What Is Project Management?

Project management is the application of methodologies, tools and processes to successfully plan and execute projects. Project management intelligently makes use of teams and resources to complete project activities within the boundaries of time, cost and scope.

The project objective is defined by the client or stakeholder, and a project manager uses the methodologies of project management to create a plan that defines the resource allocation, tasks, milestones and deliverables necessary to meet the stakeholders’ requirements.

The plan must adjust to the triple constraint, or project management triangle, which refers to the time, cost and scope limitations that apply to every project. This concept is a cornerstone of project management, and therefore managers must pay special attention to the schedule, budget, and work breakdown structure during the planning phase.

Projects are often planned, scheduled, executed and tracked with the help of project management software. This vital tool keeps projects on track and teams productive.

ProjectManager.com is award-winning project management software

ProjectManager.com lets teams share project plans and collaborate online—learn more.

The Definition of a Project

A project is work that has a specific objective (or deliverable) that is to be completed within a set timeline, and upon completion, a product or service is created. Projects are unique in that they end, unlike other business functions that repeat or continue regularly.

The project life cycle is made up of five stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control and closure. Depending on the industry, objectives and stakeholder requirements, different types of project management methodologies will be employed to manage these five stages and achieve a successful outcome.

Different Types of Project Management

There are many project management methodologies and frameworks devised to manage a project. These are some of the most popular:

  • Waterfall project management: A traditional methodology that is sequential and requirement focused, with each project stage completed before moving onto the next.
  • Agile project management: A framework that prefers a faster and flexible way of working, as opposed to waterfall. It is iterative and incremental in response to changing requirements.
  • Scrum: An approach used in agile project management, which focuses on teams, daily standup meetings and sprints, which are short iterations of work.
  • PRINCE2: Stands for Projects In Controlled Environments and is the official methodology for governmental projects in the UK. It’s based on seven principles, themes and processes.
  • Lean: Lean is what you’d think from its name: a way to cut waste and in so doing increase value. So, lean focuses on key processes to continuously have a positive impact on value. It does this by optimizing separate technologies, assets and verticals.

Regardless of the type of project management that’s used, a project manager is typically involved to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and that the agreed upon methodology is being followed correctly.

What Exactly Does a Project Manager Do?

A project manager is the individual tasked with planning and executing the project. As noted, there are many ways to manage a project—and depending on the methodology used, a project manager can operate in vastly different ways.

However, most project managers share common roles and responsibilities. Some of the more traditional duties of a project manager include the following:

Project managers learn about their role through certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI), which has codified standards in the often updated Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). Armed with their knowledge, project managers rely on project management software to execute all of the tasks necessary for a successful project.

What Is Project Management Software?

Project management software is a platform that helps managers plan, monitor and report on projects; it helps teams manage their work and collaborate, too. Good software empowers project teams, so they can manage all the details that go into a successful project. Watch the video below to see project management software in action.

Project management training video (ra7kwjmbuu)

If you need assistance with your projects, and are looking for a better way to manage your tasks and teams, take a free trial of ProjectManager.com today. Our award-winning project management software has a full suite of tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards and dashboards, so projects can be completed on time and under budget. With ProjectManager.com, every stage of the project management life cycle can be completed with ease.

The Five Stages of the Project Life Cycle

Because projects have a life cycle, they all go through a series of phases. If you can grasp these five phases, then you’ll have a good grip on what project management is all about.

Project Initiation

This is the starting phase of your project when you must prove the project has value and is feasible. This stage includes creating a business case, to justify the need for the project, and a feasibility study to show that it can be executed within a reasonable time and cost. This is also the time to create a project charter, a document that sets out exactly what the project is going to deliver.

This stage of the project culminates in a project kickoff meeting, where you bring together the team, stakeholders and other relevant parties to lay out the project goals, schedule, processes and the chain of communication.

Project Planning

The second stage is project planning, which occurs after the project has been approved. The deliverable of this phase is the project plan, which will be the guide for the execution and control phases. The project plan must include every component associated with the execution of the project including the costs, risks, resources and timelines.

