Project Management
All about Project Management

Introduction to Project Management

Whether you are organizing a training session for your colleagues or planning to construct a huge engineering plan, project management will help you achieve what you need to do.

Project management is the way we apply knowledge and processes to work in order to complete that work in the smoothest way possible. Ultimately, we are using tools, methods, skills, techniques and the experience of the team to achieve the objectives set for the project.

Projects have a clear goal, which means we can plan how to get there and work through a structured plan to ensure that the project’s goals are achieved.

Project Management Featured Podcast: How to Complete Your Projects 50% Faster

Listen now to this featured Podcast about project management techniques.

What if you had to do your project in half the time as previous projects, or be fired? Learn about techniques you can use on almost any type of project to get products successfully to market in record time. You'll hear expert tips from Douglas Knutzen about how to speed up a project by leveraging scheduling, execution and team techniques, and (almost more importantly) how to lead project teams in high-pressure situations.
Douglas Knutzen and Cornelius Fichtner
Douglas Knutzen and Cornelius Fichtner
Scroll down to see the full list of our Project Management podcasts.

What is Project Management?

Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints.

The History of Project Management

So where did the profession start? Many of the project management approaches in use today evolved from informal practices: after all, people have always needed to get things done, even if they didn’t call them projects or have the job title of project manager.

Up until the early 20th century, projects were normally delivered by the creative leader responsible for seeing through the work, like an architect or engineer.

The change came in the mid-20th century when project management emerged as a distinct discipline as management and engineering principles came together to standardize the way projects were run. The importance of project management as a way to get repeatable results had been recognized.

Organizations created their own methods, using elements from existing management practice and project management tools like the Gantt chart which evolved from the work of Henry Gantt.

Over time, scheduling models, estimating practices and budget management techniques came together to inform the project management discipline. In 1969, a group of individuals came together to form the Project Management Institute the USA and project management has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Why Do People Need Project Management?

The importance of project management is clear. Studies show that carrying out work in a structured way leads to a better result, and you can probably see how that works from your own experience. Strong project management delivers better quality outputs, helps you use the expertise of the team in a more efficient way and meet the needs of a variety of different stakeholders.

It’s not easy…but project management processes, tools and techniques help you get where you want to be with the least amount of friction. Experienced project managers know that while you can always bend (or even break) the rules, a good understanding of project management best practices will help you get better results with less conflict.

The 5 Project Management Processes

There are 5 project management process groups. You may also hear these referred to as the 5 stages of project management. Every team guides their work through these project management steps, although the actual tasks involved may look a little different depending on the methodologies used.

Initiating

During the Initiating phase, the project manager puts together the project charter. This stage ensures the team has a clear vision for the project and the approvals required to begin delivering the work. The project management triangle of time, cost and scope is considered so the team have parameters to work to.

Planning

In the Planning process group the team comes together to work out how to deliver the work. They will produce a project management plan, under the guidance of the project manager. The planning phase ensures the team understand the project scope and have a clear roadmap for what they need to do and how to do it.

Executing

Most of the project deliverables are produced in the Executing process group. It’s here that the majority of ‘doing’ work takes place. Everyone on the team completes the actions determined in the project planning stage. The project manager works with stakeholders across the project and organization to ensure buy in and support for the changes being delivered.

Monitoring / Controlling

Monitoring and controlling is the act of making sure the work is carried out according to the plan. When the project manager notices something isn’t going quite right, they can make changes and take corrective action to realign the work. Project governance also falls into this process group as the project management and sponsor provide oversight to ensure the project stays on track.

Closing

Finally, the last project management process group looks at Closing. This is the last part of the project. The deliverables are completed and handed over to the end customer. The team hold a lessons learned meeting to review how the project went and to consider improvements for the future. This is also the perfect time for a celebration to mark what was achieved!

Project Management Methodologies

Project management starts long before anyone gets their hands on doing any ‘real’ work. There is a lot of planning, discussion, debate and effort that goes into eliciting project requirements and making sure the project team can deliver the organization’s vision.

Projects are different from the day-to-day operations of your business because they deliver something unique and with a finite end. Even if the deliverable created by the project goes on to be used for many years, the project effort to deliver it stops once the deliverable is created.

Projects therefore need a different management approach to business-as-usual work; one that allows a multidisciplinary team to come together for a finite period of time to work on a shared objective. There are many project management methodologies, frameworks and approaches that can be used to do that.

All methodologies share similar concepts and objectives of project management. Someone decides to do something, an individual or team works out how that work should be done, then the work is done and the project is closed.

The exact tools, techniques and project management life cycle phases differ depending on the exact methodology in use.

Below are some common project management methods.


Agile

‘Agile’ is actually a family of different approaches for managing work that share common principles. Being Agile and working in an Agile way means following the philosophy set out in the Agile Manifesto and living the values of flexibility and iterative design.

Scrum

Scrum project management sits within the Agile family and is a way of putting the Agile principles into practice. Scrum provides a process to deliver work in an iterative way and has been widely adopted by the software development industry because it allows for incremental delivery.

