If you're interested in project management, you must be bombarded with technical terms, different methodologies, and frameworks.
The whole process may seem overwhelming at first, but all you need is to break it down into key details that capture the true essence of project management.
Let's dive into the world of managing projects starting with the basics until you can discover how to become a successful project manager.
Feel free to jump ahead to any section of the article:
What is project management?
Project management is the process of planning a project by applying unique skills and knowledge using specific techniques to see it to completion.
To complete a project, a project manager needs resources, like a software program, and employees with experience related to that project.
The project manager is responsible for setting clear goals within an estimated timeframe, keeping in mind the resources available and the involved personnel's schedules.
Project management is essential in various fields from software engineering to construction and healthcare.
There are different techniques that can be implemented in a project depending on the industry; as you read on, you will find out the different methodologies used by project managers, but first, let's take a look at what the process entails from beginning to end.
What are the 5 stages of project management?
A project's life cycle is made up of 5 main stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing.
These project management process groups are standard practice among project managers to see projects from their conception stages through closure and delivery to the clients. Let's take a look at what each phase entails.
1. Project initiation
The first stage is to define all the requirements, purpose, and end goal of a project. At this stage, a project initiation document is prepared to include an overview of the project's journey, which can be reviewed by the team or stakeholders at any point.
This document is sometimes referred to as a project charter or brief, and it's essential in any project, whether big or small, as it sets the tone for the whole process for the team to understand what's expected of them and have the project's main purpose as their target.
2. Project planning
The planning phase involves outlining the project's roadmap using SMART goals for the team to follow.
The project manager develops a clear plan with an estimated budget, timeframe, resources, and performance indicators to measure the team's progress throughout the project. This stage will clearly identify each team member's roles and responsibilities.
The project manager will write a few documents in this stage to track progress including:
(a) Scope document, to outline the project's purpose, objectives, deliverables, and milestones.
(b) Work breakdown structure, to divide the project's scope into smaller tasks for the team.
(c) Gantt chart, to have an illustration of the project's progress within the specified timeframe.
(d) Risk management plan, to list all expected risks in the project like extra costs, unreasonable deadlines, shortage of resources, altered requirements, and so on.
(e) Communication plan, to identify the proper channel of communication with external stakeholders, if any, to keep them updated with the project's milestones.
3. Project execution
The execution phase is initiated with a kick-off meeting to introduce the project to the team.
This stage also includes assigning resources to members, following the project management plan, setting a clear tracking system, updating the project's schedule, implementing altered requirements, modifying the initial project's plan, and having regular status meetings.
The status reports and updates mark the progress of the execution stage, followed by monitoring the project's performance.
4. Project monitoring
This phase is concerned with monitoring the project's deliverables and results after the execution stage to ensure they align with the main purpose and objectives set in the planning stage.
The project manager will refer to key performance indicators to track progress in the project, which include the following:
(a) Project objectives, to see if the project is within the set timeframe and budget.
(b) Project progress, to track all changes happening in the project and stay on top of issues and challenges.
(c) Budget and resources, to update the estimated project completion date based on the cost of resources and team's performance.
(d) Project deliverables, to track progress on assigned tasks.
5. Project closing
After a project is completed, the project manager will gather with the team to discuss the project's challenges and highlights.
This information will help the team improve their process and give the project manager a better idea of how to manage the team in future projects.
This stage entails listing all the unfinished tasks and ensuring the team gets them done before officially closing the project. The project manager will calculate the final cost of the project to generate their final report.
The five phases of project management involve having a series of meetings to optimize the team's process and track their progress. To do this, a project manager needs a wide set of tools to oversee the whole project.
Project manager tools essentials
Every project manager can't go without a bunch of tools to stay on top of the team's tasks, costs, resources, and other aspects involved in the project, which include the following:
(a) Project dashboard, to monitor tasks, progress, resources, and costs.
(b) Gantt charts, to view the project timeline in graph form.
(c) Kanban boards, to oversee sprints for agile and scrum teams.
(d) Project management templates, to facilitate planning, scheduling, and tracking the project.
(e) Project management software, to manage all aspects of the project.
Project management software typically includes various features to perform the following:
1. Plan the project and set a schedule for each team member.
2. Assign tasks with deadlines in order of priority.
3. Communicate with the team for feedback, updates, and altered timeframes.
4. Share documents with the team and stakeholders.
5. Schedule meetings via a shareable calendar.
6. Track the project's timeline for the official project record.
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What are the different project management types?
There are various methodologies used in project management to go through the five stages of a project.
A project manager may implement different techniques to complete a project depending on the industry, project's goals, and client's requirements.
