An introduction to a song prepares the listener for what is to come. It’s usually a handful of measures at the beginning of the song that are played before the singer starts singing and helps prepare the listener for the song that is to follow. An introduction to a book serves a very similar process. It provides an overview of what the book will be about without divulging all the details and intricacies that will unfold on the pages to follow.
This introductory article to project management processes is designed in a similar fashion. It focuses on the 5 main process areas that are in place to move a project from point A to point B at a very high level. You’ll be able to see how a planning a project moves from one process to the next on its course to completion.
In each of these process areas are hundreds of books and tens of thousands of pages written about the breadth, depth, and nuances of each process area. We encourage you to explore those areas further that you find of particular interest.
Initiating Project Management Processes
The first area to consider in this introduction to project management process flow is the initiating process. As the name would suggest, this is the very beginning of any project. Actually, it’s a step or two ahead before the actual project work begins.
It is during this process that the business need for the project is being clarified and justified, stakeholders that may play a part in the project are being identified, and high-level expectations and budgets are being discussed. The people involved will also be talking about how all this work will be done, from confirming the process to manage the project budget to throwing around names of people who could get involved.
The type of project this could range from is anywhere from a project that a client is requesting, a request from your company to create a new product, or a way of simplifying an internal process to make it run smoother or take less time.
There are two main questions that need to be answered at this point:
- Should this Project Even Be Considered? – People will come with all types of projects that they consider important to implement. Some projects are for the greater good of the organization. Other projects may not be quite as noble and are designed to only benefit a very small group of people. Management needs to consider at this point whether the benefits of the project are worth expending the required resources to get it done. They could also contemplate whether there may be a better way to achieve the same, or better, results with less cost being applied toward the endeavor.
- Is This Project Even Possible? If the answer to the question above is YES, then the next question is whether this project is even possible. For example, the advantages of the project may be obvious and the number of people who benefit from the project is great. However, it may cost one million dollars to get it done and your company is nowhere near the point of being able to cover such an expense. Or, the idea for the new project may be profound, but the technology doesn’t exist at this point to support the project.
Planning Project Management Processes
At this point of an introduction to project management processes is the project planning process. You have answered ‘yes’ to whether the project should be considered and if it’s even possible. You have the green light to move forward. Now you need to start digging into all the activity related to planning the project.
There is a big misconception about the planning process. Many people feel as if the project plan is just the list of tasks that are required to get the work done. It’s the schedule of activities that outline who does what, how long it takes, and who works on the next task. Not so. That’s the project schedule and is just one part of the project planning process.
The project plan is much more comprehensive than just a project schedule. It’s during this process that you put your plans together for ensuring quality as well as how information about the project will be communicated. You define the reasons for your project, the intended results, the required work, and breakdown of roles and responsibilities. Plus, you should contemplate any assumptions, constraints, risks, need for personnel, funds, and other project related requirements.
This process is a big deal when it comes to getting the project right the first time. Despite the importance of the planning process, many project managers will be pressured to skip this step and move right into executing the project. Resist this pressure (and sometimes even temptation) to do so! You will quickly find that the time you spend during the planning processes will make the rest of the project go that much smoother and faster.
The Executing Process
The next process to consider in an introduction to project management processes is those around execution. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The executing process is actually two-fold: There is activity surrounding preparing to do the work and then there is doing the actual work. This is important for a number of reasons.
You wouldn’t imagine a construction crew showing up to work in the morning and their boss saying “OK guys…go do whatever you want. Use whatever tools you have. Don’t worry about how things are done. Just go work”. That would be ridiculous and financially disastrous. Rather, their manager will organize the work for the day, make sure everyone has the proper equipment and tools, and then send them on their way to get their specific tasks done.
In executing the plan, you will need to:
- Prepare for the Work –This is the stage where you make sure everyone knows their project roles, understand each other’s roles, knows what needs to get done (and how), and has the necessary tools to get the work done.
- Perform the Work - It’s at this point of an introduction to project management processes that the work can actually begin! All the resources can start following the path of the work that needs to be performed. Quality should remain at the forefront of this process area as the team works well with each other, you look for opportunities to proactively manage and reinforce positive behavior, and information is shared seamlessly across all involved in the project.
The Monitoring and Controlling Processes
We all know the purpose of a financial budget. You may run certain P&L’s as a project manager at your job, or certainly have a budget set up at home. You establish how much you should spend in each area and then compare what you actually spent. Based upon the difference you may have to make some adjustments to get your budget back on track.
The same activity is occurring during this phase of the 5 process areas. You will have established certain metrics that must be maintained during the life-cycle of the project. These may be financial, schedule, number of defects, or a host of other metrics that would be appropriate to your project. It is now your job to compare the performance of your project against these metrics, make any adjustments that are necessary and keep everyone informed as to the results.
The Closing Processes
Finally, you make it to the closing processes in this introduction to project management processes. This is where you obtain the necessary sign-offs and approvals to officially deem this project as complete.
You should also compile a list of lessons learned from this project that can serve as best practices for your next project…or better yet, worst practices that you never want to do again. You’ll also want to release the resources from this project to be able to work on the next project.
This is also an easy process area to skip, just like planning. Don’t! There are many benefits that come from closing out a project properly. For example, it will prevent it from raising its ugly head later… in the form of “I never signed off on this project and it still has more work to do”.
Also the lessons learned from one project to the next are invaluable.
There are the five steps in project management processes that make up an introduction to project management processes. Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor and Control, and Close out your projects for the best results!
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