"Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." -Abraham Lincoln
The key to success for most endeavours is prior preparation. Project management is all about planning and execution. With proper equipment to do the job, you are halfway through. Having a plan beforehand equips you appropriately for the intended project. A project is a unique operation undertaken to meet specific goals.
We encounter tasks in our everyday lives (in business and at home) and, they all require some level of management. For instance, you may be building or contributing to a project (say software development), making a meal or working on upgrades to your home. These are actual projects that have a defined start and end date, a goal, a scope, and resources. So then, what is project management?
What is project management?
Project management is applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a broad range of activities to meet the requirements of a particular project. It is, therefore, the method by which you can plan, monitor, control or report a project. Project management covers several related disciplines, such as planning, scheduling, task management, resource management, risk management and much more. Now, what method should you use in managing your project?
Project Management Methodologies
Project management methodologies are essential processes that assist project managers with guidance throughout the project, and the steps to take to complete the tasks. Different methods have different strategies that aid in managing issues; should they arise during the task delivery. The methodology you should use depends solely on the intended project. So, why select a project management methodology? To maximise the use of resources and time, you need to choose a project management methodology.
Before now, people have come up with some tried-and-tested ways of getting project work done. Let's look at some common approaches to project management;
Agile – collaborating to deliver whatever works iteratively. Agile is a type of process where demands and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising and cross-functional teams and their customers. The essence of agile methodology principle is to find better ways of developing software by providing a clear and measurable structure that fosters the development, team collaboration, and change recognition. Although software projects often use agile, it has now become more common in other types of projects, like marketing. The work is time-boxed, and the team gets as much done as they realistically can before moving to the next set of requirements. Series of tasks conceived, executed and adapted as the situation demands, rather than a pre-planned process are agile projects. Being agile helps the teams respond to unpredictables through gradual, frequent work processes. Agile is suitable for projects where you want to incorporate quick wins and build iteratively.
Scrum – allows a small, cross-functional, self-managing team to deliver fast. This methodology is an agile project management methodology or framework that encompasses: focus, openness, commitment, courage, and respect. It aims at developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products through collaboration, accountability, and iterative progress. Scrum aims to improve communication, teamwork and speed of development. What differentiates scrum from the other agile project management methodologies is how it operates by using specific roles, events, and artefacts. Scrum addresses complications in work by making information transparent to enable people to adapt and inspect based on current conditions rather than predicted conditions. Scrum is simply a project management methodology which proposes principles and process to improve delivery.
3. Kanban – enhancing the quality and speed of delivery by increasing the visibility of work in progress and limiting multi-tasking. Kanban is a very visual method that aims to deliver high-quality results. Kanban paints pictures of the workflow process so that you can identify difficulties in due time. Kanban operates on six general practices, which are:
b. Limiting work in progress
c. Flow management
d. Making policies explicit
e. Using feedback loops
f. Collaborative or experimental evolution
Kanban methodology focuses on work that is continually released, faster, and with better quality. It's excellent for operational or maintenance environments where priorities can change frequently.
4. Lean – eliminating and streamlining waste to achieve more with less. This methodology focuses on the theme of efficiency. It promotes increasing customer value, while reducing waste, and aims to create more value for the customer by using fewer resources. The lean methodology suggests that by addressing the three dysfunctions that create waste; Muda, Mura and Muri, i.e. the 3Ms, you can do more with less.
Muda; eradicating waste—removing process or anything that's not ultimately adding value to the customer. It can either be something that is a physical waste of your time or something that is a waste of your resources.
Mura is about eliminating variations— this is about removing variances in the workflow process at a scheduling and operation level so that all goes well.
Muri is about removing overload— so that nothing stops or slows down. Muri has to do with managers and business owners imposing unnecessary stress on their employees and processes due to things such as poor organisation, unclear ways of working and using incorrect tools. Instead of implementing specific strategies, Lean is more about adhering to a set of principles.
Lean is Good for process improvement projects and critical initiatives that need focus.
5. Waterfall – planning projects fully, step by step then executing through phases. The waterfall is a linear, sequential design approach where progress flows downwards in one direction — like a waterfall. Waterfall methodology, also known as SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) illustrates the software development process in a linear sequential flow. Any phase in the development process does not commence until the previous one is complete. Because of the single-cycle process in a Waterfall project, there's little scope to reflect, revise and adapt once you've completed something.
Once you're in the testing stage, it is challenging to go back and change something that was not well designed in the early stage. There's also nothing to show and tell the client as you go along, and that can be risky. Waterfall emphasises the importance of documentation. The concept is that if a worker was to leave during the development process, their replacement could start where they left off by familiarising themselves with the information provided on the documents.
It is crucial to bear in mind is that while there are several methodologies to select from, there is no 'right' methodology. Hence, there isn't one methodology that is perfect to use for every single project. Projects differ in scope and requirements, which means the right methods to implement will also go. Although managers underestimate planning, project management is all about planning and execution.
