Hi everyone, welcome to the most sought-after article on project management.
By reading this article to the very end, you’re sure of knowing the process, understanding the concepts, and being able to put these ideas to use in your career as a project manager.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
Buckle up, guys; let’s go for an informative ride!
Understanding Project Management
Project management involves initiating, planning, executing, and managing projects to achieve a specific goal within the given budget and time frame.
Projects can either be long-term or one-off.
Whichever the case, projects require planning, which ideally starts with identifying the problem, then developing a plan to solve the problem, and finally seeing the plan through to completion.
Projects usually have a life cycle, as they are temporary.
They’ll either be terminated or concluded with the resolution of the problem.
No matter the industry, all projects have specific objectives, plans, timescales, budgets, deliverables, and tasks.
With that said, let’s shift our focus to the history of project management.
As you may already know, project management has been around for as long as humanity has existed.
Though it was not referred to as project management then, it involved timelines and budgets, just like modern-day project management.
The concept of project management can be traced back to the Great Wall of China and the pyramids of Giza.
However, project management as we know it now started in the 19th century during the construction of railways, which required a plan, workers, resources, and individuals to supervise the work.
In the early 20th century, Fedrick Taylor used some key project management concepts in developing strategies that helped workers be more efficient by working smarter rather than harder.
Later, Henry Gantt, his associate, borrowed these concepts and developed charts and graphs to depict completed tasks.
Henry Gantt developed the Gantt chart in 1917, which was widely used in the 1920s and is still in use to date.
The visualized project management methodology evolved further in World War II to include more complex project management strategies.
This period birthed a standardized project management process.
From there, project planning quickly grew in different industries.
Some key timelines in the evolution of project management include:
- The development of the International Project Management Association in 1965.
- The Project Management Institute (PMI) was launched in 1969.
- The institute later published a guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) in 1987.
- The Agile manifesto was written in 2001.
Key Components of Project Management
There are three components of project management: time, cost, and scope.
These three components are also referred to as the triple constraint or the project management triangle.
They are crucial for successful project completion.
Let’s expound on the project management triangle for more understanding.
This refers to the project schedule.
The Project Manager estimates how long the project will take during the initial phase of the project management life cycle.
The timeline outlines the schedule of the entire project activities.
During the execution stage, where the project is implemented, the Program Manager tracks the project and adjusts the baseline schedule to reflect the project progress better.
A schedule management tool is used to show the timelines for the different tasks during the project.
The scope of a project refers to all the work that goes into delivering a successful project.
The scope of a project is defined during the planning phase of project management.
Defining the scope early on is essential to limit the activities within the project requirements.
However, without a defined scope, there are high chances that project time and cost will increase due to unplanned activities.
This will most likely cause the project to fail.
This constraint falls under scope management.
A project has many costs.
Thus, the only way to keep the budget in check is to define the cost.
To do this effectively, the Project Manager estimates the costs and controls the budget as the project progresses to ensure the activities are completed within the stipulated budget.
The project management process responsible here is cost management.
Project Management Lifecycle
The stages of project management, also known as the project management life cycle, have five phases.
Each phase transitions to the next stage as the project progresses, although some phases run simultaneously.
Let’s take a look at what each phase of the project life cycle entails.
This is the initial phase of project management.
Here, the Project Manager illustrates whether the project is valuable and feasible.
They do this by developing a business case and conducting a feasibility study.
A business case illustrates whether there is a need for the project.
A Project Manager also develops a project charter that shows the project’s goals, budget, timelines, and constraints.
The project charter demonstrates what the project will deliver at its completion.
It is also at this stage that a feasibility study is conducted to determine the practicability of the project.
A feasibility study seeks to answer whether the project can be implemented within time and cost constraints.
Additionally, stakeholders are identified, and a register is compiled with their designation, roles, communication requirements, and influence.
The initiation phase usually ends with a meeting with Sponsors and Stakeholders to discuss project schedules, goals, and communication channels.
It marks the beginning of the project.
Once the project is approved in phase one, it moves to phase two, project planning.
The project planning stage involves creating a plan that illustrates the project scope.
This is crucial because it gives a roadmap of the remaining part of the project.
It outlines all the components of the subsequent two phases.
The plan includes timelines, costs, resources, and risks.
Each of the project deliverables is accompanied by a detailed timeline.
Project Managers define the project scope through a work breakdown structure (WBS).
A WBS visual represents the project, depicting the projects’ activities, milestones, and deliverables.
