.
Projects arise on demand from a client. A client can be a person from within or outside the organization.
The client’s responsibilities often include approving and correcting the project plans and deliverables, requesting reports and changes to the project, and providing necessary resources.
Project Management Office (PMO)
A Project Management Officer (PMO) is the right hand of a project manager. It is a profession that plays a supportive and sometimes directive role in a project. Project managers can ask for their assistance in implementing or planning projects, along with project finances and overall organization.
As the name suggests, Resource Managers are responsible for resources allocated to projects. Similarly to PMO, a Resource Manager collaborates with a project manager.
What is meant by resources is the people involved in a project, specifically their training opportunities, existing skills, and developments within an array of ongoing projects.
Project Manager: Definition and Role
Successful project management is unlikely to take place without project managers. I’ve briefly mentioned earlier that project managers are there to ensure the smooth execution of projects from start to finish. A more elaborated definition is given by PMI which states that
“Project managers are organized, goal-oriented professionals who use passion, creativity, and collaboration to design projects that are destined for success.”
Project management skills include:
- Leadership and communication
- Time management
- Creative approach to problem-solving
- Team management and motivation
One of the most critical skills to acquire and develop is effective communication. The ability to convey important information and share details in a clear manner can assist in dealing with other issues at hand faster.
At no point does it mean that expertise has no role in managing projects – on the contrary, the combination of these skills is what brings the most outcome.
But what are the exact responsibilities of project managers besides their supervisory role?
Essential Responsibilities of Project Managers
Although project managers oversee the project, their responsibilities go beyond that.
A project cannot be launched without an identified goal. Clearly, this becomes a priority for any project manager before handling other responsibilities. Once the scope of work and needs have been stated, other duties begin to arise:
- Project documentation and planning
- Dividing the workload and tasks to all team members
- Managing the allocated resources
- Maintaining clear communication with all team members and other parties involved in a project
- Mitigating potential project risks and overcoming barriers
- Monitoring project progress along with milestones and achievements
- Making sure the desired goal is achieved on-time
Project managers can be compared to the bridge that connects the expectations of the executives and the capabilities of the team. Their role is to balance both and strive to achieve quality and meaningful results.
Project Management Skills
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that every project manager needs to have a skillset to execute projects successfully. It’s time to dwell more on this topic.
Executives discourage sugarcoating and want to hear the solid truth about why their project is succeeding or failing. The feedback must be concise and based on facts. The first skill to develop is critical thinking.
Executives choose a project manager who can oversee and foresee. Therefore, risk management is indispensable for project objectives and teams to adapt to the ever-changing situation.
Large and complex projects require project managers to document objectives and tools or methodologies applied. This results in the necessity of knowing project planning and documentation skills. It’s very easy to get off track when handling multiple responsibilities at once.
To keep task completion on track, many project managers learn project management techniques (e.g., Kanban, CPM, Gantt, Waterfall, etc.). The same concerns project management tools that are highly recommended to be trained for and implemented into the project to accelerate its completion.
Other no less important skills include:
- Leadership: A leader in the team is capable of directing but also able to evaluate and improve the team’s performance. Leadership is ongoing assistance to your staff and their needs.
- Adaptability: Being agile and flexing in a rapidly changing industry will bring you closer to success. Unlike in the past, project managers cannot follow the guidelines they have set at the initial stage of a project. Instead, they are to be ready to face obstacles that can throw them off course. Although the means of achieving results may change, the goal should remain unchanged.
- Code of ethics: A project manager is a role model, coach, trainer, and rock-solid support for their team. Your project team is likely to thrive if they know and share your values. Open communication, a nontoxic working environment, and an unbiased approach will contribute to empowering purpose-driven staff.
Becoming a competent project manager requires commitment. These skills can be acquired through courses and various training available online. The more skills you master, the more valued you will be at any organization and especially to your project teams.