The waterfall is Good for projects where the requirements are precise or little change is expected along the way.
Now how do we go about planning? There are five stages/phases of planning, and if you can grasp these five stages, then you'll be fully aware of what project management is all about.
FIVE PHASES OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
You can also refer to these as project management lifecycle. These are:
I. Project Initiation
During this phase, the start of the project, the goal is to define the project at a broad level—research whether the project is feasible and if you should undertake it. Also, you bring together the team, and relevant parties to state the project goals, schedule and processes such as communication and the chain of transmission. Conceive the idea and put together the Project Charter, a document that sets out precisely what the project will deliver and how you are going to get there. So that if the lead or any team member quits today, someone can pick off where they left off.
Finally, before proceeding to the next phase, the project manager should consider three items:
Assembling a project team
Setting up a project office
II. Project Planning
This phase is vital to successful project management and focuses on developing a roadmap that everyone will follow. Here, you plan the work by breaking it down into smaller chunks and estimating how long each will take. i.e. creating a roadmap for the job until the project reaches its conclusion.
This phase defines the scope of the project, and a plan develops from identifying the cost, quality, available resources, to an achievable timetable. The project plans should include establishing baselines or performance measures. You generate these by utilising the scope, schedule and cost of a project. A baseline is vital to determine if a project is on the right track. By this time roles and responsibilities are clearly stated, so the team involved is aware of their duties. During this phase, a PM will create some documents to ensure the project will stay on the right track:
Scope Statement – A document that clearly states the business need, benefits of the project, objectives, deliverables, and critical milestones. Make a scope statement with the project manager's consent.
Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS) –This is a visual representation that breaks down the scope of the project into manageable sections for the team involved.
Milestones –Identify high-level goals that need to be met throughout the project and include them in the Gantt chart.
Gantt Chart – A visual timeline you can use to plan out tasks.
Communication Plan – This is of particular importance if your project involves outside stakeholders. Develop the proper messaging around the project and create a schedule of when to communicate with team members based on deliverables and milestones.
Risk Management Plan – Identify all foreseeable risks. Common risks include unrealistic time and cost estimates, customer review cycle, budget cuts, changing requirements, and lack of committed resources.
Budget The budget is a way to estimate the cost of the project. The required team members to execute and other resources, which can include materials, tools, and more.
III. Project Execution
Here, you develop and complete deliverables. It often feels like the meat of the project since it is where the bulk of the work happens—for instance, things like status reports and meetings, development updates, and performance reports. Along the way, you'll monitor and control the work to ensure that you stay on the right track in terms of budget, schedule and quality performance. Also, you'll work to identify and mitigate risks, deal with problems and incorporate any changes.
A "kick-off" meeting usually marks the start of the Project Execution phase where you inform the team of their responsibilities. Tasks completed during the Execution Phase include:
Execute project management plans
Procurement management if needed
Procurement manager directs and manages project execution
Set up tracking systems
Task assignments execution
Update project schedule
Modify project plans as needed
IV. Project Monitoring /Monitoring
During this phase, you need to track, review, and regulate the progress and performance. Measuring project progression and performance and ensuring that everything happening aligns with the project management plan. Project managers will use key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine if the project is on track. A project manager will typically pick two to five of these KPIs to measure project performance:
Project Objectives: Measuring if a project is on schedule and budget is an indication that the project will meet stakeholder objectives.
Effort and Cost Tracking: Project managers account for the cost of resources and effort to see if the budget is on the right track. This type of tracking tells if a project will meet its completion date based on current performance.
Project Performance: This tracks changes in the project. It considers the amount and types of issues that arise and how quickly you can address them. These issues can occur from unforeseen hurdles and scope changes.
V. Project closure
This phase represents the completed project. Here, you'll get user acceptance for the completed work and finish off any final paperwork and reports. Hand any deliverables over to a different team, such as the operations management team. After a project, a project manager holds a meeting ("post mortem") – to evaluate what went well in a project and identify project failures. Post mortem is especially helpful to understand lessons learned so that you can make improvements for future projects. Finally, they will need to collect all project documents and deliverables and store them in a single place.
The success of any project rests on three pillars. i.e. time, scope and cost often referred to as the triple constraint.