During this phase, the work required to complete the project, which is known as the project scope, is defined using a work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS divides the project into activities, milestones and deliverables. This allows project managers to create schedules and assign tasks to their team members.

Project managers often visualize their project plan using a Gantt chart, which represents the order of tasks and how they are interdependent. This gives you a roadmap for the work until the project reaches its conclusion.

Project Execution

The third stage is project execution, which is where the majority of the work happens. This is the phase where you complete the project activities and milestones to produce the deliverables to the client’s or stakeholder’s satisfaction by following the plan created in the previous stage.

Along the way, the project manager will reallocate resources as needed to keep the team working. They will also work to identify and mitigate risks, deal with problems and incorporate any changes.

Project Monitoring and Control

The fourth stage is project monitoring and control, which occurs at the same time as the execution phase of the project. It involves monitoring the progress and performance of the project to ensure sure that it stays on schedule and within budget. Quality control procedures are applied to guarantee quality assurance.

The biggest issues in a project are typically related to three things—time, cost and scope, which collectively are referred to as the triple constraint. The main goal of this phase is to set firm controls on the project to ensure that those areas don’t go off track.

Project Closure

The fifth stage is project closure, in which the final deliverables are presented to the client or stakeholder. Once approved, resources are released, documentation is completed and everything is signed off on. At this point the project manager and team can conduct a post-mortem to evaluate the lessons learned from the project and learn from the experience.

Depending on the project, the closure phase may also include handing over control to a different team, such as the operations management team. In this case, it is the job of the project manager to ensure that such a transition occurs smoothly.

How to Manage a Project Step by Step

Now that we’ve covered the five stages of the project management life cycle, it’s time to put that information to practical use.

In this section of the guide, we are going to break down each stage with actionable steps that will allow you to understand how to manage a project.

Initiation Phase

Documentation

Every project has documentation that must be completed before the project can begin in earnest. For example, there’s a business case, which lists the reasons why the project is needed and what the return on investment will be. There’s also a feasibility study to determine if the project is even possible with consideration to an organization’s resources.

The project charter provides a general overview of the project by defining the project’s objectives, benefits, stakeholders, constraints, assumptions, among other aspects.

Considering the amount of paperwork that is required before you execute a project, not to mention all the documents you’ll collect during the project and the need to archive them after you close the project, it’s key to have a project management software that can collect all those files and make them easily accessible.

Assemble Project Team

You need resources to execute any project. Before you can make a project schedule, you need to create a project team with the skill sets and experience that the project demands. This includes creating job descriptions, what the objective is and what their responsibilities will be in the project. All this information can be later put into your project management software.

Onboard Your Team Onto ProjectManager.com

Set Up Project Office

The project office is usually a physical space that is set up for the project manager. Determining where this will be is part of the initiation phase of a project. Not only the project manager, but also any support staff will be located in this space. So, the infrastructure for the project office needs to be set up, which includes having project management software and any equipment needed for the project.

Planning Stage

Create Task List

Tasks are the smaller activities that build up to the final deliverable in a project. They are in essence tiny projects. You develop a task list by putting your final project deliverable on the top of a work breakdown structure, which is a tree diagram helping you map the path to completing the project without missing any vital steps along the way.

At this point you have a task list and can set priorities, so the tasks can be filtered by high, low or medium.

Task Management Software with List View

Make a Budget

Tasks cost money. They require team members to execute and other resources, which can include materials, tools, etc. The budget is a way to estimate the cost of the project.

Once you have a planned budget, you can add that to ProjectManager.com and you can then compare it to the actual cost of your resources as you execute the project. That data threads to reports and a real-time dashboard, so you’re never caught off-guard if expenses spike.

Risk Management Plan

If only the project would conform to your plan. But things happen, there are always changes, some within your control and others outside of it. Before starting a project you need to try and identify risks and have a risk management plan to monitor and respond quickly to them.

Communications Plan

Good communications means a successful project. To have a clear communication plan in place means you have targeted the people who need to be kept informed, what level of information they require, the frequency and how they will get it.

Make a Project Schedule

The Gantt chart is the preferred method used by project managers to schedule their projects because of the way it’s laid out. Gantt charts are like spreadsheets with the added bonus of a timeline. They not only list all your tasks, but those tasks are also charted across a timeline, so you can see the entire project at a glance.

