The ultimate guide to Project Management: strategies, tools and insights
If you ever worked on projects (which you surely did), you must know that one of the most important factors leading to their success is the project management. And this is exactly what we talk about in this article: we give you complete information about project management process and we ponder on what it really means to be a successful project manager.
Project Management and Project Managers: definitions
Let’s start with some theory. Simply put, project management is a process of applying methods, skills, and experience to lead the work of a team to achieve certain goal, all within given constrains such as scope, time, and budget.
Project managers are people who organise, plan, and execute projects on time and to the best results. Managing a project is always a big responsibility, no matter what kind of project you work on.
In the end, the success or failure of each process is always down to project managers. They are the ones that are the easiest to praise and to blame.
Project managers are needed in every industry. No matter whether it’s marketing, tourism, construction or software development, every company works on projects.
And everywhere there is a project, there needs to be a project manager.
Why is Project Management vital in today’s business environment?
In today’s business environment project management is simply vital. Why? It provides leadership, motivation and the right attitude to make the project come true. If your organisation is keen to increase its efficiency, adaptability, and overall performance, project management must be prioritised and treated with utmost importance.
That done, you will be able to deliver value to customers, seize opportunities, and navigate challenges effectively, ultimately contributing to your long-term success.
Tasks and responsibilities of a Project Manager
The role of a project manager is incredibly complex, but it can be summarised in one sentence: it comprises on day-to-day management of the project. Let’s look into typical tasks and responsibilities of a project manager to understand what such a person does on daily basis.
Every project is divided into five parts: initiation, planning, execution, control, and closure. Project managers are involved in all those stages.
At the beginning their role is to define the scope of the project – they need to think about the end goal in terms of deadlines, costs, budget, resources, and expectations.
Later, they need to plan the project and gather a team, making sure each team member is aware of the work that needs to be done.
Then comes project control: the process of monitoring the progression and performance of the whole team, as well as making sure that all is done within budget and deadlines.
Other important tasks here are documenting the progress of the project and communicating it to stakeholders and teammates, assessing risks and responding to changes and any problems that may occur during the execution of the project.
That’s done, project managers close their projects, hand them over and review them for the future.
The number of tasks each project manager needs to deal with means the job is very varied and dynamic. Every day is different, and you can never be sure what you will be doing tomorrow.
Learn more about Project Management:
Choosing the right Project Management methodology: Agile, Waterfall, Scrum and More
There are various types of project management methodologies. Choosing the right one is crucial to the success of a project, as it influences how you will deal with problems, how you will build the development team and how you will monitor your actions.
The choice of methodology depends on the project’s characteristics, objectives, and the organisation’s culture and preferences.
Let’s have a brief look at some most popular PM methodologies:
Agile methodologies break projects into smaller increments and focus on early delivery of a minimum viable product. They are great for projects with evolving or unclear requirements, where flexibility and adaptability are essential. Their advantages include the possibility of collaboration, their adaptability, and the importance of customer feedback. Agile methodologies allow for continuous improvement and facilitate the ability to respond to changing requirements. On the other hand, they may require a shift in organisational culture.
Waterfall is a linear and sequential methodology where each phase of the project must be completed before moving on to the next. It is suitable for projects with well-defined requirements, minimal changes expected during the project, and a focus on delivering a fully completed product at the end. It provides a structured approach, making it easier to manage and control projects. Its disadvantages include its lack of flexibility to accommodate changes. Also, it may not be suitable for projects where requirements are not well understood or change frequently.
Scrum is an Agile framework that emphasizes teamwork, accountability, and iterative progress. It’s well-suited for complex projects with changing requirements and a need for frequent customer feedback. Scrum facilitates close collaboration between the project team; it provides a clear structure for roles, events and artifacts. To be effective, it requires experienced Scrum Masters and Product Owners. it’s worth noting it may not be suitable for all types of projects.
You can learn more about their characteristics in the article: “Agile and Scrum in project delivery – what does it really mean for the client“
Other interesting methodologies are:
- Kanban – a visual project management’s methodology that focuses on work visualisation and limiting work in progress,
- Lean which focuses on reducing waste in processes to increase efficiency and value delivery,
- and Hybrid Models that combine various elements of different methodologies to create hybrid approach, suitable to specific needs of an organisation or team.
