Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project.” Project management is the discipline of using established principles, procedures and policies to manage a project from conception through completion. It is often abbreviated as PM.
Project management oversees the planning, organizing and implementing of a project. A project is an undertaking with specific start and end parameters designed to produce a defined outcome, such as a new computer system. A project is different from ongoing processes, such as a governance program or an asset management program.
The project management plan is expected to effectively and efficiently guide all aspects of a project from start to finish, with the ideal goal of delivering the outcome on time and on budget. A project plan often begins with a project charter, and it is expected to identify potential challenges in advance and handle any roadblocks as they arise in order to keep the project on schedule.
The process of directing and controlling a project from start to finish may be further divided into 5 basic phases:
Project conception and initiation- An idea for a project will be carefully examined to determine whether or not it benefits the organization. During this phase, a decision making team will determine whether the project is feasible and whether they have the resources to take on the project.
Project definition and planning- A project plan, project charter and/or project scope may be put in writing, outlining the work to be performed. During this phase, a team should prioritize the project, calculate a budget and schedule, and determine what resources are needed.
Project launch or execution- Resources’ tasks are distributed and teams are informed of responsibilities. This is a good time to bring up important project related information.
Project performance and control- Project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, as resources perform the scheduled work. During this phase, project managers may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.
Project close- After project tasks are completed and the client has approved the outcome, an evaluation is necessary to highlight project success and/or learn from project history.
Projects and project management processes vary from industry to industry; however, these are more traditional elements of a project. The overarching goal is typically to offer a product, change a process or to solve a problem in order to benefit the organization.
Responsibilities of a project manager
Business leaders recognize project management as a specific function within the organization and hire individuals specifically trained in this discipline — i.e., project managers — to handle their organization’s project management needs.
Project managers can employ various methods and approaches to run projects, generally selecting the best approach based on the nature of the project, organizational needs and culture, the skills of those working on the projects, and other factors.
Managing a project involves multiple steps. Although the terminology for these steps varies, they often include:
- Defining project goals;
- Outlining the steps needed to achieve those goals;
- Identifying the resources required to accomplish those steps;
- Determining the budget and time required for each of the steps, as well as the project as a whole;
- Overseeing the actual implementation and execution of the work; and
- Delivering the finished outcome.
As part of a strong project management plan, project managers implement controls to assess performance and progress against the established schedule, budget and objectives laid out in the project management plan. This is often referred to as the project scope.
Because projects often require teams of workers who do not typically work together, effective project management requires strong communication and negotiation skills. Project managers also need to work closely with the multiple stakeholders who have interests in any given project, another area where strong communication and negotiation skills are essential.