Some tasks are dependent on others before they can start or end, these task dependencies can create bottlenecks later on in the project. By linking them on your Gantt, you have a head’s up to avoid slowing down your schedule. Projects can also be divided by milestones, diamond symbols, which indicate the end of one phase and the beginning of the next.

Online Gantt chart from ProjectManager.com

Assign Tasks

Tasks are just ideas until they’re given to a team member to complete. All the preparation you’ve put into planning is dependent on getting that assignment out to the team, so they can do what they were hired to do.

Execution Phase

Task Management

To make sure a task is done right, it has to be managed each step on the way, from planning to completion. This involves monitoring and reporting to make sure the task is being executed within the timeframe of the planned schedule. Project managers and team members need to manage their tasks. Task lists and kanban boards are two popular tools for task management.

Kanban Boards for Task Management

Schedule Management

Once you’ve planned a schedule, you have to monitor it through the project execution to make sure it stays on track. Effective Schedule management means greater productivity. You’ve set goals, priorities and deadlines, now as the project tasks are being executed, it’s critical that you make sure those dates are matching with your schedule.

Cost Management

Just as you planned your schedule, you planned a budget. But that doesn’t mean your job is done. As anyone with a wallet knows, money has a tendency to disappear. You have to control the project costs and keep them within the agreed budget.

Your budget is a baseline with which to measure your actual spending during a project. There are several ways to keep track of your actual expenditure. There’s the Gantt chart, which tracks what you’re actually spending, so you can compare it to the budget.

ProjectManager.com’s Gantt Chart Can Track Costs

Quality Management

You can produce your deliverables on time and within budget, but if the quality is lacking then the project isn’t successful. Therefore, you need to make sure that you’re meeting whatever quality requirements have been set by your stakeholders.

When you’re executing the project, to maintain the quality of your deliverable means having tools like ProjectManager.com to monitor the process. Our dashboard gives you six metrics to track in real-time, therefore when an issue arises, you can capture it quickly and resolve it fast to maintain the quality of your deliverable.

ProjectManager.com real-time dashboard

Change Management

Broadly, change management is a process for improving business processes, budget allocation and operations in an organization. However, when applied to project management, the focus is narrowed to the project itself and controlling changes in scope during the execution phase.

Procurement Management

Few is the project that can be done without having to purchase, rent or contract with outside resources. This process is called procurement. Managing the various relationships with vendors and suppliers is what procurement management is all about.

Resource Management

Resources are anything you need to get the project done. That includes your team, supplies, equipment, materials, etc. It includes the roles and responsibilities for the team, what they’ll need and where they’ll be working.

Collaboration

Once the execution of the project begins, the planning leads the way, but team members need to have tools to work together so they can stay in close communications. This leads to greater productivity. Collaboration can be facilitated by team-building exercises and tools that connect team members, whether they’re in the same office or working remotely.

Collaborate Easily in ProjectManager.com

Monitor & Control

When executing your project, you’re constantly monitoring its progress from every angle and doing your best to control the process to maintain the schedule and budget of your project plan. This technique can be summed up as constantly checking the actual performance of your project against its planned performance. When anomalies occur, you catch them quickly and fix them fast to maintain control.

There are many project controls, such as project strategy, methodology, risk management, quality and resources, just to name a few.

Reporting

Reporting has a twofold impact on the project. One is that it allows project managers to track progress, and two, it provides data for stakeholders during presentations that keep them in the loop. Project reports can vary from task progress to variance and cost.

There are reports on project and portfolio status, timesheets, workload and allocation. You can even track expenses. All the reports can be customized to get just the data you want.

Make Project Reports Quickly

Closing Phase

Transfer Deliverables

Your project is about producing a deliverable. That marks the end of the project execution and the beginning of the project close. Therefore, make sure you have all deliverables identified, complete and handed off to the proper party.

Confirm Completion

A project isn’t over until everyone sings. You need to get confirmation from all stakeholders, clients, even the team. That means sign-offs, so that there is no confusion and last-minute change requests.