WBS clearly visualizes each section of the project, making it easy to schedule and assign team members’ duties.
Project Managers usually use Gantt chart software to illustrate the project plan.
The chart acts as a guideline that directs the subsequent stages of the project up to its conclusion.
The project manager also reviews past data to identify the project risks and develop mitigation measures to minimize the risks.
Another important aspect of this stage is having an effective change management plan, which is a plan that allows Project Managers to adjust the plan to minimize delays or any setbacks that may arise along the way.
This is where the project management plan comes to life.
The project management team executes the tasks of the project plan to achieve the deliverables.
The role of the Project Manager at this stage is to establish an efficient workflow, monitor the progress of the work, identify risks and work towards minimizing those risks.
Managers take care of any problems along the way and adjust the plan to fit the project’s changing needs.
They are also tasked with ensuring effective collaboration between the different project stakeholders.
A Project Manager can use several project collaboration tools to ensure the project team is on the same page as the project progresses.
Project Monitoring and Controlling
Phases 3 and 4 run concurrently.
As the actual work continues, Project Managers monitor and track the progress.
They measure actual work done and update the plan to reflect the progress.
The main goal of this stage is to ensure the project stays within the budget and on schedule.
The triple constraint is cost, time, and scope, which are the key elements at this stage.
Project Managers’ primary responsibility is to ensure the triple constraint doesn’t go off track by developing control measures.
They also establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Critical Success Factors (CSFs) so that the project sticks to the plan.
There are several project management software in the market that managers can leverage to ensure this phase runs smoothly.
This is the final stage of project management.
Once the deliverables are met, the project may be closed down or handed over to another team.
Whichever the case, the Project Manager oversees the next step to ensure a smooth transition.
The project team usually has a post mortem meeting at this phase to reflect on the failures and successes of the project to inform future projects.
The project team members also compile a report of the entire project.
Lastly, the data is secured, and everything is signed off.
Types of Project Management
There are several approaches that Managers take when it comes to project implementation.
In this section, let’s have a brief overview of the seven major types of project management.
Lean project Management Approach
This approach focuses on making the most of the project resources: people, time, and cost while minimizing waste.
Project management methodologies such as kanban methodology, lean six sigma (DMEDI), value stream mapping (VSM), and Deming cycle are lean principles.
Value stream mapping is the most common among businesses.
VSM is a powerful tool that involves the elimination of waste through identifying those wastes, stimulating improvements, and recording those improvements.
Value stream mapping also helps businesses understand their projects better.
They can pin down the total lead time of the cycle and the individual lead time of each phase using VSM.
It also shows where there is a waste.
This way, a business can effectively eliminate wastes and better meet the project objectives.
Iterative and Incremental Approach
The iterative and incremental approach helps minimize risk as it’s a change-driven methodology.
It’s primarily used for large-scale, high-risk projects that involve multiple companies like in software development.
Phased Project Management Approach
The phased project management approach is also referred to as the waterfall or the traditional model.
This approach is ideal for complex projects, which are done in stages.
In such projects, each stage goes through all the five phases of project management, from initiation to project closure, before the team proceeds to the next stage.
At the project closing phase of each stage, the project team reviews the work done before proceeding to the next stage.
PRINCE2 Product-based Planning Approach
While most traditional project management approaches focus on activities and tasks, the product-based planning approach is based on outputs and project deliverables.
This approach is easier to work with as the main focus is not the activities.
Project Managers can easily define and arrange the deliverables systematically.
This approach is mainly implemented with the Prince2 methodology.
This approach focuses on implementing projects that align with a business’s core values, vision, and mission.
Therefore, all the project objectives and activities are aligned to meet the businesses’ core objectives.
The process-based approach is implemented through the Capacity Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and the Organization Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3).
Critical Chain Project Management Approach
This approach is based on the theory of constraints, which stipulates that a single constraint can limit an organization or a project from achieving the desired outcome.
As such, this approach considers that there might be constraints in terms of resources or equipment.
With this in mind, the Project Manager prevents any possible setbacks by putting buffers in place.
Project Production Management
This approach uses data to give a precise prediction of what a project can achieve.
Since it’s data-driven, it also helps in developing control measures to take care of bottlenecks.
The product production management approach applies the principles and theories of operations science to optimize and deliver project goals.
Project Management Tools
There are several project management tools that Managers can leverage.
Here is a quick rundown of the top five tools.
Gantt chart is a collaborative tool where Project Managers populate the tasks on the left and the timeline to the right.
