What Is Project Management?
Project management is the use of tools, knowledge, processes, and competencies to ensure a project’s successful completion. Projects are time-bound endeavors that aim to produce value through products, services, or results that fulfill its objectives and success parameters.
Project management is different from other forms of management because of its time-bound nature. Management is an ongoing activity, whereas project management is only done within the duration of a project.
Read more: Best Project Management Software for 2023
Project Manager Responsibilities
A project manager oversees the progress of the project life cycle. For each phase, a project manager’s priorities may vary.
The success of the initiation stage will determine if a project will push through or if it will be dropped altogether. Here, the project team agrees upon the scope of the project and maps out the roles various stakeholders will play during the life of the project through the creation of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix. These first steps are crucial to a quick start and early project success.
To develop goals, objectives, and project success criteria aligned to a client’s business needs, project managers need to facilitate communication and data gathering. In doing so, the project manager clearly communicates with clients and stakeholders to assure them of the project’s value and feasibility, and ultimately secure the project’s approval.
Once a project is greenlit, project managers have to formulate a project plan by translating goals and objectives into actionable tasks, milestones, deliverables, and schedules.
No two projects are identical, so it’s important to determine tools or systems applicable for each situation. Task types, team dynamics, and company culture are vital considerations here.
The deliverables for a project manager at this stage will include estimates, work breakdown structures, and deliverable schedules, among others.
Read more: The Discovery Phase: Is It Important?
The project manager role becomes more one of support and monitoring when the execution phase begins. As project teams fulfill their day-to-day tasks, a project manager facilitates communication to help encourage collaboration.
Problem-solving and decision-making will be vital to ensure steady progress. Proactively spotting bottlenecks and protecting the team’s time against unnecessary requests will also be an essential responsibility.
Balancing a big-picture view of production while staying in touch to tackle daily obstacles is vital for project managers.
Project Monitoring & Control
Speed is useless if the team is going in the wrong direction. As the team executes tasks, project managers monitor and control progress to ensure the team is aligned with deliverables and priorities.
Trackers and documentation are updated for easy evaluation of progress. At the same time, project stakeholders are updated through detailed and digestible reports.
Projects close because of their completion, termination, or postponement. Regardless of how things go, project managers take on the role of tying loose ends, so the team can smoothly move on to their next endeavor.
In this phase, a project manager’s tasks can include organizing and turning over documentation, creating inventories, and facilitating off-boarding meetings such as retrospectives and debriefing.
Project Manager Skills
The Project Management Institute (PMI) Talent Triangle outlines the skills project managers need to meet the evolving needs of project teams and clients.
Technical Project Management
Every project will have its context and circumstances. External and internal factors will affect the methods, structures, and processes it’ll need to succeed, and it’s the project manager’s job to decide on the team’s best route.
A few questions to consider when determining the best approach to a project include:
- Will the project benefit from an agile project management methodology or waterfall?
- What’s the best way to monitor project progress?
- What’s the best approach for data gathering, modeling, and lifecycle management?
As a project management professional, knowledge of the arsenal of tools available is one of the vital competencies you can bring to the table.
Team management is a critical part of project management. Managing conflict, encouraging collaboration, and maintaining team morale, are all vital if you want your project to succeed.
Fostering an environment where team members feel safe and motivated to share ideas and expertise can only be attained with good leadership skills. Coaching, mentoring, influencing, brainstorming, and other interpersonal skills will help project managers achieve this.
Read more: 8 Factors That Lead to Successful Projects
Strategic Business Management
A project produces value for its stakeholders, clients, and community. For a project manager to ensure this, they need to understand the client’s industry, strategy, business, and organization as a whole.
Apart from technical project management skills, project managers need to develop business acumen, market awareness, customer service empathy, entrepreneurial sensibilities, and other business skills.
How to Become a Project Manager
Project managers are either born from intention or circumstance. Some develop through a combination of both — being thrust into a position where they’re tasked to handle projects and then consciously deciding to grow in the profession.
