Project management can be hard to wrap your brain around—after all, there’s so much to do and a fair amount of terminology, too.
From the project management life cycle to popular methodologies, this blog will break down the most important aspects of project management in an easy-to-understand, applicable way.
What even is project management?
Project management is using tools, methodologies, and skills of team members to meet the project requirements.
Why is it important?
Poor or lack of project management can be harmful to employee wellbeing and overall performance. In fact, one study reported that 20% of employees cite an unmanageable workload as the number-one cause of burnout.
When executed well, it helps every part of the business run more smoothly. Teams can focus on the work that matters, free from the distractions caused by tasks going off track or budgets spinning out of control.
Here are just a few of the ways effective project management can mitigate this and other common problems:
It aligns projects with business strategy
A well-managed project will deliver value to a business if addresses a specific need while also bring that organization closer to its larger goals. Part of a project manager‘s job when mapping out milestones and tasks is to make sure they support an organization’s strategy.
One aspect that we’ll flesh out soon that guides this is called a project proposal or charter, which identifies the goal the project is helping to meet and weighs the costs of the project vs. the benefits it should bring. This also serves as a source of truth for all team members involved.
2. It supports quality assurance
A well-managed project has time built in for review and quality control, increasing the likelihood of delivering the actual thing that was initially asked for.
Well-rounded project management charges the project manager and stakeholders with defining, committing to, and managing quality through the process. This often looks like routine meetings.
Project managers can learn the difference between quality assurance and quality control in preparation for the PMP certification exam.
3. It provides a framework for planningWithout effective and realistic planning, a project has every chance of being delivered late and over-budget. Which leads to grumpy customers, frustrated project teams, and angry CEOs.
Luckily, project management doesn’t rest on gut feelings or assumptions. Its strength lies in concrete, defined steps that provide a stable foundation in the likely event that things will change along the way. This is called the project lifecycle.
What are the key components of project management?
There are 5 key stages of project management, also known as the project lifecycle.
This is where you decide on the project deliverables, agree on a high-level budget and timeframe, and start to build the project team. Everything that’s agreed upon should be written down in a project charter or Project Initiation Document (PID).
A well-planned project significantly improves your chance of success. At this stage, you’ll decide how you’re going to deliver the project and pick a methodology (more on this below). You’ll need to identify your key stakeholders and plan the project schedule.
This is where you roll your sleeves up and the bulk of the real work gets done in order to deliver your products or services to your clients or internal stakeholders. This phase will be fueled by true ownership and transparency for each task.
Monitoring and controlling
While the work is being done, you’ll want a way to track progress. This is when project management tools like monday.com are invaluable—helping you to see at a glance how things are going.
This final phase is when the agreed output is handed over to the customer. All documentation is signed off, approved, and archived. It’s also when you judge how effective your project plan was, according to the project plan and scope.
For more information on each of the project stages, check out our article here.
Two ways to manage projects
There are two main ways to run a project:
- A step-by-step, linear approach — known as a waterfall methodology
- An iterative approach — known as an Agile methodology
The main difference between the two methodologies is this:
With a waterfall methodology, you are clear at the beginning about what you want to achieve. You then follow the steps of the project lifecycle until you reach the desired outcome.
With an Agile methodology, you have a general idea of what you want at the beginning of the project but it isn’t fully defined. Work is delivered in a series of short “sprints” with a review period at the end of each sprint. The review enables you to get closer and closer to the desired outcome.
The challenge with a waterfall methodology is being crystal clear at the beginning of the project what you want to achieve.
One of the common problems with Agile project management is that there’s less certainty for stakeholders. It’s hard to understand how much time and budget will be required as the final outcome isn’t clearly defined. Or, if time and budget are fixed, you might find not everything you want can be delivered.
Sometimes choosing bits from both methodologies, a “hybrid” approach, can suit your project. This can have its own issues though and is best chosen by a project manager with previous experience in both waterfall and agile projects.
monday.com’s Work OS enables you to work in either of the two methodologies (and more!!!) and use a variety of frameworks to suit your project.
Other project management frameworks
Scrum is a way to manage agile projects where the project team meets regularly to review the progress of the current “sprint”. They will also review the “backlog”, which is work that is still to be completed, and prioritize what needs to be done next.
Overall project progress is monitored using a “burn-down chart” which compares what still needs to be done against how much time remains in the total project timeline.
In a nutshell, Lean is a way to quickly and visually communicate tasks. More a philosophy than a framework, it focuses on eliminating waste from all business processes to guarantee maximum productivity.
In projects, this means concentrating only on “value-add” activities such as guarding against “scope creep” and creating an effective communication plan so the right people get the right information at the right time.
One of the key tools supporting a Lean framework is a Kanban board.
In keeping with Lean principles, basic Kanban boards show 3 key elements:
- What needs to be done
- What’s being done
- What’s completed
The project tasks are shown on “cards” under each element and can be moved around the board as the project progresses. This is useful for successful project management by enabling overall progress tracking and also managing the workload of your team members.
If you want to get a little fancier, monday.com offers Kanban software that is fully customizable and plays nicely with lots of other project management tools.
The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a way to take the agile principles and scale them beyond a single project team. Used by larger businesses, it requires maintaining the ethos of agility across the enterprise despite the increased size and complexity.
We’ve also offered lots of different options for managing projects to suit you and your team’s needs while motivating any team to gain maximum productivity through accountability and transparency.
Why not use monday.com’s helpful project proposal template to kick off your initiation phase and set yourself up for project success?