Those sign-off documents can be added to ProjectManager.com, either in the files section or attached to the relevant task. Now you have a digital papertrail to make sure that everyone is in agreement.

Review Documentation

Usually, the project manager is responsible for going over all contracts and documentation to make sure that everything has been okay and signed off on. Sometimes in larger organizations there is a dedicated admin for this job. Whoever does it, the importances of making sure every i is dotted and t crossed cannot be overstated.

Release Resources

Before a project is really done, you have to officially release the team, any contract workers, rentals, etc. Have a process in place to notify and make sure everyone is paid up.

Do a Post-Mortem

A post-mortem is when you look at the finished project and pick apart the process to note what worked and what didn’t. This is a great way to repeat successes and repair mistakes for the next project. Also, don’t forget to celebrate with your team. They deserve it.

The Triple Constraint

The triple constraint, also known as the project management triangle, refers to the boundaries of time, scope and cost that apply to every project. The project management processes responsible for controlling these constraints are schedule management, cost management and scope management. There are many tools and techniques used to keep track of these important variables:

Time

Project managers must estimate the time required to complete a project by using tools such as PERT charts or the critical path method. This must be done during the initiation and planning phases of the project life cycle to develop a schedule that covers the duration of all the activities. Once the execution phase begins, the status of the project must be monitored to make changes to the schedule baseline.

Scope

The scope refers to all the work necessary to complete a project and it must be identified during the planning stage by using a work breakdown structure. If the scope is not properly defined early in the project, it can expand during the execution phase due to unplanned activities. This is known as scope creep, and might cause projects to fail.

Cost

There are many costs associated with a project. Project managers are responsible for estimating, budgeting and controlling costs so that the project can be completed within the approved budget.

You can see how important the triple constraint is to any project. The three points of this triangle are always influencing one another. If you suffer a setback in time, then you’re going to have to adjust either scope or cost. The same being true for the other points.

The success of any project rests on these three pillars, but there are also other internal and external factors that might affect a project.

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Project Management Tools

We no longer live in the same world as Henry Gantt, where project schedules were produced meticulously by hand. We can all be grateful that project management tools have evolved dramatically since then.

Today, there are a wide range of project management tools, both online and mobile, available to help you manage your projects.

Gantt Chart

The online version has come a long way from Lego pieces on a peg board. Today’s Gantt charts are interactive and collaborative. But they retain their basic structure, which is a spreadsheet to the left and a timeline to the right. Tasks are listed to the left and populate the timeline, with a status bar stretching from the start date to the end date. They are used to plan and schedule projects.

But there is much more that a Gantt chart can do, such as the online Gantt chart maker from ProjectManager.com, which allows you to set milestones, assign and link dependent tasks, so that if one task’s date changes, all downstream tasks will adjust as well. Editing is easily done by dragging and dropping.

Track progress with online Gantt charts from ProjectManager.com

Dashboard

A project dashboard can be easy or complex to make. Essentially a dashboard is a compilation of project data points such as budget, task status, team workload and overall plan status. It provides a high-level view of the project and its progress as mapped by several metrics.

The dashboard is an ideal tool to keep stakeholders updated on the project, as they usually don’t want to get into great detail. That way you know the dashboard is up-to-date. Some dashboards have to manually assemble a bunch of disparate reports and then compile them in yet another program to “create” a dashboard.

ProjectManager.com portfolio dashboard

Task List

Project management tools are used to manage tasks, to assign and track them over the course of the project to make sure they’re meeting the demands of the project schedule. A good task management tool will give teams more control over their tasks and managers more transparency into the process.

my work on ProjectManager.com

Project Calendar

A project calendar is a great way to track due dates and other important milestones in a project. It is wedded to the project schedule and its timeline. Calendars can also mark holidays, days off, vacations and other scheduling resources.

Calendar project view ProjectManager.com

Kanban Board

Kanban is a visual workflow tool that is part of the just-in-time lean manufacturing method. It means that work is only ready when the resources and capacity to it is ready.

Kanban is made up of a board with columns that represent the production cycle and cards under those columns that represent the tasks. Cards are then moved from column to column as the work is scheduled, executed and completed. Kanban provides transparency and keeps teams focused on the work at hand.