Anyone who manages a project can call themselves a project manager. But if you want to improve, take extra efforts to deepen your understanding of the skills and theories involved. You can also get certifications to legitimize your competency and give you a competitive edge that’s recognized all over the world.
Explore the Best Project Management Software
Project management software is an integral part of modern project management. Project management tools help standardize and automate many of the processes and documents that project managers use in every phase of the project life cycle. Check out our picks for the top project management software solutions below.
ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.
Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.
monday.com Work OS is an award-winning no-code work management platform that helps teams manage projects and workflows more efficiently.
Used by 152,000+ customers worldwide, this fully customizable software lets you plan, manage, and track every project in one place. monday.com offers time-saving and easy-to-use features such as automations, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time collaboration. Multiple board views such as Gantt and Kanban help you structure and navigate tasks and projects the way you prefer, and dashboards give a high-level overview of your progress.
In addition, integrations with apps such as Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, and Excel, allow you to easily continue working with your favorite tools from within the platform. monday.com also offers dedicated solutions, such as monday dev and monday sales CRM, designed to answer the needs of specific industries.
Wrike is the most powerful work management platform on the market, enabling teams to plan projects and collaborate in real time. Our award-winning software is trusted by 20,000+ companies across the globe, including Sony, Estée Lauder, and Siemens.
Wrike’s customizable features include Gantt charts, request forms, dashboards, cross-tagging, time tracking, and proofing. Integrate with 400+ apps from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce. Automate repetitive tasks and achieve 50% faster planning. Work from anywhere with 100% access to your files via our mobile and desktop apps.
Whether you’re a small startup or an established brand, Wrike has the solution for you. Paid plans start at $9.80/user/month. Join our community of 2.3 million — start your free two-week trial today.
Smartsheet is a leading work execution platform that has real-time work management features, collaboration and automation tools. Users are presented with a familiar and easy-to-use spreadsheet-like interface. However, it has enterprise-grade capabilities that even Fortune 500 companies like Cisco, Bayer, HP, and PayPal are confident to adopt in their business. Strong project management features enable teams to utilize different views of real-time data, and switch easily from Gantt, card, grid and calendar views. Smartsheet has automatic update requests, and can be used for waterfall and agile projects, product launch, sprint planning, and more. The resource management feature provides users the visibility who is busy, and who is not, in real-time. They can also attach files, share sheets, get notified, view the activity log, export, email, and print.
Rocketlane’s collaborative customer onboarding platform helps businesses accelerate time-to-value, streamline implementation journeys, and deliver exceptional customer experience. By replacing generic project management and document collaboration tools with a unique, unified workspace, Rocketlane helps improve communication, collaboration, and project visibility for businesses and their customers. We help businesses consistently hit their goals by making onboarding more delightful and friction-free.
History of Project Management
Project management has been practiced for centuries.
From the Pyramids of Giza in roughly 2550 to 2490 BC to the Great Wall of China in approximately 470 BC to 1670 CE, project managers have been central to the planning, coordination, and execution of even some of the most well-known projects.
However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the American Association of Cost Engineers was formed. They formalized project planning, estimating, and scheduling, among other skills.
In 1969, the Project Management Institute was established as an avenue for project managers to share information and exchange knowledge. They developed materials and resources that became the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) in 1998. Now available in its seventh edition, the PMBOK is widely regarded as the most extensive collection of best practices, terminologies, and guidelines for project managers.
Project management is now recognized as a strategic organizational competence and career path. For instance, the global project portfolio management market size was valued at $4.2 billion in 2019, and is expected to continue growing.
Read more: Strategy for Project Managers 2023
Become a Project Manager
So, what is project management? Simply put, project managers are professionals that oversee the successful completion of projects. While it’s been practiced for centuries, project management solidified its place as a career in the mid-20th century with the founding of professional bodies like the Project Management Institute.
To grow as a project manager, you should study the theories, skills, and best practices that govern the profession. Further, you can complement that knowledge with project management tools.