A project is a temporary endeavor that is undertaken to create a unique product or a service. It has a specific start and end date with defined scope and resources allocated towards it.
A project is unique in nature as it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations that are designed to accomplish a common goal. A project often spans different teams, and organizations and at times across multiple geographies as well.
A project can take different forms and scales. For example, the development of application software for a mobile OS, the construction of a building, the disaster recovery effort after a natural disaster, and the expansion of business to a new geographic market – are all our projects.
Project management is the application of skills, knowledge, tools, and techniques to project-related activities to meet project requirements that align with the strategic objectives of the organization. The role of a project manager is of paramount importance in a project; they plan, monitor, and take corrective actions when required.
All projects move through five phases of the project management life cycle which are:
- Monitoring and controlling
Benefits of Acquiring Project Management Skills
It takes a holistic understanding and a specific skill set to manage a project. Acquiring project management skills can pay off immensely, as these build knowledge about best practice methodologies that can be applied universally to a project of any size or in any industry. These skills also help in benchmarking your capabilities, which in turn will increase your value to the organization and enhance your future career prospects.
Most In-Demand Project Management Methodologies
There are different project management approaches designed by different governing bodies to carry out a project in a planned way that accomplishes all the requirements. Each approach has its own key features and keeps the project activities in sync with the initial project plan. Below are a few of the most prominent project management approaches adopted worldwide.
This approach is based on A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013. PMI (Project Management Institute) is the governing body for this approach. This approach is similar to the traditional project management approach which has 5 basic process groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, Closing) and 10 knowledge areas for a typical project. This project management approach is popular across the globe, especially in the US. Project Management Professional PMP and Certified Associate in Project Management CAPM are two certification courses offered by PMI in this approach.
PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. Though this project management approach/methodology is recognized in most English-speaking countries, it is followed more in the UK and other European countries. PRINCE2 mainly focuses on the final delivery of the product rather than carrying out activities. The project is reviewed periodically and should have a business case to check if it is still viable. PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner by AXELOS are popular certification programs in this approach.
Agile project management is another popular project management approach that has gained popularity. An agile methodology in a project encourages stakeholder involvement, objective metrics, feedback, and effective controls. This approach often works well for projects that are complex, because it allows the project team to respond to the changing needs and requirements in an efficient manner.
Key Project Management Aspects
The popular project management techniques usually cover the following aspects, which shape how the project spans its course.
Writing a Business Case:
If you are about to start a new project, then the first thing that you should do is to write a business case. This business case will help to justify the spending on the project and will help you to get formal approval and funding from the stakeholders.
Creating a Project Charter:
A project charter sets out the purpose of the project and how you will approach it as a project manager. It is a critical component in the initiation and planning stages of project management and will explain what is expected by each team member. The project charter is referred to throughout the lifecycle of the project.
Conducting Gap Analysis:
Though ‘gap analysis’ does not get mentioned in either PMBOK or PRINCE2, as a tool, it is very effective in both of the project management approaches. Gap analysis helps you to identify what you need to do to meet your project’s objectives.
Using Gantt charts is the best way to plan and schedule your projects. This is one of the most popular ways to showcase project activities displayed against time. Having a Gantt chart allows you to take a quick look at:
- Various activities of a project
- Start and end of different activities
- Duration of each activity
- When the activities overlap with each other
- Start and end date of the project
New requirements are something that cannot be avoided in a project. However, if the requirements are coming in an uncontrolled manner, then a project can quickly spiral out of control and become subject to scope creep. Managing the scope of your projects is an important skill for a project manager.
Scope creep can be avoided by:
- Getting a clear picture of client requirement
- Collaborating with client to find a solution
- Defining the scope of work that provides a solution
- Agreeing on entire details of the service delivery in writing
Building Support for Your Project:
A project needs the right kind of support from stakeholders, such as your project team, boss, colleagues, client, third-party vendors/suppliers, and the leadership team. As a project manager, if you know how to present an idea and gather the necessary support, you can kick start the project on the right note with the resources required. Having knowledge of stakeholders through stakeholder analysis and creating the responsibility assignment matrix will help you to gather enough support for your project.
The major part of the project’s success relies on project communication. It is said that 90% of the project manager’s role goes into communicating with all the stakeholders. Project communication can be improved upon by:
- Creating project dashboards, which explain the status of the project
- Reporting project milestones, which keeps track of a project by evaluating it at significant points
- Conducting effective scrum meetings; is part of Agile project management, but they are useful for any type of project
Change is inevitable, but how this change is implemented in a project makes up an interesting initiative. Integrating change management in a project is tricky, as change needs to be managed effectively on both the technical side and the people side. The technical side mainly focuses on developing, designing, and delivering in an efficient manner. Whereas change on the people side focuses on ensuring change is embraced and adopted by the employees who have to do their jobs in a different way. The discipline of change management in the project management approach provides the structure, processes, and tools to manage change.
Project Improvement and Review:
Rather than waiting for the close of a project to measure results, projects are reviewed during their progress to see where they can be improved upon. Through the After Action Review (AAR) process, you will be able to evaluate the project as it progresses through various activities of the project lifecycle; you can make adjustments or take corrective actions to improve its performance. Another way to improve upon the project is through a post-implementation review, where you use the process to analyze project deliverables and see if additional work will deliver better results.
No matter what your role is, it is likely that you have to manage or get involved in a project at some point in your career. You can understand the nuances of handling or being a part of a project through a best practice project management approach. There are different project management approaches, such as PMBOK, PRINCE2, Agile project management, and others. Get to know how project management provides a structure, processes, and tools for a project from start to finish and you can apply whichever one suits you the best to complete them successfully.