How to build a project management process from scratch

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Marie Hall was given a task by her CEO back in 2017: build a project management process and team for the business. Pure Business Group had grown rapidly from a small team to hundreds of staff across five locations in just under four years. The Group, with its aim to ‘change the legal landscape for the better’, had made a huge impact on the legal profession.

As the business grew, so did the number of projects. From building websites to creating workflows, office moves to software migrations, the number of projects kept on expanding.

Tasked with creating a project management team, Hall went on a learning journey. Originally a costs lawyer, she retrained as a project manager, joined APM, and is now group head of project, change and process improvement management for Pure Business Group.

“Developing a project management department has been an excellent learning curve,” she says. “It has made much more sense than attempting to move forward without a project management department.”

Here’s how she went about creating her process and her team:

  1. Find the methodology

Hall’s first step was to decide on a project management methodology for the business – a simple step, she assumed. However, she soon found that it was exceedingly complex, particularly as she needed to find something that would work with a lot of different project types.

Firstly she tried PRINCE2, but its lack of time spent on financial management would not work for Pure Business. Then she looked at waterfall.

“Waterfall comprises static phases – requirements analysis, design, testing, implementation and maintenance – that are executed in a specific order. It allows for increased control throughout each phase. However, waterfall can be inflexible if a project’s scope changes once it is already under way.”

She then looked at agile, but this also did not quite work for the company: “Expecting senior management to buy in and commit to agile would have involved a significant amount of their time. They were already at capacity.”

Critical chain, six sigma and scrum also didn’t work. Neither did mixed methodologies. Hall needed a different approach.

  1. If that doesn’t work, make your own

Eventually, Hall realised that the right methodology didn’t exist. The company would have to create its own. “I looked at the project management process in general. In simple terms, the project methodology life cycle consists of phases: define, plan, launch, manage and close. Each phase addresses a specific aspect of managing a project, from define through to close. I knew that these would be the five phases that our project management methodology would need.”

The Pure Business methodology looks at the end result from the start of the project. From that, they establish the project and business objectives. They create a budget and timeline split into phases, and the costs are split between them.

“We look at the total cost in any phase and break it down into payments, including to whom and on which date. We are then able to confirm costs to the board and request approval in advance of those costs coming up. We also decide on the strategy and identify potential risks, and our proposed contingencies should any of the risks become an actual issue during the lifespan of the project.”

  1. Train up your people

Once the methodology was in place, Hall needed people who could use it. The team started as Hall, with some support from group head and director of risk management and compliance Rob Mares. Now they have a training programme in place to teach new team members the Pure Business methodology.

“Rebecca Small joined as our first trainee project manager,” Hall explains. “She is halfway through the programme and doing really well. She should become a project manager fully trained in the Pure Business Group project management methodology.”

Don't know which method is right for you? Learn more about choosing the right life cycle in APM Learning

Mark Rowland

Posted by Mark Rowland on 24th Jul 2019

About the Author

Mark Rowland is a senior writer on the Project editorial team. He has worked as a business journalist and editor for 15 years, and has won awards for his writing and editing. He has also worked in project and product management, overseeing the launch and continuous development of new websites and publications. Project is the official journal of the Association for Project Management (APM).

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