This is where project management can help. Project management ensures that you not only meet your project goal, but you get it done on time, on budget, and within your scope.It tells you how to begin, what comes next, and how to end. It's like using a template. All that you need to know is available for your reference. You just have to apply it to your own project. It'll help you see if the way you're doing things is effective. It'll help you by giving you alternatives, if something goes wrong. It'll help you stay on track of your end goal. Essentially, project management does not spoon-feed you, instead it teaches you to cook—in an easier, and smarter way than you would have done without it.
What is a project?
The diary that's waiting to be filled, the blank canvas that needs some color, the empty land that requires a building; they are all projects if you set your mind to complete them within a particular time frame.
A project can be any activity that has a deadline. To make it more clear, a project can be a goal, a resolution, a task, or simply something that you want to do in order to produce a certain result.
Terms to watch out for:
Consider a blank canvas. The desired outcome or product is the completed painting. If the artist decides to finish within a week using only readily available art supplies, then these are the planned constraints of the project.
Scope encompasses exclusively the work you do to produce the planned outcome for your project. If the artist decides that framing their painting, displaying it in art exhibitions, and putting it up for auction is a part of this project, then it means that the project has gone beyond its scope.
How did it all begin?
Project management, as we know today, started evolving in the 1900s; with Henry Gantt being considered its forefather. He introduced the Gantt charts as a visual way of representing work as it progresses in time. This shot to fame, dragging the field of project management along with it, when Gantt charts were successfully used to build the Hoover Dam in 1931. This was a revolutionary concept that is still being used today.
There were several significant developments in the 1950s. The Critical Path method to schedule a project, the Program Evaluation Review technique (PERT) to identify the minimum time required to complete a project, and the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to break down a project into a hierarchy of tasks.
With all these developments taking shape, this field required a body to guide its practitioners. In 1969, the Project Management Institute was formed in the US. They publish 'A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge' (PMBOK) to educate people about practices that are common to most projects, most of the time.
One of the recent trends in project management is the Agile methodology, an iterative approach to executing a project, in contrast to the phased approach that has defined classical project management (the "waterfall" model) until now. Software projects, today may have fast-changing trends and requirements. Being able to adapt to these changes is so much easier when done at a small scale, rather than re-doing the entire project. This is where working in installments helps, and why the Agile methodology rose to meet these needs.
Let's take the classical, phased approach, and see how project management works here.
Project management process groups
Every project goes through roughly five stages as it progresses, called process groups - otherwise known as project management phases.
This is where you create a general outline before drafting your "story". An important question to be answered here is, "What is the scope?" It's important to be clear about your goals during this phase. If you're building an office—the scope is to have a workable environment where 10 people can operate peacefully. However, as the project progresses, you continue to add extra rooms on the fly. The end result is less likely to be a functional office, and more likely an over-budgeted mess.
During planning, you'll get down to the details. Lay down structured plans to manage resources, cost, time, risk, and communication. If you decide that instant messaging is what works for you, decide who will stay in touch with whom, how often, through what channel, and what it's regarding. Although it may seem extensive, proper planning makes your work so much easier.
Here is where all your carefully laid out plans go into action. An important point to remember during execution is to manage relationships—both within the project team and with any customers. Proper coordination and communication between teams will ensure that your work gets done on time, and without any hiccups.
Monitoring and Controlling
This runs parallel to the execution stage. It can more appropriately be referred to as a control group, rather than a process group. Change requests come from all directions, from your customer or from stakeholders. On one hand, you don't want to change the project too much from its intended plan, and on the other hand, you don't want to anger an important stakeholder. Finding the right balance and establishing control is what this stage is all about.
This phase consists of tying up loose ends and finishing up the project. You'll review all the phases and make sure that everything has been done to deliver the end product to the customer. Finally, you'll conduct an appraisal post-completion to analyze what has been done, and what could have been done better.
- 01 - Initiation
- 02 - Planning
- 03 - Execution
- 04 - Monitoring and Controlling
- 05 - Closing
Why is project management important?
There are several benefits to project management—chief among them is the simple fact that your chances of succeeding in your projects are greatly improved. Projects are notorious for not being able to meet their original goals. In fact, according to the CHAOS report (1994), 31.1% of IT projects were cancelled before they could even be completed. Project management helps improve these conditions. A whopping 97% of organizations believe that project management is critical to business performance and organizational success, according to a PwC study. Some key benefits are:
Working better, together
When it comes to managing projects, a number of people from different teams are often involved. Good communication and relationships between your teams can greatly improve productivity and will help keep projects on track. With project management, this becomes a priority instead of a courtesy, leading to a positive culture shift in your organization.
Getting the best out of your assets
Any resource that you have—an employee, an asset, or work time—needs to be utilized to get the best value. Proper project management ensures that no resource is left out of the loop. A successful project is not just about getting the right work done on time, but also ensuring that the people involved feel engaged and motivated. This means there's no imbalance one way or another—no single person is overworked or underworked, and no material resource ends is over- or under-utilized.
The relationship with your stakeholders is what holds your entire project in balance. Some may want to be kept in the loop for every single change, while others may just want an occasional status update. It's all in the details, which project management accommodates, allowing you to engage with all your stakeholders in the right way.
There should always be a contingency plan in place when you've made a well-researched risk management plan. It involves identifying the critical elements of your project's success and listing any factors that may affect them. Prioritizing potential risks and coming up with response plans is also a huge part of this plan. You don't want to give yourself a headache trying to find ways to deal with a broken faucet, when you haven't thought about what to do if your house catches on fire.
- Working better, together
- Getting the best out of your assets
- Driving engagement
- Tackling obstacles
Why do you need project management software?
Teams don't work the same way that they used to. Teams today use virtual tools for collaboration. There are many companies where people work remotely, and these tools are the only means for staying in touch. In these scenarios, online project management software makes the most sense to keep everyone organized and accountable.
The way we collaborate has changed. Approvals don't have to mean printing out forms and waiting for your manager to sign them. Meetings don't mean sitting around a table for hours, while listening to just one person drone on and on. What seems like a simple work item may involve input from various teams and people. Great ideas need not come from the top. Today, almost everyone has incredible access to information. The possibility of newer employees coming up with a brilliant suggestion is greater than ever before.
Data, too, is perceived differently by different people. Flexibility in viewing your data may seem like a simple thing, but it goes a long way when you're managing huge projects. Advanced charts and reporting capabilities help here. Wading through large amounts of data to find what you need can be a huge task in itself. Giving visibility to everyone involved, while at the same time being able to access exactly what you need, is a big advantage, which project management software is able to provide.