ProjectManager.com kanban boards project view

Workload Tools

This is the amount of work that has been assigned. But workload can often be poorly distributed, with some taking the brunt of it and others being left relatively idle. This is called an imbalanced workload. When assigning and when tasks are being executed, it’s important to know how much work each team member is responsible for.

Workload management from ProjectManager.com

Resource Management Software

Resources are anything you need for the project. That means, tools, equipment, supplies and even people. Managing resources, so that they’re available when needed is a project within the project, especially when dealing with outside vendors and suppliers.

Therefore, you need a tool that keeps track of these resources, how much they cost and when you’ll need them in the project, and then coordinate all that to work with your plan.

Team availability ProjectManager.com

Timesheet

Keeping track of team members’ or contractor’s hours is part of the responsibility of the project manager. They need a tool that can track hours and then submit them for approval to make sure everyone is paid on time and for the work they’ve done.

ProjectManager.com timesheets

Collaboration Tools

Collaboration is simply working together for greater efficiency and productivity. It can be hard enough when everyone is in the same room, let alone in different time zones.

Whether your team has a lot of remote workers or external clients, or is mostly in-house, using collaboration tools can drastically cut down on email time and helps keep vital project communication with the project. This can be especially helpful when doing project post-mortems or when simply searching for essential project files and conversations on a larger project.

ProjectManager.com collaboration

Project Management Roles

Projects aren’t just tools and phases: projects are made possible by people. Those people have specific jobs to do. A project works best when those roles are well-defined. While there are methods of project management that allow for more fluidity, these are the main roles on a project:

Project Sponsor

This is the person accountable for the outcome. They are often the senior manager who has come up with the idea for the project and their team will get the benefit. For example, the sales director would sponsor a project to introduce a new online sales tool.

Ultimately, they represent the customer of the project. Depending on the organization, there can be different levels of project sponsors, such as an executive project sponsor.

Project Manager

This is the person responsible for leading the team and organizing the work. In more formal, structured organizations and on larger, more complex projects, the project manager is usually a certified project management professional (PMP) by the PMI.

In more informal organizations, the project manager does not require certification. Project managers are responsible for all the different project management processes that take place throughout the project life cycle, such as risk management, task management, resource management, among others. In simple terms, they supervise the planning, execution, monitoring, and closure of the project.

Supplier

Someone is doing the work, and that might be an internal supplier such as a development team or an external contractor. The supplier is represented on the project team by their main point of contact who might be their technical expert, an account manager or a project manager.

Team Member

This is a person tasked with completing a part of the project. Team members are skilled professionals, who work to contribute to the project objective.

They are tasked with completing the deliverables and working with the user to figure out what their business needs are and how to meet them. Often they are tasked with documenting the process, as well.

Stakeholder

This is a person or a group who has a vested interest or “stake” in the project. It might be an internal group or agency within an organization or it might be the public at large for a public works project.

The project manager usually works to communicate the project to the stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project and seeks feedback on project deliverables and performance while managing their expectations, as well.

Clients

This is a group or a person for whom the project or a key component of the project is delivered.

Project Management Processes

The roles in project management are the people who man the processes. While we have touched on this topic earlier, it deserves closer attention.

Each of the project management processes has a specific purpose through the project life cycle and when done right, they guarantee the successful completion of projects.

Scope Management

The scope refers to all the work required to complete a project which is defined by a work breakdown structure during the planning phase. In simple terms, scope management consists of including all the activities, and clarifying what won’t be done. This is the base for scheduling, budgeting, and task management.

Task Management

This process begins with careful planning. Once you’ve constructed your work breakdown structure, you’ll be able to know every task needed to complete your project. Then you can assign these tasks to your team members. It is important to understand the task dependencies so that you know the order in which they need to be completed.

Resource Management

Consists in effectively identifying, acquiring and allocating resources such as people, capital, equipment and materials to complete tasks and produce deliverables. Once you have defined the project scope you’ll be able to determine the resources that will be needed for each activity. As the project progresses, the use of resources must be controlled.

