What is Project Management?
Where did the concept of project management originate?
Wikipedia describes project management as “the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.” The idea of project management goes back to the late 19th century. However, we can trace our current concept of project management to as recently as the 1950s.
Henry Gantt was one of the originators of project management as we know it. With his creation of the Gantt chart, a popular project management diagram, Gantt’s name is one you’ll see often. Henri Fayol’s five management functions, the precursors to our current five project management phases, fix his position as another founding father.
Another means for project management, the PERT charts, appeared in the mid-20th century. The Work Breakdown Structure from the United States Department of Defense emerged as another technique to manage projects.
While project management tools were prevalent in the space, government, engineering and military sectors, soon private businesses began to understand the benefits of work organized around a specific project. A clear way to manage these special projects emerged when companies realized that coordination and communication at every level, across business units and including different areas of expertise was crucial to their overall success.
What is a project?
The Business Dictionary defines a project as a “planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain costs and other limitations.” A project, then, could be something outside or in addition to the company norm for a typical business day. Perhaps a business upgrade, financial need or client request may be the catalyst for a project’s origination.
The parameters of a project will include a clear goal to reach, so by nature, projects include a start and finish line to accomplish a unique, particular outcome. This short-term undertaking will require a specified timeline, clear scope, designated budget and human capital resources that include a project team and manager.
Would you like to find tools to manage your projects?
More and more project managers are involved in selecting project management software tools. This makes sense, because, after all, project managers are the people who will use the product on a day-to-day basis. They will have strong views about what the software should do and how it can help them manage their projects.
If you are approached to assist in choosing new software for the team, what should you be looking for? Below we share our top 2 considerations for project management tools.
What is a project manager?
A project manager is the person who leads the project team who together accomplish the project goal. While anyone who holds the title of manager has ongoing duties for the duration of his/her tenure at a company, a project manager’s leadership is temporary to accomplish a distinctive purpose. For any specific project, there will be an appointed project manager. However, if this isn’t your official, full-time title, say you’re a department manager or another type of supervisor, it’s a good idea to add a basic knowledge of project management skills to your resume.
Work toward learning to multi-task well, developing effective soft/people skills and completing routine assignments satisfactorily and on time. Not all companies retain full-time project managers, and you could find yourself tapped to lead a special project. Prepare to accept this type of responsibility therefore increasing your visibility in front of company leadership. Your project team could include colleagues assembled from other departments and perhaps executive supervision. This type of exposure could bolster your company wide reputation, improving the likelihood of bonuses or promotion in addition to the personal and career growth you would experience from trying something new. You benefit by highlighting that not only can you meet expectations in your current role, but that you could also add value by participating in special projects as well.
If your company offers internal, online classes, or reimburses for external college courses, consider taking some classes in Project Management. Some coursework topics you could include may be planning strategies, scheduling/organization, funding analysis/acquisition and change management. This additional education can help you be confident when you become the first to volunteer for new special project opportunities. While every management position incorporates time management, organization and people skills, project management necessitates a singular focus affected by resources and results dictated by a particular time frame. Fine tuning these traits could provide opportunities for career growth.
How can you choose the best project manager in order to avoid failure?
Choosing the best project manager for the job can mean the difference of the project’s success or failure. This manager plays a crucial part in taking any project from concept to completion. He or she must have both technical and soft skill expertise to orchestrate every detail that goes into the composition of the project strategy. Mistakes result in missed milestones, wasted time and money.
The team lead must have strong critical thinking skills to anticipate any risks so that he/she can create preventative measures along the way. A project manager must be able to articulate what each team member’s goals and precise lines of communication are. As you can imagine, successful projects don’t just happen. A successful Project Manager would be an established leader, possessing good communication, conflict resolution, time management and critical thinking skills.
What is the management process?
Here are five project management phases you can use to deliver a successful project outcome.
- Initiation or Definition Phase – This step includes the formal start of the project and the scope explanation. Your Phase 1 documentation will include your concept description statement that includes the objectives based on the purpose of the project as well as the desired outcome in detail. Once you receive approval, you will draft your proposal including your risk calculations, finalizing everything in your project charter.
- Planning Phase – The project manager formulates the best strategy for the team to accomplish the client objective. It may fall on the project manager to choose his/her team members, in addition to requisitioning other resources. Setting the timeline, schedule and communication lines would also take place during this phase.
