Let’s start by answering:
What is Project Management?
"Project Management is the art of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and closing a project, by controlling the resources needed to achieve a specific goal"
So, now that you know what project management is, in this post we’ll go through some of its basic principles:
- What is a project and why is it important to manage it
- The 5 stages of Project Management
- Two methods of Project Management (agile and traditional)
- Defining your project complexity and why it is important
1. WHAT IS A PROJECT AND WHY DO I NEED TO MANAGE IT?
According to the PMI (Project Management Institute) a project is a “temporary endeavor with a beginning and an end and it must be used to create a unique product, service or result”. This means that every project has a specific goal that needs to be accomplished at a specific time, so it cannot go on indefinitely.
The specific objective or goal of the project can be accomplished by fulfilling some requirements that are defined at the beginning of the project. These requirements must be aligned with the deliverables of the project (tangible products that come out as a result of a requirement).
At the same time, these requirements imply some interdependent tasks that need to be performed by people at specific times.
So, wait a minute: a project has goals, time, requirements, deliverables, tasks and people. How can we control all of this?
That’s where Project Management gets handy. Without a proper management of resources it’s impossible to understand and align everything that is involved in a project in order to accomplish the final goal. Project management is about aligning the available resources to meet the projects objectives.
2. THE 5 STAGES OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
- Initiating: also known as “Definition” is the first step on every project management process. In this stage, we define the Project: goals, SMART objectives, requirements, deliverables, available resources and delivery date.
- Planning: in this stage we define all project activities that need to be performed and the potential risks associated to each one. Risks should also be effectively planned, in order to properly mitigate any issues that may arise in the future. With this in mind, we can then allocate the resources needed in terms of money, physical assets, people, software, etc. to close the project successfully.
- Executing: once we know what the tasks are and who’s responsible of each one, every team member starts working on his/her own tasks, controlling the amount of time and resources he/her uses so everything comes out as planned. At this stage, it is really important to be aware that some tasks depend on other ones, so if a task goes behind, the whole project could be affected.
- Monitoring: in this stage we’ll check the project’s progress, to see if everything is coming out as planned. Any distortion of the plan, as small as it can seem, can have a huge impact on the project outcome, so good monitoring helps us identify potential issues so we can timely take action and decrease the effect on the result of the whole project.
- Closing: as we said, every project has a due date. This means that a project can’t go on forever. The closing stage allows us to finish a project, deliver the final outcomes, and measure if it was profitable or not.
3. TWO METHODS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
There are two main methods of project management: traditional and agile.
While traditional focuses on taking care of the resources and planning every step of the project in advance, agile focuses on short term planning, collaboration and flexibility.
In the traditional method the whole planning stage is done prior to the work, all the tasks are designed from the beginning and usually shown in a WBS (work breakdown structure), which is defined by the PMI as “a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. It organizes and defines the total scope of the project”. This method is ideal for projects that are very standardized and don’t tend to have a lot of modifications through time.
In the agile method the planning is focused on sprints, periods of 1 to 4 weeks where a list of tasks is planned and completed. This method is ideal for projects that are not predictable. The agile method brings a wider overview of how the activities are advancing and is flexible enough to decide in the run if new tasks need to be added, if more resources are needed, etc.
In the traditional method the results are measured at the end by taking a look at the final outcome. On the other hand, the agile method allows teams to be measure and monitor continuously.
Check our new and Complete guide to Project Management!
4. DEFINING YOUR PROJECT COMPLEXITY AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
Projects can have different levels of complexity. Depending on the level of uncertainty and ambiguity of the project objectives, you can establish whether or not you have a complex project on your hands.
Here is a simple way of visualizing how complexity can be defined within a project:
Each project is unique, and has its own level of complexity. Therefore, project managers should always be conscious of what levels of complexity and uncertainty they are working with because implementing Project Management methodologies that don’t fit well with their projects could have detrimental consequences on the overall success of the project. (Learn “How to choose the PM methodology that best suits you”).
By aligning project complexity with work methodology and SMART objectives, teams can avoid falling into the trap of project failure.
So there you have it. 4 basic principles of Project Management that help you understand why this topic is so important.