Project management is important to a business because it provides leadership and a detailed plan for every project. The leadership is typically provided by the project manager. The project manager will get buy in from stakeholders, allocate or request resources, and develop and oversee a project management plan that can be referenced throughout the life of a project.
What Is Project Management?
Project management is the process of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing the work of a team to achieve a project’s goals.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 39% of projects fail due to lack of planning, resources, and activity. This is why project management is so important, as it increases the chance of a project’s success.
A project is a temporary endeavor, designed to produce a unique result. Typically, there are time constraints involved.
Project management is broken down into 5 phases:
This is where the project is introduced and key stakeholders are identified, and a project manager assigned. An in-person meeting is typically held, so people can introduce themselves and a high-level overview of the project can be presented by the project manager.
During this phase, a project charter is created.
If feasibility testing needs to be done, then that is also conducted during this stage.
The project either gets a green light (and proceeds into the next stage), or is vetoed.
This is where the project is completely planned out, and the details put into a Project Management Plan. See What Is the Main Purpose of a Project Management Plan?
This is where the project is put into action, during which time the deliverables are produced.
PROJECT MONITORING AND CONTROL
Monitoring and control happens at the same time as execution, and it ensures that the project is being carried out according to the project management plan. A project manager will ensure that the project is on budget and troubleshoot production issues or scope creep (this is when there is unauthorized growth in the creation of a deliverable or its features), ensure milestones are met, and keep stakeholders informed.
This is when both the execution and monitoring stages are complete, and the project is coming to an end. A post-mortem meeting with the stakeholders should be held to discuss the challenges the project faced and future recommendations (should the project be repeated). During this phase, all relevant information, including the project management plan, should be archived. Key stakeholders should be rewarded and recognized, for success.
What Is a Project Manager?
A project manager is typically in charge of the 5 phases of a project. Sometimes though, they are merely the planners and have no actual authority.
A good project manager will be:
EXTREMELY WELL ORGANIZED
Some projects take years to complete. Depending on the size of the project, a project manager can literally be handling hundreds or even thousands of details throughout the course of a project’s lifespan. A project manager needs to be able to receive, manage and track these details in an organized way. Project management software can help, but not all details can be handled through a computer.
A project manager needs to inspire and lead the team, align and motivate stakeholders, know when to escalate a problem or implement a change. His door needs to be always open, and he needs to come off as approachable.
An effective project manager should be able to communicate clearly and concisely, at all times – in person, in email, or in any documents he will create, such as the project charter or project management plan.
The word ‘accountable’ is used a lot in project management, precisely because although other people may be responsible for an action item, a project manager is accountable for almost everything to do with a project. A project manager must be prepared for that, at any time.
IS A PROBLEM SOLVER
A project manager needs to be able to pivot, quickly, and troubleshoot problems with solutions that are informed and realistic. He also needs to keep the big picture in mind when deciding on a course of action, and not be influenced by factors that fall outside the project’s scope.
If a project manager has a PMP designation (“Project Management Professional”), then a company is in good hands, as this is someone who has trained specifically for this field and understands the language of project management and its methods. Many employers will not hire a project manager unless they are PMP certified.
In order to get a PMP, the applicant must have education, experience and project management training (including the completion of an exam). The experience requirement calls for an applicant to have a minimum of 7500 hours leading and directing projects, but that requirement can be lowered to 4500 hours if the applicant has a four-year degree.
The certification is accepted globally.
What Is a Project Charter?
Consider the project charter to be the “pitch”. It’s a high-level brief, used in the initiation stage of a project, to get support from necessary stakeholders, so that the project can go ahead. It is typically only a few pages.
A project charter should explain:
- The objective of the project
- The project sponsor (this is the project initiator, who typically also funds the project)
- The reason for undertaking the project (as it aligns to the business’s needs)
- The top-level requirements to achieve the objective
- The due date
- Approximate budget
- The return on investment
The project charter should also identify the key stakeholders, their overall responsibilities, and establish the authority of the project manager. This is important because the people working on the project may come from different departments (or even different companies) and, as such, have different reporting lines. Establishing the project manager’s authority also allows the project manager to assign or officially request necessary resources.
A project charter, once signed by the key stakeholders, is the green light to go ahead with the project.
What Is the Main Purpose of a Project Management Plan?
The purpose of a project management plan is to break the project down in detail so that anyone reading it can understand:
- What the objective is
- The production schedule, including project milestones (key dates where something needs to be done, or delivered)
- Resources and processes required
- Who the stakeholders are, and their roles
- How information will be communicated, by whom, and when (this is referred to as the “Communication Plan”).
- Project deliverables (and their criteria for acceptance)
- How the project will be monitored
- Budget breakdown
- How success will be measured
The plan will also break down all the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to complete the project.
The project management plan is a formal, approved document. It requires sign off by all stakeholders. It is developed by a project manager in the planning phase, but referred to throughout the life of the project.