- Execution Phase – The project manager will shift focus during this stage. He/she will implement and oversee all activities that create the result as outlined in the project plan. Prepare for this phase to take up the most time, resources and energy.
- Control Phase – Execution and control occur simultaneously. The project manager monitors the team assuring that the projected performance from the planning phase becomes a reality.
- Closure Phase – During this last stage, the project manager will facilitate the finalization of any administrative tasks, reporting documentation updating and present the resulting deliverable to his/her executive leadership. You can calculate your individual managerial and your project team’s success by answering one important question. Did you meet and/or exceed the client requirements for the job? Most likely, your customer’s top priorities will include an on-time execution while your team comes in under budget. The client need dictates all else.
In addition to the 5 phases, the project management process includes several other areas of knowledge with which every project manager must be familiar. In the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge Fifth Edition) there are 10 Knowledge Areas. It is true that every manager should have a basic understanding of these 10 topics. However, as applied to a specific project that includes unique goals, adherence to a strict timeline and subjection to a set amount of resources, project managers must pay special attention.
- Integration – This knowledge area contains all 5 project stages. During integration, you will develop the plan, assess risks, and make necessary adjustments along the way to ensure a successful execution.
- Scope – Scope outlines stakeholder expectations. Comprehending the desired outcome of your project is fundamental to your success as a project manager.
- Time – They say timing is everything, and keeping your project on track is of utmost importance. Time management expertise will help you to designate activities and set appropriate project milestones to meet deadlines and successfully allocate resources.
- Cost – Elements of cost management occur throughout the project. Properly estimating all areas of project cost and overseeing expenses during the project process will help you and your team to stay on budget.
- Quality – Making sure your PSR (product/service/result) meets the client expectations is your goal. Your project falls short if your deliverable is anything other than exactly what the customer and/or stakeholders require.
- Procurement – It may be that you’ll need services that contribute to your project outcome that are outside the expertise of your project team. You should know how to plan for this contingency, choose an external vendor and create/closeout a contract.
- Human Resources – It may fall to you as the project manager to assemble your team from across your company’s human capital pool, and possibly to bring in outside contractors as well. Regardless of your project size, you’ll need to know how to coordinate and lead your team effectively.
- Communications – Communication isn’t only about the right information. You must also know how and when to provide information along the way. Learn how to craft an effective message, how to get that message out and how to manage project knowledge.
- Risk Management – Even the best laid plans sometimes don’t come off without a hitch. Know how to identify and evaluate those things that can derail your project, so that through ongoing response planning and monitoring, you can mitigate delays and resource over expenditure.
- Stakeholder Management – Stakeholders include people or organizations involved with your project. You should know how to create engagement and management approaches to include your stakeholders in the project outcome.
Implementing change efficiently and effectively is the project manager’s job. Each project includes a specific time span during which your team executes numerous activities. Your goal is to meet the client need, whether internal or external, while hitting milestone targets and staying under budget. Expertise in planning, monitoring your team and providing the support they need is the key to your successful project execution. We also have a great list of articles, read our Project Management Huts.
If you would like to see a basic overview of project management, check out this video!
The Project Management Institute (PMI)
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the biggest PM profession’s global association. The PMI provides services including the development of standards, research, education, publication, networking-opportunities in local chapters, hosting conferences and training seminars, and providing accreditation in project management.
The PMP Certification
For the next step toward additional education in the project management field, look into attaining the most recognized achievement, PMP Professional Certification. This designation behind your name signifies to companies worldwide that you are ready and able to lead projects as a project manager.
Project Management Professional (PMP) is an internationally recognized, professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). There are currently 700k active PMP certified individuals and 284 chartered chapters across 210 countries and territories worldwide. The exam is based on the PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)
Would you like to become a PMP? These articles will get you started!
The PMBOK – The book reference for project managers
The PMBOK Guide includes best practices and is the industry standard for all things project management. This latest PMBOK Guide is for every serious project management professional or for people in other management fields that see the practice’s importance and value in their line of work or career.
It is also an essential resource for professionals preparing for a PMP certification or other PM-related certification. The PMBOK is written by the Project Management Institute (PMI).