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The Ultimate Guide to Project Management: Everything You Need To Know

If you’re starting your career as a project manager, you have a massive opportunity for growth. However, you need to have the right knowledge and access to the right tools to benefit from this opportunity.

Read on to learn more about what is project management, related tools, and all you need to know to succeed as a project manager.

Project Management

Project management refers to using specific tools, knowledge, skills, and expertise to achieve desired objectives and deliver something valuable. In other words, you use the available resources to acquire an intended result within a specific timeframe and budget. 

What does project management look like? 

Project management gets work done worldwide. But depending on the work, project management will look slightly different. For instance, you may use project management to build a skyscraper in the middle of a city or to develop software for a school

While each project will have unique steps the team would follow from start to finish, every project will follow a pattern — or project cycle. Let’s explore that below. 

Project Management: Project Cycle

The Project Cycle

The project cycle comprises the five phases you go through to take a project from start to finish. These five phases include:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Closing

Here is an overview of each phase in the cycle:

Initiation Phase

The initiation phase, the first phase of the project, involves activities that set up a solid foundation. 

For instance, you’ll identify a business problem, define its possible solution, appoint a team, and present the best possible solution to your stakeholders. A key activity you’ll perform in the initiation phase is creating the business case. 

What’s a business case?

A business case evaluates a project by considering its benefits and costs. It serves as a quick summary and helps stakeholders decide if they want to proceed with the project. 

In your business case, you’ll have:

  • Business problem with its detailed description
  • Problem’s possible solutions
  • Preferred solution
  • Project Benefits
  • Financial costs
  • Risks, dependencies, and challenges

Once your stakeholders approve your business case, you can start the planning phase. 

Planning Phase

In the planning phase, you draw a roadmap to achieve the goals within the set budget and timeline. This includes documenting your plans, requirements, project deliverables, and work schedules in detail.

In other words, you develop a project management plan to guide how you’ll implement and manage the project until completion. This plan determines how you’ll manage the time, costs, quality, and project-related risks. 

Here are some common outputs of the planning phase:

Project breakdown:

  • Scope planning to determine the scope of the project
  • Risk Management to mitigate any risks that may occur during project implementation
  • Communication planning to set up the information flow that ensures timely messages to project stakeholders
  • Quality planning to set the quality standards for the project

Schedule breakdown:

  • Work breakdown structure that turns the project into  specific tasks and sub-tasks
  • Project schedules to put tasks on a calendar and set the order of implementation

Resource breakdown:

  • Budget planning to specify the project cost from start to finish
  • Resource planning to allocate work across your team based on their skills and expertise
  • Procurement planning to help secure essential resources from vendors and suppliers

By the end of the planning phase, your team members will understand the project’s deliverables and their responsibilities in meeting those deliverables. And your stakeholders would know the project is on the right track. 

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Execution Phase

In the execution phase, you implement the project plan you developed in the previous phase.

As the project manager, this is usually the longest phase of your project cycle, where you coordinate the workforce and use resources to achieve project goals. This coordination involves directing the execution process using your work breakdown schedule to ensure everyone plays their part. 

For instance, say you’re managing your small business’s expansion to a new locality. You may have assigned different tasks to salespeople, customer support, content leads, and the product development team. In the execution phase, you need to ensure that everyone is pulling their share of weight in meeting those deliverables.  

Besides that, as a project manager, you’ll also have to update your CEO and other stakeholders regarding the project's progress. 

Monitoring and Evaluation 

Monitoring and control, a crucial stage in the project life cycle, ensures the project is on the right track. It helps you avoid deviations and take corrective actions when required to steer the project back on track. 

Unlike with other phases, there is no distinct boundary between the execution phase and the monitoring and evaluation phase. In complex projects, you may evaluate the results and get the stakeholders' feedback during the execution. 

For example, if the expansion in the above example required three months, you may monitor the progress and evaluate the results every week and update the stakeholders twice a month. 

In summary, during the monitoring and evaluation phase, you:

  • Report on critical metrics and milestones
  • Communicate with stakeholders
  • Monitor project performance 

Closing Phase

In the closing phase, you conclude the project. However, it’s little more than checking the project off as done and moving. 