The timeline has a status bar depicting the start and the end time of the tasks.
The chart makes it easier to determine how long the project will take.
It also allows users to interconnect related tasks such that any changes in the schedule of one task automatically lead to an adjustment of the subsequent tasks.
The drag and drop function makes it easy to edit the project activities on the chart.
The chart can also be used to set milestones and determine the resources needed for a project.
A task list helps managers assign tasks to team members and track the tasks as the project progresses to ensure the project schedule is met.
The list has the name of the person assigned to a project, their primary contact details, the deadline, and a status update.
It allows Project Managers to have a snapshot of the progress of each task in one place.
A dashboard is a visual representation of the different data points of a project, including overall work plan status, team workload, budget, and task status.
It maps out the progress of different aspects of the project using other metrics.
Many project management tools have a built-in feature that creates the project dashboard from the data entered.
A dashboard is a great tool when it comes to sharing the project progress with stakeholders and sponsors.
Project reports are another critical project management tool that helps communicate with the stakeholders on the project’s progress.
A project report helps Project Managers to share key performance indicators of a project.
As such, these reports keep tabs on the project performance as the project progresses.
Another key aspect to consider with the report is shareability.
Since they are the primary communication tool between Project Managers and stakeholders, they should be easy to share.
A kanban board can either be digital or physical.
It has columns with different production stages and cards with tasks beneath each stage.
These cards are moved from one column to the next as the team members initiate, plan, execute and complete tasks.
Kanban board helps with project delivery as the project team can see the individual progress of the different tasks.
It also provides transparency and ensures everyone is focused on their responsibilities.
Project Management Methodologies
Now, let’s move on swiftly to some of the methodologies that project management professionals employ to ensure project success.
Agile project management methodology is an iterative approach to project planning and management based on working in short bursts, called “sprints.”
During the sprint, the team members focus on finishing the tasks within the stipulated time frame before proceeding to the following tasks.
This approach is designed for projects that constantly have new developments that might interfere with the whole project if all the processes are developed in advance.
So, with the short bursts, the project team can finish specific tasks in one stage and smoothly transition to the next.
The twelve principles of agile methodology are found in the agile manifesto of 2001.
This methodology is common in the software development industry, where changes are constant.
In recent years, it has been adopted by other industries like marketing and product development.
Other methodologies like Scrum, Crystal, and Extreme programming have been adopted from agile methods.
Scrum is a type of agile methodology that’s widely adopted in different industries.
66% of project management professionals that use agile methodology have adopted Scrum.
Scrum is where Project Managers outline the project tasks that need to be accomplished in a sprint within a specific timeframe.
There are usually progress meetings on an ongoing basis where team members share what they’ve done, what’s remaining, and if there are any changes that are dragging them behind.
Once a sprint is done, the team conducts a final meeting to review if they’ve met the goals before proceeding to the next sprint.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
This is a step-by-step technique that incorporates all the activities of the work breakdown structure.
The critical path method identifies the tasks’ timelines and sequence, which helps determine essential activities that must be prioritized to ensure the project delivery is not affected.
This method promotes efficient workflow.
The waterfall method is ideal for definite projects with minimal expected changes in the project life cycle, such as building a house.
Waterfall works in sequential order, where the team must complete one stage before proceeding to the next.
Lean Project management
Traditionally, Lean is a methodology that works on eliminating wastes.
It aims at minimizing downtime and increasing efficiency among the project teams.
With the Lean methodology, the Project Manager maps out the project plan to identify areas to maximize value and eliminate waste early on.
The recent Lean Startup Movement has shifted what the lean methodology implies.
This movement focuses on an iterative approach when it comes to product development.
That is to say…
Instead of waiting until a product is completed to introduce it to consumers, consumers are invited early on to give their feedback on the product as the project progresses.
Lean focuses on the value of the project through the customer’s eyes.
Project Management Certifications
The most common certification for project management professionals is the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification offered by the project management institute.
Other project management certifications include Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), Certified Project Director, and BVOP Project Manager.
Though these certifications are not mandatory, they give Project Managers a head start when seeking employment or promotion in the industry.
There is more about project management than meets the eye.
Project management is a widely applied concept in different industries.
The fundamental concepts of project management we’ve discussed are crucial to meet the project needs of any organization across industries.
With that said, we hope we’ve delivered on our promise of an informative article to help you better understand what project management implies.
Before you go, let’s answer some questions that are frequently asked in the PM industry.