This is the second in a monthly series of posts looking at the fundamentals of project management for anyone new to the profession or those considering entering it. Here I look at fundamental project processes and phases. Why not get involved with the discussions and help influence the topics for future posts.
Project management processes
Planning is carried out in the early stages of a project but there should be ongoing monitoring to ensure the project remains on budget and schedule; that resources are available and the expected benefits can be delivered. Estimates, deadlines and milestones may need to be altered as the project progresses.
No project is without problems but the project manager needs to control them so they do not adversely affect the end result. The control phase also deals with risk management.
Good communication is one of the most important factors affecting project success. Many problems can be avoided if there is open, honest communication between everyone involved on a project; written and verbal, formal and informal.
A project manager is responsible for managing the individuals working on the project as well as the tasks and risks. In complex projects there may be segregated levels of people management but every project manager will have some responsibility for individuals. That includes motivating people, delivering constructive feedback etc.
Project management phases
This first stage of a project defines the business case, the justification for the project, which will be used to ensure the project stays on track. It also states what the project is intended to achieve, how that will be achieved and the scope of the work; this is important for controlling subsequent change requests. In this phase, those involved in the project will be assigned their responsibilities.
The requirements documentation describes the aims of the project in detail including timescales and constraints. It should also define the criteria that will constitute a successful project and will be used to manage the expectations of the stakeholders. Many projects use an iterative process to reach agreement on the requirements, although some projects take an 'agile' approach to project management (more on that in a later post).
The project plan includes details about how the project work will be carried out, how it will be monitored and controlled, how communication will be facilitated and information about costs and timescales. But once a project is underway it is typically the project schedule where most attention is focused.
All tasks need to be scheduled in the most efficient order to ensure tasks with inter-dependencies are completed when required and to enable several tasks to be performed in parallel. There are many project management tools available to assist with scheduling, one of the most common being the Gantt Chart (again more on that in a later post).
The person or group assigned to carry out a task will need to know, in detail, what the task involves as well as any dependencies and timescales, and will also need to understand the criteria by which each task is deemed complete.
Once there is an approved end product the project can be formally closed and a final review held to learn from both the successes and the mistakes and take that experience forward to the next project.
Other blogs in this series:
- Business requirements and project managers
- People and behaviours in project management
- Project managers don't forget about behaviours and attitudes
This is a Project Management Fundamentals blog written and sponsored by Parallel Project Training.