At the very least, you should perform several key close-out activities:

  • Deliver project results, whether products or services
  • Assess project records
  • Celebrate achievements
  • Disband the project team
  • Provide feedback to the team

While the closing phase marks a project’s end, it may also signal the start of another project. For instance, you may be scaling the successful project you just ended. 

Project Management Methodologies

Project management methodologies refer to defined principles that help you optimally manage your project. With a project methodology, you can model a project to fit your team. 

Here are the five popular project management methodologies:

Waterfall Methodology

In Waterfall methodology, projects follow a linear and sequential manner. In other words, you must conclude a project cycle phase before moving to the next phase. 

Waterfall methodology follows a single direction like a waterfall. While this simplifies onboarding and testing, you may have a hard time incorporating changes in requirements after the project’s start. 

Agile Methodology

Unlike Waterfall methodology, Agile  methodology provides you with flexibility. It lets you adapt to changing project needs, which is the norm in software development. 

Agile methodology focuses on three key principles: 

  • Speed
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability

While Agile methodology offers flexibility, the lack of a defined project cycle makes it difficult to evaluate progress and estimate the project’s end date.

Scrum Methodology

Scrum methodology is a form of agile methodology that uses short cycles called sprints to run projects. 

In Scrum methodology, a scrum master leads each small team during a sprint. Upon completion, the scrum master reviews the team's performance and makes changes before running another sprint.

As Scrum is derived from Agile, it also suffers from a lack of a defined project’s end date. 

Kanban Methodology

Kanban is another Agile project management methodology. It involves using a Kanban board to keep every project member up to date on the project’s progress. A Kanban board contains multiple columns, and each column represents a stage. 

As your team starts working, the tasks start flowing from the leftmost column to the rightmost column. Ideally, you should have an equal amount of tasks in all columns during the project — i.e., a consistent flow of tasks. 

If one column starts accumulating tasks, you have a stage with a bottleneck that requires work. 

Lean Methodology

The lean methodology applies lean principles across your project to reduce wastage and increase productivity. The lean methodology focuses on avoiding three key problems:

  • Muda or wastefulness that adds no value to the customer
  • Mura or unevenness that causes overproduction on one end and inefficiency on another
  • Muri or heavy workloads that lead to strain and breakdowns in both machines and humans.

Project Management Roles: Project Manager

Young Project Manager on Her Laptop Laughing

The project manager is  the individual responsible for ensuring a project delivers its expected output. They operate with the authority of the project’s board and sponsors to run a project daily from start to finish.

Project managers use their skills and expertise to inspire their teams to work using available resources and produce the desired results for the business and its customers. 

Project Manager: Responsibilities

The project manager’s role is crucial in every project. They:

  • Create project plans, budgets, and work breakdown schedules
  • Manage project implementation to produce the expected deliverables
  • Manage project risks and develop mitigation strategies
  • Report on project milestones on agreed deadlines
  • Employ corrective action whenever necessary to any deviations from the project plan
  • Manage the project budget and workforce
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities to team members across the project

Project Manager: Qualities

If you want to succeed as a project manager, you must possess the following attributes:

  • Strong leadership skills to help move projects in the right direction — leadership skills are also essential for managing teams and project stakeholders
  • Excellent decision-making and project management skills 
  • Ability to craft good risk management strategies for project success
  • Proficient at team building and using your team to achieve goals
  • Excellent negotiation skills to help build and foster strong relationships while managing conflict amicably

Career & Certifications

To succeed at your project management job,  you should look for regular training and certification opportunities from recognized professional bodies. In a 2020 Project Management Institute report, 51% of organizations shared that they require project managers to hold certifications for their job.   

Here are some popular certifications you can get to enhance your CV:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • Master Project Manager (MPM) certification offered by the Global Academy of Finance and Management
  • Associate in Project Management certification offered by the Global Association of Quality Management

With any of these certifications, you can start and participate in projects of different kinds across the world.

What You Need To Know About Project Management

The future of project management continues to look brighter. With global businesses needing more project management professionals, project management is one of the most sought-after skills. 

Are you taking on a new marketing project?

Sign up for HubSpot’s Project Management Software to enhance productivity and attain the project goals on time.