The waterfall method is a linear approach that starts with listing all the customer's requirements before formulating a plan to fulfill the project's objectives.
It's named as waterfall because the project moves in a steady forward direction where every phase falls into the next. This approach is common in software engineering, IT, and construction projects.
The agile method is an iterative project management approach that involves dividing a project into smaller, manageable tasks, where the team works in sprints, which are short periods of time usually from two to four weeks.
This approach entails constant collaboration with the team and client to track progress and update altered requirements. It's most common in software development projects but can also be used in marketing projects.
The scrum approach is a shorter version of the sprint methodology and relates to the agile framework.
It's ideal for smaller teams with less than 10 people working on tasks for a shorter interval of two weeks compared to sprints.
The team meets daily on what's known as daily scrum meetings hosted by a scrum master. These standup meetings are short where each team member mentions what they accomplished yesterday and what they'll work on today.
The lean methodology is one of the agile project management frameworks that's aimed at enhancing the team's productivity and efficiency by reducing waste and increasing customer value in each of the five project phases.
This approach helps in cutting back downtime and facilitating collaboration between team members by usually working on one project at a time.
The Kanban project management approach allows project managers to view the whole project using visual aids like Kanban boards and cards.
A project's project is presented visually to all team members, especially for agile teams who benefit from Kanban tools to display user stories and plan their workflow. This visual approach helps project managers and teams organize their workflow and focus better on their tasks.
6. Six Sigma
This method is concerned with implementing quality control on a project using data and statistical analysis to avoid mistakes and increase value.
It's aimed at identifying a project's weaknesses that cost time, effort, and money and finding ways to maximize efficiency and productivity.
7. Critical chain
Critical chain project management or CCPM is aimed at focusing on the crucial resources your team needs to complete a project.
This method aims at finishing project dependencies first, which are tasks that depend on the completion of other tasks in the project.
In this approach, resource buffers, like extra staff or tools, are added to the project's timeline, which guarantees your team won't run out of resources in the project. If these buffers are not used, this is considered a measure of the project's success.
8. Critical path
The critical path method is similar to CCPM but it's mainly concerned with prioritizing a series of tasks that are crucial to project completion.
This approach helps keep your team on an efficient timeline, and the project's success is measured by whether these critical tasks are completed within the set deadline.
Now that we've established the most common methodologies in project management, let's find out about the necessary skills every project manager should have.
What are project management skills?
Project management skills are a unique set of characteristics that every successful project manager must have.
You'll need to possess a combination of technical and interpersonal skills that enable you to plan the project, create a reasonable timeline, complete each project phase, allocate resources, set a budget, collaborate with the client, resolve issues, and finally deliver the project.
Let's take a look at the top skills you should develop as a project manager.
Planning a project is one of the cornerstones of project management. It's no wonder it's the first phase in a project because it's a crucial skill that you need to set the tone for the entire process.
You'll have to make tons of estimates from setting deadlines to allocating resources, which makes forecasting an integrated skill with project planning.
A project plan is how you gather all the elements needed in the project like success metrics, budget, deliverables, milestones, timelines, and communication channels with your team and stakeholders.
Your planning skills also involve (a) setting the project scope to identify goals, potential challenges, and resources, (b) writing a project brief to list the project's objectives, (c) creating a roadmap for your team to know what's expected of them at which time, and (d) conducting a project kick-off meeting along with planning for other meetings throughout the project.
You can also assign action items and share them on your favorite platform.
Screenshot from adam.ai: Action items
In the "Files" tile, upload important documents from statistical reports to Gantt charts to share with your team and stakeholders.
Screenshot from adam.ai: Attachments
2. Task management
Assigning tasks and action items is a recurring role that you'll be doing throughout the project. Having task management skills is about knowing how to best manage your team's time on each task.
An experienced project manager knows when to check in with each team member to follow up on their assignments and help them prioritize tasks according to their level of severity.
➕Bonus. Check out how to improve team accountability and follow-up on adam.ai from this video.
💡In the "Actions" tile, assign tasks to each team member, set a deadline for each task, and choose the level of severity for the assignee to know which tasks to work on first.
Screenshot from adam.ai: Assigning action items to team members
3. Risk management
Managing risks is another pillar in project management. As a project manager, you'll have to foresee potential risks from lack of resources to delayed approvals and alterations in the client's requirements.
These risks could set you back for months if you didn't consider them in the planning stages, which is why risk management is crucial in ensuring your team get to the finish line.
💡Did you know there's a whole tile for risks on adam.ai? You can simply add, edit, or delete a risk, reopen an old one, add mitigation to each risk, watchers, and supporting or relevant files, and discuss each risk in the comment boxes right there on the "Risks" tile.
