This is Chapter 3 of a much more comprehensive post Project Management Guide: Starting Out. Let’s dig right in!

Project Management Overview

Simply put, project management is the process and activity of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources, procedures and protocols to achieve specific goals and objectives. In other words, it is the science of organizing project components, be it a new product, service, marketing campaign, or just a wedding.

A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique result, with a defined beginning and end, undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives. It is usually created once, it’s specific and temporary, and uses resources (people, time, and money) within a budget limit.

We are all aware that our organizations undertake projects and, rather than debate the merits of different definitions, it is perhaps more helpful to look at a few of the characteristics that make projects different from other work.

Projects are usually characterized by being:

  • Instruments of change
  • Non-routine
  • Unique
  • Composed of inter-dependent activities
  • Carried out by people who don’t normally work together
  • Temporary with defined start and end dates
  • Intended to achieve a specific outcome
  • Frequently risky and involving uncertainties

A clear distinction must be made between business as usual and projects. In practice this two systems are very different, and as such different management strategies and skills are required.

Project Management Basics

No matter what the type of project, project management typically follows the same pattern:

  • Definition
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Control
  • Closure

Defining the Project

Here the project manager will define what the project is and what users hope to realize by undertaking the project. A list of project deliverables is developed, presenting the outcome of a specific set of activities. The project manager will work closely with the project sponsor and other stakeholders, who have vested interest in the project, to produce these deliverables.

Planning the Project

Define activities and tasks.

In this stage the project manager defines all project activities and tasks, how these tasks are related, how much they will take, and task deadlines.

Also, the project manager will define the relationships between the tasks, for example, if one task is delayed for a number of days than other linked tasks will be affected and show a comparable delay. Likewise, the PM can employ the use of milestones to mark important events in the project lifecycle that need to be met.

Define requirements for completing the project.

Here the project manager will define how many individuals (often referred as ‘resources’) and costs are required for the project, as well as any other requirements necessary. Risks and assumptions and constraints are also activities that need to be considered. Any change to the project requirements will have a domino effect, and the project manager will have to be aware of that.

For example, a budget constraint can affect the number of resources that are employed on the project, and that in turn can affect the project deadline. Similarly if any other feature are requested (change in scope), scheduling, resources and budget will be affected.   

Executing the Project

The project team is being assembled. The project manager will know by now how many resources and budget, he or she has available, and he or she can assign those resources and money to various tasks in the project. The work on the project begins there.

Controlling the Project

The project manager is in charge of updating project plans to reflect how the project is progressing. This will allow the PM to understand how the project is moving ahead and use that information to make adjustments if necessary. Project Management Tools are usually used to monitor project progress. You can check some examples on out Tools page.

Closure of the Project

Here the project manager and project owner will pull together the project team and other stakeholders to analyze the outcome of the project.

Time, Money, Scope

Very frequent people refer to project management as having three main components: scope, time, and cost. These three components are tightly closed together. Affecting one will most likely affect the other 2. For example, if a company reduces the amount of time available for a project, which will affect the cost (more resources will have to be used to achieve the new deadline) and scope (what features will be included in the final product). You can find more about the triple constraint by reading this article.

Conclusion

Whether your project is straightforward or complex, it is important to follow the process outlined above. This will ensure the seamless flow of its implementation and allow you to finish the project on time and within budget.

Done for now. This concludes this chapter. The next article in this guide is: Decision time, yes or no, to project management?

Also you can go to the first post of the guide Project Management Guide: Starting Out to get an overview of how I have structured the guide. If you have a comment about the article please share it with us.

Image courtesy of Freepik

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