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Project management is the process of planning, overseeing, and delivering projects in an organized manner. While we all use a form of it in our daily lives to complete tasks like going on vacation or adopting a pet, in business, the term project management refers to a specific practice comprising five distinct stages.
In this chapter, we’ll outline what that practice is and why it’s useful. Plus, we’ll examine the role and skills of a project manager.
What is a project?
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique and valuable product, service, or result.
Projects can be of any scale or complexity but must have a definitive start and end. Examples of projects include recording a song and constructing a new city from scratch.
A collection of related projects, managed as a group to achieve efficiencies of scale, is a program. For example, a construction company may have a program to build Ocean Homes that includes projects to build apartments, a fitness facility, a community center, and a luxury hotel.
What does a project manager do?
A project manager or PM is responsible for planning the project and ensuring it gets completed. They must work with stakeholders, project teams, and sponsors to create a project management plan. Large projects might have multiple project managers, often reporting to a program manager.
The PM must fulfill many roles and responsibilities while managing a project including:
- Defining the scope of a project
- Planning and sequencing activities
- Planning and managing resources
- Developing schedules
- Estimating time and costs
- Developing and managing budgets
- Analyzing and managing risk
- Team building and team leadership
What are the six most essential project management skills?
- Organizational skills – time management, planning, and forecasting (making smart predictions and estimates)
- Technical skills – expertise in project management software, tracking, and monitoring
- Financial skills – budgeting, reporting
- Soft skills – communication, listening, negotiation
- Leadership – team management, conflict resolution, motivation
- Unflappability – adaptability, problem-solving, staying cool under pressure
What is the definition of project management?
Project management is defined as the practice of applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something unique and of value—a product, service, or result—according to specific requirements.
What are the five stages of project management?
In this opening phase, the goal is to justify, define and authorize the project. A business case is developed that captures the reason for undertaking the project, and a feasibility study is completed to assess whether the project is possible.
The sponsor and key stakeholders are identified, and a team is built to deliver the project by first creating job descriptions for key roles and then finding the best people to fill them.
To give the project the authority to exist, a project charter is created and signed off by the sponsor. This formal document gives the project manager authority over the internal project activities and over the money, people, and other organizational resources necessary to accomplish the project.
The charter also lays out the project’s objectives (what it aims to accomplish) and requirements (a group of tasks or conditions that must be completed to finish the project successfully).
In this phase, a roadmap is developed for everyone involved in the project to follow. Goals are set, the scope of the project is defined, and the cost of the project is estimated.
A list will be made of every deliverable in the project. A project deliverable is the intended outcome of an approved task stemming from a project requirement. For example, a project requirement could be to have live music at an event. A deliverable that must be completed for that requirement to be fulfilled would be booking the musicians.
A project plan (incorporating a communication plan, financial plan, change management plan, risk management plan, and resource plan) is made to identify all the tasks and activities necessary to deliver the project’s objectives.
Defined in the plan are the project’s resources, milestones, and a timeframe for deliverables. Schedules are developed and a work breakdown structure (WBS) is created together with performance indicators.
To help the project management team complete the project successfully, a project management plan is created. While the project plan describes what needs to be done, the project management plan is a formal, approved document that functions as a guide to how the project will be executed.
This phase is when the deliverables are created. The more work that went into the planning stage, the easier the execution phase will be.
For example, it’s easier to make decisions when the project is underway if you have a clear and detailed project plan to refer to. If you must book musicians for an event but your plan doesn’t include any information on the style of music required, you will need to spend time discovering this detail.
Various issues that may impact the progress of the project can arise during the execution phase. These include workflow bottlenecks, late deliveries, missed deadlines, spiraling costs, scope creep, and the maldistribution of resources.
Using project management software will improve communication during the execution phase and allow project team members to easily track the project’s progress. Project management software can also automate most technical or administrative tasks, freeing up the project’s creative team to focus on design and production.
This phase happens alongside the execution stage. The project manager will monitor and measure project performance and output quality to ensure that the project remains on track.
Project management software makes it easy to track deliverables, project costs, resource allocation, and the performance of individual team members while simultaneously keeping sight of the overall project. It can show how much time was spent on each task and it can automatically send reminders of upcoming deadlines.
The project is completed when the stakeholders have been provided with all the deliverables and have signed them off. Once this has occurred, a project analysis is completed in which the performance of the team is reviewed, and their efforts recognized.
Finally, a project report is written which includes notes on how to improve future performance, and if appropriate, the project is transferred to the team who will maintain it.
Why is project management useful?
- Identifies projects that will fail
- Saves costs by improving efficiency
- Makes it easier to stick to budgets, schedules, and scope
- Improves results for stakeholders by involving them in the planning process
- Helps project teams by flagging issues earlier and making collaboration easier
- Allows deadlines, dates, and deliverables to be tracked against milestones
- Identifies risk so it can be planned for
If you are a small creative agency operating on a lean budget, using project management to successfully complete projects can help solidify your reputation or build you an excellent one from scratch.