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Beginner’s Guide to Project Management

At some point in your career or studies, you will need to manage a project. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go through formal training to accomplish your project goals. The right project management guide is sometimes all you need to become a good project manager.

What is a Project?

A project is simply a sequence of tasks that lead towards accomplishing a goal. Each of these tasks and every phase of the project, which will be discussed further in this project management guide, has a specific deadline. That means that every project has a clear schedule.

Depending on what kind of results your project aims to achieve and how quickly you want to achieve them, there are boundaries involved. These include a timeline, resources, and manpower required to keep everything on track.

To fund the specified boundaries set for the project goals, you will need to draft a project budget. The project budget is the total estimated cost needed to complete the project. It is a reference used to determine the cost needed for each phase.

5 Phases of Project Management

As mentioned above, tasks make up a project. They are grouped and divided into phases. These phases include: 

Initiation

As the name implies, this phase is the very beginning of the project. It is the part where you conceptualize the project and define it in its broadest sense. Usually, it begins with a business case to determine if it is feasible and conduct feasibility studies if needed.

You will need to define project organization, stakeholders, risks, constraints, controls, and framework in the initiation phase. The ultimate goal of each project management’s initiation phase is to determine whether or not the project could and should continue. 

If the stakeholders deem that the project is a “go,” the project manager then needs to create a project initiation document (PID) or project charter which contains the requirements and purpose of the project.

Planning

After initiating the project, it is time to make a plan. Planning allows you to create concrete steps that will lead you toward accomplishing the project’s goal. It involves creating schedules for tasks, deadlines and listing down resources needed to accomplish each task.

Planning is crucial as it dictates the future of the project. Therefore, a good plan should be SMART and CLEAR for it to ensure better success rates for the project. To break down each quality, SMART stands for:

S- Specific. Your plans should answer the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s of your project’s goals.

M- Measurable. Each task must have quantifiable metrics for success.

A- Attainable. Which goals are most important to achieve? What will it take to achieve them?

R- Realistic. The requirements needed to achieve a goal should be available to you.

T- Time-bound. Each task must come with its own set of deadlines. The entire project should have a projected timeline based on each task.

And CLEAR stands for:

C- Collaborative. The goal must bring everyone together and allow people in the team to work collaboratively.

L- Limited. The scope and the time should be limited so that it is manageable and not overwhelming.

E- Emotional. The goal should spark passion among team members. Everyone should be able to emotionally connect with the project’s goal so that they give it their best.

A- Appreciable. You need to break down bigger goals into small and manageable pieces.

R- Refinable. Goals should be flexible enough to allow for adjustments should circumstances surrounding the project change.

Execution

Once the plans have been laid out, the next thing to do is to put it into action. The execution phase of project management often feels like the star of the show because a lot of activity happens during this phase, including:

    • Team formation and development
    • Defining roles and responsibilities for team members
    • Resource assignments
    • Execution of the plans
    • Procurement of resources
    • Direction and management of project execution
    • Setting up of tracking systems
    • Task assignment per team or individual
    • Status meetings with schedule updates
    • Plan modifications (if needed)

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Monitoring and Controlling

This phase often occurs simultaneously with execution. It is simply there in order for the project manager to ascertain that things are going as planned. Typically, project managers establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the performance of each team, team member, and the project overall.

Here are some general examples of KPIs wherein you may derive more specific KPIs from:

  • Project Objectives: Measure whether the project schedule and budget indicate that it will be able to meet stakeholder’s expectations.
  • Quality of Deliverables: Each task has deliverables such as reports, reviews, documents, or completed products. The project manager ensures to meet each of the deliverables per task.
  • Effort and Cost Tracking: Project managers also evaluate the running cost and the efforts under execution to determine whether the project can meet deadlines and accomplish goals.
  • Project Performance: This KPI monitors the changes in the project, the challenges that arise, and how well the team is handling it.

Closing

Just as a project has a beginning, it also has an end. However, the project end is not just as simple as concluding all efforts. The closing phase of project management has some nuances that need attention. These are the things you can expect to happen during the project closing:

  • Contractors hired specifically for the project alone will be terminated as they are no longer needed.
  • Recognition of valuable team members during the project. This usually happens with cumulative events such as a celebratory awards ceremony.
  • A “post mortem” meeting where the team discusses what went wrong and what went well with the project.
  • The project manager lists the things that did not get accomplished during the project duration and completes them with other team members.
  • The project manager prepares a final budget and expense report.
  • Collect and store all documents and deliverables related to the project.

Learn how to formally close a project through this course.

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