Related: Resource Plan, Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

Schedule Management

The schedule management process can be divided in 3 sub processes: estimating, scheduling and controlling. First you estimate the time for each activity, milestone and deliverable. Then you develop schedules based on your time estimates. Once the execution phase begins, you have to monitor the project schedule.

Risk Management

The risk management process helps you identify what might happen to throw your project off track and then define a response so you’ve got contingency plans in place.

This is usually done on larger projects, rather than smaller. Although even for small teams, a short sync up with the team to help identify potential problems in the plan would be useful to guard against the unexpected and have plans of action in case it does. There are several types of risks, but the most important are those that affect the triple constraint.

Quality Management

During the initiation phase, the stakeholders express their quality requirements for the project deliverables. Based on that, project managers develop a quality policy which defines the quality control procedures that will guarantee quality assurance.

Stakeholder Management

Stakeholders are the soul of a project. By understanding their needs and frequently communicating with them throughout the project life cycle, you’ll be able to meet their requirements.

Cost Management

This process is applied to every stage of the project life cycle. It involves cost estimation, establishing budgets and cost control. Simply put, you begin by estimating the cost associated with each task, and then you create a budget that will cover those expenses. Once the execution phase begins you have to monitor the cost of the project as it progresses.

Issue Management

An risk is a problem that has affected the project. Issue management is how you deal with problems when they turn up on your project and it’s worth working out what this is going to look like for you because something is bound to go wrong.

The process will cover who needs to be notified, how you make decisions about what to do next, and who has the authority to take action.

Change Management

Every project has changes. Sometimes that’s because the objective wasn’t defined particularly well at the outset. Or because the business strategy has changed and the project needs to be updated accordingly. You must create a change management plan, which will include your project’s change management procedures and forms.

Procurement Management

Many projects involve working with suppliers and there is normally a process around how you engage and contract with them so that everyone knows what to expect and what you are getting for your money.

Communications

Yes, communication is a process! You have to identify who needs to get which message when and which method of communication is most appropriate. A communication plan will help you do this.

Pro Tip: If you do nothing else on your project, make sure you develop a communication plan and actually communicate! This is the fastest and most efficient way to stay on top of your project performance.

These are the most common processes, but you can also create in-house bespoke processes to help you deal with the quirks of your organization. The key thing is to make sure you aren’t starting from scratch every time, and that you are introducing standardization into how you manage projects as much as possible.

Project Management Methodologies

To save you from reinventing the wheel, over the years people have come up with some tried-and-tested ways of getting project work done. Here are some of the most common project management methodologies:

Agile

Agile is often used in software projects but it’s becoming more common on other types of projects, like marketing. It involves iterative working in short bursts called “sprints.” The work is time-boxed and the team gets as much done as they realistically can before moving to the next set of requirements.

The Agile principles have been used to develop methods like scrum, extreme programming, crystal, among others.

Good for: projects where you want to incorporate quick wins and build iteratively.

Avoid when: you work in a traditional environment and the change to agile methods hasn’t yet been completed or even understood.

Related: Agile vs Waterfall: What’s the Difference?

Scrum

Scrum is a short “sprint” approach to managing projects. It’s ideal for teams of no more than 10 people, and often is wedded to two-week cycles with short daily meetings, known as daily scrum meetings. It’s led by what is called a Scrum master. Scrum works within an agile framework and it consists of time boxes, collaborative team interactions, a product backlog, and feedback cycles.

When to Use It: Like agile, scrum has been used predominantly in software development, but proponents note it is applicable across any industry or business, including retail logistics, event planning or any project that requires some flexibility. It does require strict scrum roles however.

Waterfall

The waterfall model is a linear approach to delivering work. You come up with the stakeholders’ requirements, put the design together, build the solution, test and implement it and then move it into a maintenance stage.

Good for: projects where the requirements are clear or little change is expected along the way.

Avoid when: you don’t really know how you are going to get to the end result and the requirements aren’t clear.

Lean

Lean has come to mean a couple things recently, since the advent of the Lean Startup movement, which favors an iterative approach to product development and involves bringing in end-users early and often for feedback on the project’s delivery.