The Triple Constraint
The triple constraint in project management refers to time, scope and cost. Time is your schedule, the content being the tasks needed to reach the project goals and cost the financials or project budget. These constraints are always influencing one another. If you suffer a setback in time, then you're going to have to adjust either scope or cost. The same being right for the other points. Although managing the triple constraint doesn't ensure a successful project, there are many other factors at play. Still, these are three giants that must be controlled or else there's going to be trouble.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Although the project manager has an intricate role juggling people, time, cost, scope and quality, the world is a better place today. There is a wide range of project management tools, both online and mobile, available to help you manage your projects. Project management tools are aids to assist you and your team in organising work and managing projects and tasks effectively. Below are some of the project management tools used by project managers:
The Trello system built on the Japanese management "Kanban" principle, involves consistent monitoring of all production phases. It is an excellent tool for standard projects and is convenient for both command directives and individual assignments. The interface consists of different boards, which represent projects or processes in the company. Each committee consists of lists of tasks, cards with descriptions, comments, files, colour tags and deadlines. The menu displays as a calendar. The basic functionality of Trello is free and allows you to work with almost no restrictions.
Jira is a web-based tool that gives project managers the ability to manage multiple teams, projects and workflows more efficiently. The key concepts in Jira are projects and tasks. You use schemes for grouping tasks, and jobs are created within the projects so you can assign performers to these tasks. Appointments can also have sub-tasks. Task status automatically changes as projects complete. This tool works well for sizeable teams and organisations, where employees and managers cannot humanly visualise the project as a whole, and may sometimes overlook specific necessary tasks.
Worksuite creates a space for every team, department, or major project to share knowledge, information and keep work organised. Keeps track of all your projects, automate billing and revenue recognition to streamline the contract-to-cash cycle. Attendance module allows employees to clock-in and clock-out right from their dashboard. Real-time message sections help team members to discuss quickly with each other. Reports section to analyse what's working and what's not for your business. Ticket system to raise issues, track and solve the problems.
4. Gantt Chart
A Gantt chart is a famous project management bar chart that tracks tasks across time. When first developed in 1917, the Gantt chart did not show the relationships between the functions. Since then, it has become common to track both time and interdependencies between tasks, which is now its everyday use.
Since their first introduction, Gantt charts have become an industry standard. They are an essential project management tool used for showing the phases, tasks, milestones and resources needed as part of a project.
Monday.com offers a visually clear and intuitive interface to help you see your critical project data at a glance. For example, users can upload and attach files to cards, make comments, mention teammates, and more. It also offers a great project reporting dashboard that can collect data from multiple boards, allowing better tracking abilities of progress. And while monday.com doesn't provide a complete set of tools for project accounting and invoicing solution as other tools, you can use monday.com to track hours, timelines, and invoices.
GanttPro is a software solution based on Gantt charts. It allows you to plan and manage your projects online. You can visualise processes, create and assign tasks to team members, set deadlines and view the percentage of individual tasks completed against anticipated timelines. You can share the Gantt charts you have created with the team and customers, assigning to dedicated users the right to view or to edit.
ClickUp is a project management software tool with powerful features for managing and completing all your team's projects in one platform. Users can plan projects, schedule tasks, and manage resources in a centralised workspace, as well as communicate and collaborate with team members and guests. Task management features include task checklists, subtasks, and task templates, as well as the ability to filter, sort, search for, easily reorder, and view tasks in the manner most convenient for the team. Users can also create Gantt charts, calendars, and timelines to visualise tasks.
Celoxis is a comprehensive and web-based all-in-one platform for project portfolio management and work collaboration. Task management within Celoxis is strong and unique. Teams get an edge over other tools by eliminating multiple software they'd use otherwise. Celoxis lets them see their tasks and to-dos, report bugs, manage tickets, or fill time all from a single tool. They also get relevant notifications to their inbox and can send updates directly even without logging in.
With such a wide selection of apps for project management, you can find absolutely any software suitable for your own and your team's needs.
The roles in project management are the people who handle the processes. Processes enable you to move the work through the life cycle until the objective is complete.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESSES
Although we touched this earlier, let's give it a keen look. The project management processes that you'll see come up time and time again are:
Risk Management: The risk management process helps you identify what might happen to throw your project off track. And then define a response so, you've got contingency plans in place.
Issue Management: An issue is a problem that has happened (different to risk, because that hasn't happened yet). Issue management is how you deal with problems when they turn up on your project, and it's worth working out what this is going to look like for you because something is bound to go wrong. The process will cover who needs notification, how you make decisions about what to do next, and who has the authority to take action.
Change Management: Every project has changed. Sometimes that's because the objective isn't defined particularly well at the outset. Or because the business strategy has changed, and the project needs to be updated accordingly. The change process helps you incorporate these into your project plan with the least hassle possible.
Procurement Management: Many projects involve working with suppliers—processes about how you engage and contract with them. So everyone knows what to expect and what you are getting for your money.
Communications: Communication is a process! You have to identify who needs to get which message when and which method of communication is most appropriate. A communication plan will help you do this.
In conclusion, project management is the end of the beginning. If you're into project management, then you know we've just touched the tip of the iceberg. There's a wealth of project management we've not covered or only covered superficially.
You can work hard, put in the hours, and all but the magic happens when you aim to make a good plan.