Planning the project: objectives, scope, budgeting and timeline
To successfully deliver a project, you need to carefully plan the whole process. This include defining its clear objectives and ensuring stakeholder’s alignment, developing a comprehensive scope statement that outlines the project’s boundaries, deliverables, features, constraints and budgeting it.
Other important aspects are its timeline and project schedule, allowing you to predict how long the project will last.
Setting milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
A critical aspect of every project management is setting milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs). It helps project team members measure progress, ensure alignment with project objectives, and which provide a clear roadmap for achieving project goals.
To effectively set milestones, you have to understand the project scope. You can do it by breaking down the project into smaller phases (each of them can become milestones), defining clear milestone criteria, establishing a timeline, communicating them to the team members and monitoring them.
When it comes to KPIs, its important to know the project objectives, to select relevant metrics, assign responsibility and regularly monitor and adjust it if necessary. See how to prepare a comprehensive and realistic estimation for a software project.
Risk Management: identifying and mitigating potential roadblocks
A critical part of project management is risk management. By being proactive about it, project managers can minimise the impact of potential roadblocks and increase the likelihood of project’s success.
To do it right, don’t forget about risk identification, information security risk assessment, risk mitigation, control and regular audit as well as of lessons learns that allow to evaluate project to review the effectiveness of your strategy.
The human aspect: fostering a positive culture and motivating your project team
Despite all methodologies and tools, the most important part of project management is the human aspect. Even the best project manager will not achieve too much without a team of talented people, keen to reach for the goal together and in a great atmosphere. This is why fostering a positive culture and setting work ethics is so important: it leads to higher morale, to increased productivity and better outcomes!
Don’t forget about open and transparent communication. Other aspects to consider are empathy, good motivation, flexibility, and openness when it comes to feedback.
Closing the project: evaluating success, lessons learned and next steps
Closing your project is as important as any other step in the project management process. It concludes all your actions and can become a great basis for future projects undertaken by the same team or company.
To do it right remember about evaluating success and achievement of objectives and about the right reporting that summarises the project. Conduct a lessons learned session with the whole project team and with stakeholders to discuss what went well, what could have been done better and what were the downsides.
That’s done, think about next steps to ensure the smooth handover of all deliverables to the clients or operations teams.
How to be “Good” Project Manager?
Given the complexity of the role, becoming a good and successful project manager is not an easy task.
What are the skills needed to become a project manager? Above all, a person keen to become valuable project manager needs to be a proper leader – the main goal of each PM is to lead the team to achieve a certain goal. And leading the team has many different aspects: from recruiting and training to couching, managing, and solving personnel problems.
Another skill that is essential for the role is the ability to communicate with people at very different levels: stakeholders, sponsors, teammates, customers, sometimes suppliers. What’s more, project managers need to be incredibly well organised and have great time management skills.
Prioritising, multitasking, and responding to unforeseeable situations are their bread and butter.
As the role is dynamic and evolves with the project, project managers need to have the ability to work under pressure and see the big picture despite minor problems that may occur. They also need to be able to cope well with stress – being a project manager means making a lot of decisions and accepting risks associated with them.
Challenges of Managing Projects as a Project Manager
Being a project manager that manages other people’s projects can be tricky. Managing projects as an individual is linked to a high level of stress, a lot of responsibilities and many various challenges one can encounter at any time.
The main ones include:
lack of proper communication, being it between the team members or between the stakeholders,
scope creep – a situation when project management allows the project’s scope to extend beyond its objectives,
lack of clear goals and success criteria,
problems with budgeting and time management,
lack of adequate skills within your team,
inadequate risk management.
To address these challenges, project managers must rely on their expertise, effective leadership, problem-solving skills, and the support of their project teams. Adaptability, resilience, and a commitment to continuous improvement are key traits for successful project managers.
Additionally, seeking mentorship, training, and professional development opportunities can enhance their ability to navigate the complexities of project management.
Building a legacy of successful projects through effective management
By consistently delivering value to stakeholders and learning from each project, project managers can leave a positive and enduring mark on their organisations.
If you are thinking about an important project or want to speak to experienced project managers to check whether they could help you achieve your goals, do get in touch. At Future Processing we helped project manage many complex processes and will be happy to discuss your needs and the best solutions for your business.