Traditionally in project management, Lean PM is a way of eliminating waste in processes and making sure that the people involved work effectively together. It streamlines the handoffs between teams, eliminating downtime. A common feature of lean working is to only work on one project at a time.

Good for: process improvement projects and critical initiatives that need focus.

Avoid when: we’re not sure! Every piece of work can benefit from trying to make the processes involved as simple and easy to use as possible.

Kanban

Kanban is visual approach to project management. The name is literally billboard in Japanese. It helps manage workflow by placing tasks on a Kanban board where workflow and progress is clear to all participants. Kanban helps improve inefficiencies, and has been used to schedule lean manufacturing in Agile projects.

With the dawn of visual planning boards in software in our era, like Trello, there are now new uses for Kanban tools and Kanban methods. Agile teams use Kanban boards for story-boarding user stories and for backlog planning in software development.

Related:Kanban vs. Scrum: Which is Better?

Six Sigma

Introduced by engineers working at Motorola in the mid-1980s, Six Sigma works to improve quality by identifying what is not working in the project. It applies quality management, including empirical statistics, and employs personnel who are experts in these disciplines. There is also a Lean Six Sigma that adds lean methodology to eliminate waste.

As a doctrine, it says that continued efforts to achieve results that are stable and expected are most important to success. Processes can be defined and improved. It takes the whole organization, from the top down, to sustain quality in a project.

When to Use It: This methodology works best in larger organizations. Even companies with a few hundred employees are likely too small to take advantage of its benefits. It requires a certification to practice. Learn about six sigma certification here.

Critical Path Method (CPM)

Consists of building a model that includes all the activities listed in the work breakdown structure to identify the project’s task sequences and their duration. With this information, you identify the critical activities that must be completed on time to avoid affecting the project schedule.

When to Use It: CPM works better with smaller or mid-sized projects. The larger the project, the more difficult it can be to take all the data you need to diagram and make sense of it without software.

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)

In CCPM, you’re focusing on resources that you’ll be using to complete the project, such as teams, equipment, office space, etc. It’s a less technical method of project management that doesn’t put as much emphasis on task order or scheduling, but rather on balancing resources and keeping them flexible.

First introduced in 1997, in the book “Critical Path” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, it has been credited with making projects anywhere from 10-50% faster and/or cheaper.

When to Use It: Can be applied to both large and small companies, and for projects that include industries such as construction, software development and tech research and development.

How to Become a Project Manager

Project managers are leaders. They need to motivate their teams as well as plan, monitor and report on their progress. It’s a job that requires many hats. They must have strong communication skills and be able to clearly connect with both stakeholders and the project team.

Formal project managers are typically certified through an agency like PMI in the U.S. or PRINCE2 in the U.K. After certification, they are required to maintain their certifications by acquiring additional training to gather a targeted number of Professional Development Units (PDU).

As mentioned previously, the standards of qualification for certified project managers has recently broadened to include more leadership and business skills. PMI’s certification and PDU standards can be found in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, or on their website. But it can be difficult to get to grips with the technical aspects of project management without the formal certification training.

But certification is not always a requirement, it can be something acquired later in one’s career. Most project managers usually start off with a business administration degree, but not always. Often experience speaks louder than degrees. For example, if you’re leading a creative project, an arts-related degree would likely be more appropriate.

In terms of salary, a project manager can earn anywhere from under $100,000 to close to $200,000 a year. This is dependent on a number of factors, including location, education, years of experience, performance and more.

The History of Project Management

To answer the question “What is project management?” it is important to understand its history. You might think of project management as a relatively new discipline, but actually humans have been managing projects since before the Great Wall of China, before the Roman aqueducts, before the pyramids of Giza, and likely before that. It’s inconceivable to think that the pyramids were built in an ad hoc manner. Rather, you can bet there were plans, schedules, teams, budgets and everything we’d recognize today as project management.

Fast forward a couple thousand years, and the more standardized discipline of project management starts to really emerge in the 1950s. By that time, many industries had implemented structured processes for management and manufacturing. Henry Gantt’s Gantt chart was already in use and a popular choice for scheduling, and the Dupont Corporation added to the knowledge of scheduling by developing the Critical Path Method in 1957, which helped people understand which task on the plan had the least flexibility around the dates.

