What is the definition of a project, exactly? We talk a lot about specific facets of project management, but it’s sometimes valuable to start at the root and dig into the basics.
In order to fully understand high-level project management concepts, it’s important to know the simple answers. When you can call on this knowledge, more complicated concepts are easier to master. Whether you’re the project manager or a stakeholder, give your next project definition with these project management tips in mind.
A project is a set of tasks which must be completed in order to arrive at a particular goal or outcome. Depending on the size and scope of the project, these tasks may be simple or elaborate, but all projects can be broken down into objectives and what needs to be done to achieve them.
Organizations and individuals manage projects with a wide range of objectives. These can take many forms, from constructing a building, to planning an event and even completing a certain duty. Retailers, for example, may pursue projects that improve the way they track order fulfillment. Construction teams complete projects any time they plan and build something—and so on!
7 Key Project Terms to Know
No matter the project, there are universal project terms that are used regardless of project type, project size or any other factor. Know these seven terms like the back of your hand and you’ll be a step ahead before the project begins:
1. Project Lifecycle
The project lifecycle refers to the five phases all projects must progress through, from start to finish. The five phases of a project lifecycle serve as the most basic outline that give a project definition. These five phases are: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closure.
2. Project Scope
Project scope is a key aspect of the project planning stage. In many ways, it is the starting point. Determining project scope requires the project manager and their team to set goals and objectives, detail deliverables, create tasks, establish important dates and more. Project scope defines desired outcomes and all specific factors which will affect reaching them.
A stakeholder refers to anyone and everyone involved in a project. A stakeholder can be involved at every stage of the project, or just in a certain way. Stakeholder analysis helps categorize how investors, team members, vendors, contractors and more can affect your project.
A deliverable refers to the specific outcome(s) a project creates. Deliverables can be “tangible” or “intangible,” meaning they can be a physical product or something conceptual. Typically, deliverables are the need that inspired the project in the first place. If someone contracts a builder to design and construct an office space, the office is a tangible deliverable.
Milestones are predetermined achievements that help track project progress. Think of milestones as checkpoints. These checkpoints are decided on before a project begins, so the project manager and team know when they are on track to achieve deliverables. Without milestones, it’s difficult to know if the project is on the road to success or needs to reroute.
A resource is anything necessary to complete a project. In a construction project, materials are an essential resource. That said, other resources — like time, labor and equipment — are just as important. A project manager must be able to identify all of the project resources in order to create a resource plan and manage the resources accordingly. When resources are left unaccounted for, it is easy to mismanage them.
Project dependencies refer to how resources must be shared and allocated within a project. Many projects will use the same physical materials for different purposes and across different stages. Understanding this dependency is the only way to ensure there is enough of the resource to go around. Similarly, all projects are broken down into tasks. When one task cannot begin before another is completed, these tasks share a dependency.
What it Means to Work on a Project
Whether it’s the project manager, a team member or any other project stakeholder, they’re a member of the greater project team and their actions directly affect other team members. Like any team, you “win” or “lose” as a unit, so it’s incredibly important to communicate and listen to other team members in order to coordinate efforts and succeed. Most project mishaps and project failures are the direct results of poor communication or lack of collaboration.
Why does this matter as long as the work is getting done? Working on a project is about understanding the project as a whole just as much as it is about doing the work. The only way to see this big picture is by listening to the team and learning from one another.
What is Project Management?
The process of project management starts with the conception of the project and continues all the way through the project lifecycle. This requires detailed knowledge of company resources and how to assign them in order to complete tasks, duties, events and other projects.
A wide range of industries rely on project management methods and tools to execute projects. A few examples of these industries are construction, IT, engineering, marketing and advertising. Any team working together to reach a shared objective is engaging in some form of project management.
What Does a Project Manager Do?
A project manager is more than just a manager, in the traditional sense. This individual is the leader of the project team and oversees every aspect of the project, from beginning to end. The project manager will typically write the project plan, run team meetings, assign tasks and do quality control tests to ensure everything is running smoothly. A project manager can’t carry the entire project on their back, though. One of their key duties, in fact, is knowing how to entrust various responsibilities to team members.
As you can see, their responsibilities are widespread, but that doesn’t mean to spread too thin. Ideally, a project manager creates the foundation of the project—like the foundation of a house. They then appoint other individuals to finish out each room.
Project Definition: Best Practices for Project Management
Regardless of the project, the size of the team, or anything else, there are practices which exponentially increase the chances of success. As vital as it is to hit goals and achieve deliverables, it is just as important to create a positive culture within the project. These five tips may seem simple, but they make all the difference in the world:
Set Regular Team Check-ins
It’s easy to meet with the team “as needed,” but once a project begins it gets harder to find time in everyone’s schedule. Instead, schedule regular meetings before a project even starts. These meetings serve as check-ins where team members can give each other updates, voice concerns, ask questions, make adjustments and do anything else they may need. When these check-ins are already built into the schedule, no one is waiting to meet until there is a mishap or issue.
Part of what gives a project definition is knowing how to delegate. Whether it’s the project managers or a team member, they’ll more than likely need help with a task at some point. Now, this doesn’t mean just passing along the task to someone else. What it means is every team member has equal responsibilities. Instead, the best project managers know how to relinquish some control and delegate to team members.
Know the Team
Everyone on the project management team should be familiar with each other’s strengths, weaknesses and specialties. For example, if a team member needs information from a different department, they should know exactly who to ask. This familiarity cuts down on lost time. It is especially important for a project manager to know their team extremely well.
When a project member knows these things, they can make decisions that play to their team members’ strengths, not around their weaknesses. Knowing the team is a huge aspect of creating positive culture within a project, as it celebrates everyone’s abilities.
Speaking of positive culture, never underestimate the power of taking a moment to mark meeting a milestone. Reaching one means the team has made significant progress and the project is still on track. At the very least, it’s important to announce reaching milestones during team check-ins. This keeps everyone on the same page and improves team efficacy.
Choose Superior PM Tools
Project management is an extremely complex job. Without the proper tools, it’s easy to make mistakes, become disorganized and even fail to complete the project. The best way to protect your project from these missteps is by choosing tools that simplify the entire process.
The best project management software does just that. Using project management software unleashes your team’s and the project’s full potential and takes the end result to new heights. The key is finding an intuitive, user-friendly project management software that makes no compromises in functionality.
How ProjectManager.com Makes Managing Projects Easy
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning project management software makes managing projects easier than ever. Our cloud-based software allows the entire team to work on the project while in the field or on the go, and our modern interface combines functionality with user-friendly navigation. This means no more wasted time just trying to familiarize yourself with a new tool and more time perfecting your project definition.
Plan on Gantt Charts
Plan your projects from start to finish with ProjectManager.com’s powerful Gantt chart feature, which allows you to map out project tasks in phases. You can even create dependencies and set milestones. Plus, you can import Excel files and Microsoft Project files, so switching over to our software is seamless.
Track on Project Dashboards
As the project team moves forward with tasks, project managers can track every status update on our real-time dashboard that you can personalize to show the most important metrics. Every change to a task is tracked, and automatically updates the colorful, easy-to-read charts and graphs. Keeping an eye on your project’s progress has never been easier!
Get all these features and more when you use ProjectManager.com. All of these tools are available in our software to help you plan, track and report on your project in real time. See what it can do for you by taking this free 30-day trial run!