Predictive

Predictive methodologies are those where you plan the work at the beginning and then follow through on that plan. This approach works well for projects where you need to have a complete view of the whole project scope and exactly what will be delivered. For example, project management in construction. These approaches are often called ‘Waterfall’ because of the way each project management life cycle phase feeds into the next phase until the project closes.

Hybrid

Hybrid methodologies take the available project management best practices and blend them together to create a unique and tailored solution. You might have a project team using a predictive Waterfall approach but the software element of the project is delivered by an IT team using Scrum, for example.

Who Are Project Managers?

Project managers are people who lead projects. They are experienced in their industry and hold a range of internationally-recognized project management certifications including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® or Project Management Professional (PMP)®.

Project leaders are people who follow common project management principles to successfully deliver the work in conjunction with a team.

What Do Project Managers Do?

Project managers lead, manage and control the work by preparing a project management plan and then steering the team to enable them to meet the project’s goals in a structured way. They pilot a project through the life cycle, drawing on project management processes across five areas: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling and closing.

Project management techniques include managing risks, issues and changes, ensuring good communication exists with stakeholders, managing the budget and liaising with suppliers, as well as leading the project delivery team and keeping quality top of mind for the team. They will also prepare and maintain the project management and project schedule to help keep the work on track.

Where Do You Need Project Managers?

Project managers work across all industries and professions. The importance of project management skills remains the same, regardless of the discipline. While it might be difficult for a digital project manager to suddenly pick up managing a large oil and gas project, the core project management process groups and skills remain the same.

You can change industry, but many people choose one industry to make their project management career in so they can develop deep subject matter knowledge in that field.

Essential Characteristics of Project Managers

Effective project managers need a wide range of technical and professional skills. Here are some core characteristics of successful project managers.

  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Understanding of project management fundamentals
  • Decision-making skills
  • Integrity
  • Resource management
  • Motivational skills and enthusiastic personality
  • Analytical thinking skills.

How to Maintain Good Project Management

There is always something you can do better, and organizations constantly strive to improve project management maturity. You can maintain good project management by developing a learning culture. Look at the process for lessons learned or retrospectives and actively implement what comes out of those discussions.

What processes can you improve? How can you adapt your methodology to be even more effective? The answers to these questions will help improve project management performance and give your projects every chance of success.

What are you going to learn today with our range of project management podcast interviews?

Project managers and leaders actually make things happen. We're the drivers behind the plan. While business journalists love to go on and on about the entrepreneurial CEOs and their breakthrough ideas, the fact is that a very smart project team led by a project manager was the true impetus behind the actual delivery or execution of those clever ideas and that is a key distinction that gets overlooked a lot of times. People just see the cool, shiny ideas but they miss the whole hardworking, sweaty backend of innovation kind of thing, the hard work that actually makes the actual product at the end of the day.
Paul R. Williams, PMP

PM Podcast Episodes on Project Management

Below are just a few selected PM Podcast episodes about project management topics.

Project Scope Management: The Secret to Project Success

In this interview with Karthik Ramamurthy we discuss his findings into how project scope management will make or break your project. Listen in as we discuss the successful scope management techniques from across continents. You will discover how ineffective requirements gathering, poor scope definition, gold plating, and uncontrolled creep inevitably lead to project failure. And to counteract this, we analyze, adapt, and apply seven proven scope management techniques to increase the probability of project success.
Karthik Ramamurthy
Karthik Ramamurthy

Developing Your Project Assumptions List

Beth Spriggs shares why project assumptions can get dangerous and talks about common assumptions you might find on your project. In this interview, you'll learn how to develop and expand your project assumptions list. Managing assumptions is a key - and yet often overlooked - part of project management.
Beth Spriggs and Cornelius Fichtner
Beth Spriggs and Cornelius Fichtner

Lessons Learned Management Techniques

Lessons learned is no doubt a term you have come across. But how do we get the most out of the effort involved? What process do we follow? What lessons learned project management techniques can you use? Are all documented lessons learned equally valuable? In this podcast, Elizabeth Harrin shares practical tips for ensuring your projects benefit from lessons learned.
Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin

How to Spot the Warning Signs & Rescue a Troubled Project

Learn to recognize the warning signs of troubled projects with Kristy Tan Neckowicz and Connie Inman. Stop your project becoming a failed project management case study with these tips! We discuss approaches to right-sizing your project management processes and share practical tips on how to keep your next project “on track” to successful delivery.
Kristy Tan Neckowicz, Connie Inman and Cornelius Fichtner
Kristy Tan Neckowicz, Connie Inman and Cornelius Fichtner

Summary

Project managment is a hugely rewarding job, with plenty of job prospects and a positive outlook for the future. As project managers, we have the opportunity to use best practice tools and techniques to shape our environments and make a real impact through our projects.

Project management is the way organizations deliver their strategic plans, big and small. Project management is a growing and vibrant business area, with plenty to learn and a wide variety of areas where you can specialize if you want to. We'd love to part of your journey!

Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Going beyond Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®

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