From the 1950s on, people carried on managing projects for years, often using custom methods and designing processes themselves. That changed when A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) from The Project Management Institute (PMI) was accredited as an ANSI standard in 1998, although PMI had been founded quite a few years prior in 1969.

The last few years have also seen big changes in project management. For one thing, there’s now an ISO Standard for project management (IS21500) which came out in 2012. But the biggest change of all has been a shift away from learning about scheduling and the technical skills for managing projects to a recognition that people matter on projects.

The knowledge base for project management is constantly growing. In the 2017 edition of the PMBOK Guide (the Sixth Edition) there is a section on the process of control resources and updated sections on monitor and control project work, control schedule, control costs, control quality and control procurement.

In 2016 PMI introduced an entirely new set of competencies for the PMP certifications and the PDU requirements called the Talent Triangle. Traditionally, project management professionals (PMP) needed to demonstrate core skills in technical project management. Now they are required to demonstrate broader skills in business management such as strategy and customer relations, or leadership skills such as coaching and emotional intelligence. Now, today’s project managers are challenged to be more like mini-CEOs, with abilities to be both tactical and strategic across the spectrum of the project.

Project Management Quotes

There’s always a point in every project when it helps to get a little perspective, to understand that there are others who can relate to what you’re going through. During these moments, it can help to get some inspiration to motivate you over those humps.

That’s why we’ve collected the 10 best project management quotes. They cover the wide gamut of duties and responsibilities that fall under a project manager’s purview. Read them, share them and keep them close at hand for when you need them.

1. “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” – Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill knew that plans are necessary to structure a course of action within the restrictions of space, time and funding. But he also knew that being rigidly stuck to that plan would lead to disaster. A plan, after all, is only one potential pathway to success. There will always be external and internal factors that influence that plan. Issues will arise, and you can only plan against so much risk. Therefore, the plan is as critical as the need to adjust it.

2. “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” –Henry Mintzberg

A business and management academic and author, Henry Mintzberg, has studied management and has found that there is not one magic bullet that shoots through all the skills needed to run a successful project. It’s a practice made up of many disciplines. You can be an expert at the textbook definition of a dozen project management methodologies, or an intuitive leader who manages from the gut, but if you lean too heavily on one or the other, you’re never going to fully realize your potential.

3. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

Communication is about listening as much as it is about speaking. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but what somebody hears can often be far afield from what you’ve said. That’s why it’s critical to dialogue. Have the person repeat back what you’ve said, and give them the same courtesy, to make sure the takeaway is accurate. Also, remember, good communication hinges on listening. It’s not just comprehending what is being said but hearing feedback and acknowledging the opinions and perspectives of all involved.

4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

To think that your project is going to run without a hitch is wrongheaded. Worse, your project can fail. But failure is not the end. Projects are a process. Processes never end, luckily, they just keep going. Yes, you’ll have a deliverable at the end of one project. That project might fail to deliver your goal. Yes, it’s a failure, but only if you give up. The failures you encounter will instruct future projects. They are more than learning experiences; they are fundamental to the process of creation and innovation.

5. “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch

No matter how big or small the project or organization, without a vision it’s stumbling about blindly. That is not the way to get anywhere. However, if you can provide a vision to focus people’s attention towards a common goal, they’ll work harder and more cooperatively towards achieving it.

Project Management: The End of the Beginning

And that’s it. Not really. As you’ve gathered, project management is a massive endeavor made up of disciplines complex enough to offer a lifetime of study. Anyone who is seriously into project management knows that we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. There’s a wealth of project management we’ve not covered or only covered superficially.

But now you know what makes project management tick and if you’re interested it can be a skill that will inevitably fascinate and frustrate you. One thing we can guarantee, though: you’ll never be bored. Just don’t be complacent. There’s always more to learn. Stay curious. We have a few links below from the extensive ProjectManager.com library of resources that will send you on a journey into project management. Happy trails!

Of course, you can sign up for a free trial of ProjectManager.com and start managing your projects right away. There’s no better lesson than experience!

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