Definition – What is Project Management?

POST on Project Management by Jamie Johnson

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Anytime you achieve a goal it is usually through implementing some sort of project. The development of new software, the construction a building, and designing a new website are all examples of projects. A project is simply an activity that lasts for a finite length of time. It was created with a specific goal in mind and it has both a start date and an end date. And project management is simply the active planning and monitoring of these activities.

Our goal is to leverage what is already out in the field in terms of partners, but then hire in project management capability and a bit of technical capability.Kevin Rollins

Usually, a project will be accomplished by a team of people who may not normally work together. Often, a team will be formed with individuals from many different organizations and locations. The team must work together to not only meet the goals of the project, but they must manage a variety of outside variables as well. These variables will be things like staying within budget, delivering the results on time, and learning and implementing tools that they may be unfamiliar with. Essentially, project management involves integrating the knowledge and tools needed to fulfill the project requirements.

The History of Project Management

The history of project management really starts in the late 19th century with the transcontinental railroad. This project began in the 1860’s and was a huge undertaking that required the effort of thousands of people and countless materials. It took six years to build and was the first railroad to connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

In the early 20th century, Frederick Taylor introduced the idea of managing the workday for employees. This was a completely new idea because rather than simply asking employees to work harder, Taylor began to figure out strategies to help them become more efficient. Henry Gantt, who was Taylor’s associate, suggested using graphs to monitor when certain tasks were finished.

This led to project management becoming its own discipline in the workplace and these ideas quickly spread across different industries. The specific details have changed over time but the general philosophy has remained the same. And that philosophy is that in order to succeed, many different individuals within a business must work together.

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Responsibilities of a Project Manager

When a team is assembled to tackle a specific project there will generally be one of two specialized individuals brought on to lead the project. These individuals are known as project managers and they are responsible for planning, overseeing, and executing a successful project.

Project managers can use a variety of approaches to run the project depending on the needs of the organization. Project managers are responsible for gathering the necessary information to begin the project, which is known as the project scope. This is simply the work that is needed to deliver the finished product.

Their roles will require many different responsibilities including:

  • Planning and defining the scope of the project
  • Discovering what resources the project will need
  • Estimating how long the project will take
  • Figuring out a reasonable budget
  • Documenting processes
  • Managing any problems that arise
  • Effectively leading and communicating with the team
  • Working with vendors
  • Controlling for quality

An effective project manager is someone who has good communication and negotiation skills. This is because a project management team is usually made up of employees who are not used to working together. A project manager will also have to work with multiple stakeholders who also have a vested interest in the project.

A good project manager is someone who is both analytical and relates well to other people. They can manage the intricacies of each task while still keeping the bigger picture in mind. This article in the Harvard Business Review points out that one of the most important things that project managers need to ask themselves is, “Am I focusing on the right details?”  Being able to deliver on milestones is important, but not if it is the wrong one.

The 5 Phases of Project Management

There are a lot of moving parts involved in a project so managing them usually involves many steps. The terminology may vary depending on the organization, but in general, this involves five basic steps.

These steps are as follows: defining the project goals; planning what steps must be taken to achieve those goals; figuring out what sort of resources will be required; overseeing the execution of the work; and finally, delivering the finished product.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the five phases of project management:

  • Definition

In the first phase, the project manager will define what the real problem is and what the project will involve. The project manager will usually work closely with senior management and other stakeholders to create a list of project deliverables.

This may sound like a simple process, but if you settle into the wrong problem then your project will be a waste of time and money.

  • Planning

During this phase, the project manager will list the necessary tasks, how long each one should take, and how each task supports the desired outcome. This is also an opportunity for the project manager to set milestones for each task. If one task is delayed by even a couple days, this will create a domino effect and impact numerous other tasks as well.

The project manager will also look at things like the allotted budget, challenges with scheduling, and any other potential risks involved.

  • Execution

During execution, the project manager will now build a team and assign the various tasks to those team members. Now the real work of the project can begin.

  • Control

The project manager must continually evaluate where the team is on completing each task. This helps them have a bird’s eye view of how the project is progressing. Workflow software can be helpful in facilitating this part of the process.

  • Closure

In the final phase, the project manager, stakeholders, and the team will evaluate the final outcome and implement the project. This part is often the most satisfying and also the most frustrating; the work is finally finished but the details of implementation can be tedious and overwhelming.

Conclusion

Project management involves taking a complex and time-intensive project and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. A successful project is one that meets the desired outcome and is completed on time and stays within budget.

In theory, project management may sound simple but it is incredibly challenging to manage the many different elements of a project. Scope creep can work its way in, team members may not possess all of the necessary skills, or the deadlines may be unrealistic and unmanageable.

The project manager should always try to be aware of these challenges so they can deal with them appropriately as they arise. And overall, the benefits of project management will almost always outweigh any difficulties.

Workflow software can be extremely helpful in managing the scope and execution of your project. This will ensure that everyone on the team will have a clear understanding of their roles and your project will have a greater chance of success. When you implement workflow software like Tallyfy, you can apply a repeatable structure that can be used not only for your project but future projects as well.

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