4. Cost management
Many projects are delayed or even come to a halt due to poor cost management skills. Setting a budget is one of the major aspects of any project.
You'll have to be fully aware of your company's financial limitations and work with what you have to deliver the project with the best quality possible.
The trick is to set the budget in the initiation phase because your timeline depends on it. Cost management skills don't just involve defining the project's budget; you'll need to check up on expenses frequently throughout the project to ensure you're not hemorrhaging money.
It's good practice to compare your estimated budget number with the project's actual costs after completion to develop your cost management skills in future projects.
5. Collaboration and teamwork
As a project manager, you may be involved in multiple projects with different teams and clients. You'll need to hone your collaboration skills to get things done as efficiently as possible.
Remember, not all information can be found on Kanban boards and Gantt charts; you'll have to coordinate with your team members directly to understand their needs and resolve issues head-on.
It's also your job to get the team members engaged during meetings and give them credit when it's due. Having brainstorming sessions can make them feel valued and heard and motivates them to do their best.
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Your approach to resolving issues is key to becoming a successful project manager. It's not always about finding the correct answer but how you look at problems from every possible angle before landing on the best solution possible.
To develop your problem-solving skills, you need to view matters logically. This entails analyzing data presented to you by your team using your insights on the project and coming up with a solution based on this information.
While some people lean on their gut feeling, solving issues needs a more methodical approach. You should always review your decisions and solutions to arising problems to make sure you've based them on facts not emotions.
6. Organization and time-management
A great project manager knows how to manage not only the team's time but also their own. Organizing your tasks is a skill that you will practice daily, and as you become better at it, you'll easily keep up with your current and upcoming tasks.
It all comes down to prioritizing your tasks and focusing on each one until you're finished with your list.
Since you'll be typically using a myriad of tools to track different projects, it's best to have one platform that integrates with these different apps to keep things organized.
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✅ Schedule your meetings and invite attendees on a shareable calendar via Google Calendar or Office 365.✅ Upload your meeting agenda, time your agenda items using the meeting timer, and take notes in private or public to manage your entire meeting.
✅ Stay updated with the company's performance via integrations with project-management apps like Jira, Asana, and Trello.
✅ Duplicate your meetings to save time and effort on setting repetitive meetings.
✅After the meeting, automatically generate meeting minutes and send the document to all the attendees with a click of a button.
✅ Follow up on actions and decisions, generate meeting insights, attend to unfinished business, and check your upcoming scheduled meetings.
✅ Integrate with various tools you're using right now when managing multiple projects.
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It takes a significant amount of time and effort to master each of the essential skills mentioned here to become a successful project manager.
To develop these multiple capabilities, you'll need to gain a project management certification through renowned agencies recommended by global project management peers.
How to become a project manager
To become a project manager, you can start with a project management course from a prominent organization offering world-class training programs. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Project Management Professional (PMP) Certificate
The most successful project managers are certified through the Project Management Institute (PMI) by taking the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
This program includes predictive, agile, and hybrid methodologies that put you on the map of the project leadership's world.
Mid-level to experienced project managers from different industries take the PMP, created by project experts, to validate their skills that teams look up to in a competent project manager.
2. Google Project Management Certificate
Google partnered with Coursera to offer a training program for the basics of project management if you're just getting started in your journey.
You will learn essential skills that every aspiring project manager needs like creating effective project documents to implementing the five phases of project management.
This program includes the basics of the agile framework with an emphasis on Scrum and practicing your soft skills like communication, problem-solving, customer management, budgeting, and risk management.
3. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
The CAPM is another program offered by the PMI and is popular among entry-level project managers but is also open for people at various stages of their careers.
This program covers the foundations of project communication and risk management, which are essential skills to develop if you're just starting out.
4. Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)
Another course from the PMI, also known as PMI-ACP, is the Agile Certified Practitioner certificate that focuses on the agile framework.
This program requires experience in the agile approach, so if you're familiar with it, the next step is to get certified. You can also take other agile courses offered by the PMI like Disciplined Agile.
✍️One thing to keep in mind is that learning is a never-ending process. All of the above-mentioned certificates must be maintained over the years as each of them expires after three years.
You'll have to keep taking training courses to earn professional development units (PDUs), which are points for training, coaching, or volunteering as a project manager.
The bottom line
Project management is one of the most demanding positions in the professional world. To become a successful project manager, you must be aware of all aspects of your team and tackle each project phase efficiently.
By now, you've learned about the various methodologies to use when managing a project and how to get certified, but one crucial aspect is to find the right tools that empower you to track progress and manage your team to complete your projects within budget and deadline.
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