Project management is quite vast, covering multiple industries and requiring an array of skills. These two aspects, however, are tied together by techniques that project managers must use to get tasks done. Selecting the right approach to manage a project is essential for the successful delivery of projects. The way you manage a project is defined by the techniques you use and could be implemented in virtually any project, irrespective of the industry or field.
There are a ton of project management techniques you can choose from, but here are the top four and which project managers should know to control projects and eventually steer them to success.
Work Breakdown Structure
A Work Breakdown Structure is the cornerstone of project management. The WBS is simply a product-oriented family tree division of services, software, hardware, and other project tasks that defines, organizes, and graphically displays the final output as well as work to be accomplished in order to realize the specified product. Used to visualize the outcome of a project, Work Breakdown Structure aids project managers in breaking down complex project activities into tasks that are simple and manageable. The next logical subdivision for the planning and control is a breakdown of every end item into work packages. Work packages represent units of work needed to complete a specific task, such as a service, report, or piece of hardware.
How to Use a WBS
Step 1: The first step towards creating a Work Breakdown Structure is understanding the scope of a project. This implies that you must identify your project tasks, goals, deadlines, deliverables, etc.
Step 2: Identifying crucial deliverables. The critical deliverables are ones that are important to the success of a project and must appear at Level 2 of the WBS.
Step 3: Identify the project deliverables or work packages at the lowest level of the WBS. Bring together the stakeholders and project team to figure out the work necessary for the successful completion of your project.
Step 4: Create a Work Breakdown Structure dictionary that contains the scope and definition of the elements in the chart (work packages).
The Gantt Chart is a visual project planning tool and technique used to schedule as well as monitor tasks. This tool could be used to convey expenditure and cost at various stages of the project. One of the greatest advantages of Gantt charts is their ability to easily visualize the state of your project, big or small. A Gantt chart could also be used to:
- Break down the structure of a project
- Provide an accurate timescale for project implementation
- Schedule work on a daily basis through the project duration
- Show team members the way their work relates to that of others
How to Use Gantt Charts
Step 1: Break down your project into single tasks and put them into rows in your Gantt chart.
Step 2: Every task has a timeline, and you could color code them as needed. Overlay the timeline in a progress line which you can use to mark how much work has been completed on the task.
PERT (Performance Evaluation and Review Technique) network is a graphical illustration of project events connected in a logical sequence by activity lines that show all activities needed to complete the project as well as the dependency and interrelationship between these events in a project. A PERT chart could be used in various ways, but the most common one is in the mapping of a project from start to finish. This way, project teams can easily identify any “bottlenecks” in the campaign and address them almost instantly.
The PERT chart is simply a series of steps you could take to get to your desired goal. By putting information in a PERT chart, you will easily visualize the project, allowing you to distribute tasks to the appropriate department, thus giving you total control over how the project turns out.
So how does the PERT chart work? It manages probabilities by utilizing numerous statistical methods. PERT breaks down your tasks into detailed activities, by using a Work Breakdown Structure, then adds them to a Gantt chart to identify the interdependence of these activities. From this data, you can now create an illustrative map of the entire network of activities as well as their interdependencies.
Advantages of using PERT in Project Management
- Answering the what-ifs. PERT lets you create milestones for a project. Between every milestone, you could use the chart to identify all possible obstacles or outcomes that a project may face. Through this, you can immediately address them or prepare adequately for them so that your project stays on track.
- Easy project analysis. A project manager, member of a project team or anyone who wants information can easily refer to the chart to see the status of the project, how it is coming along and the stage it is currently at. This is great, particularly when it comes to budget and resource allocation.
Disadvantages of PERT
- Resource heavy: Creating, developing, and maintaining a PERT chart needs a lot of effort and time. You will need the input of various individuals and organizations, and this could be considered time-consuming.
Critical Path Method
Critical Path Model is another important project management technique that requires you to construct a project model which includes a WBS or list of all tasks, the duration to complete the tasks, dependencies between tasks, and deliverables for the entire project. With this information, you can easily calculate the longest path to completion of tasks, including the lasts and earliest time the tasks can commence and finish without affecting the project schedule. This way, you will know what tasks are crucial to the project and which ones have a float or could be delayed without extending the project timeline.
Therefore, Critical Path Model is a culmination of tasks that add up to the longest possible duration, whether there’s float or not. This information could also help you determine the shortest time required to complete a project.
The project management techniques mentioned above are not exhaustive; there are many other offshoots that could be used to churn out excellent results. The issue, however, lies in identifying a good approach for managing a project because it will serve as the blueprint and the approach used could be the difference between project success and failure.