By developing a set of soft and technical skills, you will have expertise at your fingertips to turn any task into a successful project.
Project Management Process Groups
The project management process is divided into five process groups:
- Project goals
- Budget limit
The initiating phase is introductory, where a project manager prepares initial documentation. It includes details about the project scope and estimated budget required to achieve the desired results.
Some of the most important factors are setting project objectives and calculating the time and budget needed for execution.
- Key objectives
- Resource management
To launch a project, a project manager assembles a team of experts. The criteria are based on skills and expertise.
During this phase, every member of a team should receive their deliverables and deadlines. The process is there to assign responsibilities and ensure everybody on the team is aware of the goal they need to achieve.
Apart from informing staff about project details, a project manager chooses a project management methodology. Some of the popular ones include Lean, Waterfall, Scrum, and others.
- Following the project plan
When the last details are discussed and approved, the team may begin following the project plan.
Monitoring and Controlling
- Monitoring the workflow
- Completing project documentation
- Tracking tasks
Along with the execution, monitoring and controlling take place. The organization’s board of directors is briefed and updated about the progress.
A project manager tracks the deliverables and makes sure everything is carried out according to the plan. Often, there are delays, corrections, and rejections that a project manager has to deal with to get the project back on track.
- Concluding the project
- Reviewing the reports
After the long and hard work has been done, a project manager collects the reports and analyzes the way tasks were completed. This is a good opportunity to identify new strategies that could speed up the outcome in the future.
The final product or service is presented to the stakeholders.
Project Management Methodologies
Many approaches have been developed over the last decade. Here are some of the most picked project management methodologies:
Traditional Project Management
Traditional project management is an umbrella term for such approaches as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2).
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has released a guide with the best practices and processes of project management. Basically, the main focus of PMBOK is budgeting and managing, including organizational behavior, managing risks, clarifying roles, and financial forecasting.
In contrast, PRINCE2 was developed to divide projects into controllable stages. Its priority is organization and control. The approach guides project teams from the start to finish with the following seven phases:
- Starting up a project (formation of a team)
- Directing (reviewing and analyzing by a project board)
- Initiating (an appointed project manager creates a derailed plan with its scope, risks, and cost before a project starts)
- Controlling (a project is divided into smaller parts and delegated to team members)
- Managing project delivery (a project manager controls and monitors the execution)
- Managing stage boundaries (controlling the smooth transition from one stage to another)
- Closing (finalizing the documentation and ending the project lifecycle)
Agile Project Management
Agile project management is often implemented by organizations in fast-paced industries. Its guidelines allow teams to adjust and adapt to new environments.
Planning is an important phase in any project, but it is impossible to predict every issue arising on the way. Thus, agile project management becomes a suitable approach where risks and barriers are mitigated as they appear. Timing is also a priority, ignoring a problem for far too long may result in lost time and resources.
Waterfall Project Management
Waterfall project management is a similar approach to traditional ones. It is based on flawless planning. It means planning every phase to its slightest detail. Before a team can start working on a project, it needs to have all assignments prepared for them.
This method lacks flexibility but for a valid reason. Companies that work with limited or demanding resources or products use this approach to build unalterable schedules.
Why Is Project Management Important?
I’ve mentioned before that people face projects at work and at home. Projects dealt with at work tend to be much more serious as they involve resources that are easy to waste without proper planning.
However, project management has other advantages that may be overlooked. In short, project management helps with:
- Identifying and preventing risks
- Boosting effectiveness
- Improving open communication within teams
- Sticking to initially approved budgets
- Predicting the closing date of projects
Prioritizing Good Project Management Practices
There you have it, the in-depth review of project management and every element that is a part of it.
Every project management starts with a project that is planned and executed by a project manager and other members that play a big role in the project’s succession.
Project management is set to reach its highest peak in 2027, calling for 88 million people on board.
Don’t lose this opportunity and start developing your project management skills to skyrocket your career.