There are two main categories in the realm of Project Management, which are to be skillfully mastered to succeed: Knowledge Areas and Process Groups. These two categories are considered as the backbone of the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge). For one to successfully develop into a Project Management Professional, he or she must become proficient in both Knowledge area and process groups. The Process Groups are the methods through which one executes the processes required to do the Project Management. Learning and implementing process groups are two different things because every project is unique in its own way, and the process groups are shaped and molded accordingly to fit the project.
Why Process Groups in Project Management?
For a project to be successful, the project team should:
- Determine suitable processes required to meet the project objectives
- Work to achieve requirements by using a defined approach
- Arrange and maintain appropriate communication and engagement with stakeholders
- Comply with requirements to meet stakeholder needs and expectations
- Balance the critical constraints of scope, schedule, budget, quality, resources, and risk to produce the particular product, service, or result
The project manager and his project team are responsible for deciding which processes are appropriate and how to utilize them to get the best out of the project.
Processes in Project Management are connected and aligned to each other in one way or the other. Modifications and changes performed during one process affect other related processes also. For instance, a change in scope change typically affects project cost, but it may not affect the level of risk. These process interactions often require compromises among project requirements and objectives. These adjustments could vary from project to project and organization to organization. The role of a project manager is to manage these interactions to meet sponsor, customer, and other stakeholder needs. In some cases, a process or set of processes may need to be iterated several times before achieving the required outcome.
Project Management Process Groups
The crucial step involved in Project Management is casting a vision for what is to be accomplished in the duration of the project and when that is to be achieved. Without proper planning being laid, and without a foundation being set, constructing anything is close to impossible. The initiation process creates a firm foundation on which the other four Process Groups are built. The initiation group includes all the processes that are used to initiate a project.
Initiation is a process that sets the direction of the project. Hence, skipping or avoiding this particular stage could be fatal. The minute details are to be looked into carefully, and the slightest of deviations can result in the complete failure of the project and its objectives. Until and unless one has a clear view of what the objectives of the project are and what approaches are to be taken, the professional should not get into the second phase – Planning!
The initiation stage includes procedures like organizing teams, acquiring approvals, and laying down the initial work orders in place. It is the project manager’s responsibility at this stage to identify risks, keep track of the resources needed, dependencies required, and project objectives, timelines, scope, and deliverables of the undertaken project.
The second phase of the Process group is planning. Some project managers are of the opinion that the scope is accomplished to its fullest in the initiation stage, but on the contrary, in the planning stage, the scope is further elaborated and developed at a much more detailed level through a process called progressive elaboration.
It’s a common fact that failing to plan is planning to fail. Usually, organizations commence a project with only minimal planning assuming that everything will gradually fall into place as the project progresses. But later do they realize that, without any real or sufficient planning, disaster strikes in the project.
A project manager has to spend some quality time mapping out all the details of the project, and these details are later on merged into a master document or Project Management plan. This Project Management plan helps all the team members, stakeholders, and leaders to refer to the document throughout the project and can be submitted for final authorization and approval before officially beginning work on the project.
- Defining and detailing the project scope
- Selecting project teams and leaders
- Setting proper plans for maximum productivity
- Developing project schedule
- Providing infrastructure to achieve objectives
- Establishing effective communication among project team and stakeholders
- Focusing on the project timeline and budget allocation
The immediate step after the planning phase is the phase of execution. Execution is the phase where the project teams carry out their respective individual tasks which were assigned to them during the planning stage. Every team member works in tandem to achieve the set deliverables, and the project manager keeps track of the resources and budget restraints. As the execution phase is the place where most of the budget is spent, stakeholders of the project get involved during this stage to make desired changes or requests.
The project manager during the execution process group manages teams effectively while orchestrating timeline expectations and reaching benchmark goals. The project manager has to establish proper communication with his team at all levels so that; he can address the team’s concerns or other complex situations related to getting the project completed with the fixed time frame and budget.
The project execution phase has no time limit; it depends on the project. It could take days, months, or years for the completion of a project. But just the execution phase is not enough to ensure that the project is on track and gets completed, rather it also requires further detailed attention. By detailed attention we mean, Monitoring and Controlling Process which we are going to discuss in the further topics.
Monitoring and Controlling
The fourth in the list of Project Management process groups is ‘Monitoring and controlling.’ This particular stage inspects all the tasks and their performance to ensure that the approved and authorized project is within the scope of the Project Management plan. The project at all times must be within the allocated budget limit and must be completed within the fixed time frame. Monitoring and Controlling is the stage where the project’s actual performance is compared with the planned performance so that effective measures can be taken to alter any significant differences.
Monitoring and the Controlling process are continuously performed throughout the project life-cycle. The core skills and competencies involved in this process are addressing the ongoing budget considerations and reducing unforeseen situations which could hamper the team’s ability to meet with the project deliverables that are set within the Project Management plan. Project managers keep the momentum going forward and protect the project from being interrupted by actively monitoring progress and using foresight and quick response to address project challenges.
As every other Project Management process group has its objective, even the closing phase has its particular objectives. The Closing Process Group consists of processes performed to conclude all the activities related to the entire project to ensure that the project is formally completed. During the project’s last phase, i.e., project closure, everything should be detailed in order to measure to see if the project was executed as planned and if the outcome is in alignment with the customer needs.
At last, the project manager should properly close the project by archiving records, conducting lessons learned sessions, finalizing payments, completing contract closure procedures, releasing the existing resources, and handing off the completed product. The project manager has to ensure that lessons learned mainly. And the historical information about the project is centrally archived and stored, so that it can be used as inputs for future projects, instead of going through the entire process again.
Important Elements of Project Management Process Groups
There are some Project Management processes, apart from the five above, which run through all of the phases:
- Phase Management: As the name suggests, a project manager’s job is to satisfy the conditions for completing each phase, and for starting the next one. He must be fully aware of the deliverables that must be completed and accepted by the concerned stakeholders before exiting a phase.
- Communication: Communication plays an integral part in any project. A project manager must make sure that responsibilities regarding communicating with team members, the project board, the different stakeholders, and related third parties are clear. Insufficient or improper communication is a common problem area for projects, and it needs to be appropriately addressed.
- Procurement: This is a specialist area. Some projects, like the ones involving information technology, hire third parties to manage purchasing or any other department. Efficiently managing these third parties is an essential task for a project manager.
- Integration: Many projects impact not only their department or area but other areas of the business as well. As a project manager, one must make sure that he reflects how the project will interface with other projects or functions or will affect other businesses.
It’s vital that professional project managers are familiar with the practice and execution of five main process groups. The only way to make oneself most worthy or valuable to a company is to know who one can effectively initiate, plan, execute, monitor, and close a project. As the project manager undertakes and leads more projects, he/she gains enough experience which is necessary to understand what works best for the progress and growth of the company. Give yourself a chance to grow in your Project Management career with PMP certification training, and gain the best skills and practices to manage projects.