More and more of today’s businesses are organized to run on systems that are project-based. But what is project management? How do project management methodologies help keep your project on track? As a first-time project manager, what will serve as your guide and help minimize difficulties?
The most common difficulties are caused by disorganization, low productivity, and the lack of a project management methodology. Optimizing the project management process for success starts with the selection of a methodology.
If you are new to the world of project management methodologies, you will be surprised to learn just how many different options there currently are. This article will give you an idea of how to run your business through project management, and give you the low-down on nine of the best project management methodologies for your enterprise.
What is Project Management?
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), “Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people”.
Project management is the process of working towards project objectives and goals. Projects differ in nature but they all have a deliverable — a product or a service, a beginning, and an end. The efficient use of a group of people and resources within a given timeframe constitutes the management of a project from start to finish.
What Are the Benefits of Using Project Management?
Hone Existing Skills
One advantage of project management is that staff can do tasks efficiently. This means each project team member is visibly working to their skill set. Both micro and complex projects elicit gains for a project team member because they are using existing skills and building on them. This makes teamwork positive and affirming.
Mitigating risks is crucial because the project schedule and budget are on the line. Having a project management methodology will help you reduce risks you encounter in the duration of the project, as well as providing guidance in preparing for contingencies and other events that might occur during the project planning and execution.
Alongside the need to minimize risks is the need for time and cost management. Project management methodology allows project managers to optimize physical, financial, and human resources. Project management helps to maintain schedules and deadlines.
Tools To Get Project Managers Started
There are several types of tools you can use in managing a project. These project management tools will help the entire project team in organizing tasks, budgeting resources, and maintaining timelines. These tools also help projects become transparent to team members and accessible for project managers. Here are some of them:
Project Management Tools
Project management tools keep you on track with what’s happening at the back-end, whether these are updates on where you are in a task, a progress checker, or simple reports (daily, weekly, monthly, or even annually). They help you gather data on your project position and will help you leverage future assignments.
Another type of project management tool is the integration with your e-mail, CRM, or database. Using them effectively means you can streamline important updates regarding the project status so nothing gets missed.
Database tools are the tools you use to compile and centralize files and other documents. A master list, an Excel sheet, or software consolidates data systematically. Relevant data includes invoices, vendor and employee contracts, suppliers lists, project meeting agenda and minutes of staff meetings, and even recorded video conferences and images.
The process tools are templates on how to work on a specific task or a section of a project so you don’t have to repeatedly discuss these with team members. Process tools include the standard operating procedures, 101, project rules, timeline, objectives, and even onboarding documents for new suppliers and team members. These process tools are usually on a need-to-know basis and are covered by non-disclosure agreements for the non-administrative members.
Communication tools are methods that help team members convey their reports, relay their concerns and relate to other team members and project leaders. These tools may be in the form of chat, e-mail, virtual calls that enable teleconferences and staff meetings. Project leaders, external agents, sub-teams, and senior project managers may also form their own sub-groups to communicate efficiently.
Time Tracking Tools
Time tracking tools allow team heads to maintain project calendars and keep up with the timetable. Schedules can be modified and adjusted, along with reported working hours for team members. Time tracking tools also help define task dependencies or the logical relationship of one task to another that needs to be completed before moving forward. It is helpful if the time tracking tools connect with the project management and database tools mentioned above to make it easier to work across applications and project requirements.
Project Management Process For Business
The process is the steps that will take you from initiation to completion of a project. This entire development process may be well-defined but there is a tendency for overlap. Also, you may be in a later phase of the project but find it necessary to go back to the first step of the process in order to give the project a clearer direction. According to Harvard Business Review, there are four stages: planning, build-up, implementation, and close-out.
Planning is the key phase in the process because the project manager has to identify exactly what the specifications of the project will be.
There may not be a problem that needs to be solved in the first place; or the project can be done in a very simple way, without needing an elaborate project management approach.
This is also where project leaders create a work breakdown structure (WBS) to determine the extent and range of each milestone or task. The WBS will include:
- Project objectives – what are the goals of doing this project? what is the desired result?
- Stakeholders – who are the external and internal pinpoint persons or contributors during the length of the project?
- Resources – where will the people, physical, and financial resources come from?
- Scope and limitations – what are the estimated requirements of the project and what are their boundaries?
- Critical tasks – which tasks are dependent on each other and which are complex in a form that can be delegated into smaller tasks?
- Timetable – what is the duration of the project and when is the start and end of its lifespan?
To be able to pinpoint the essentials, you need a complete checklist that provides a comprehensive guide to scalable effective project management.
These are only some of the factors that give rise to the path that the project will take in order to move forward. They may be simple, but without knowing these fundamentals the project may not be feasible at all. The planning stage also gives a bigger picture of the project you are contemplating.
Build-up is the part of the process where you keep your project going. This means you have to identify areas of responsibility, and the methodology involved to keep the project moving. You will need to decide how you will measure the success of the project, how to run the necessary tests and trials, how to conduct the analysis of the data you gather, and so on. These are the key questions necessary to push the project forward and to make sure what you have planned is deliverable. Once you have answers to these questions and all the people and resources are in place, then you can move on to the next phase which is project implementation.
According to Harvard Business Review, the best way to determine your costs is to break down the project into categories: personnel, travel, training, supplies, space, research, capital expenditure, and overheads. Remember to place a maker-checker system to keep the finances in check throughout the project.
Project leaders sometimes use a Gantt Chart, a plotted representation of tasks and activities displayed versus time. A Gantt chart allows the team or team leaders to view the project duration, how long each task or event will last, what overlaps there are, and even include the cost and resources needed for each task. This serves as a visual rendition of the whole project from start to finish.
It is also important to hold a kick-off or launch meeting. This is done in order to set the team in place. It’s where clarification on tasks and timeline are explained. The meeting also highlights project members’ roles and responsibilities, as well as the project goals and objectives, so as to ensure everyone’s ideas are aligned.
Implementation of the project is also known as project execution. In this phase, the planned deliverables are produced, and the action begins. It is the most frustrating and most rewarding part of the project process because of the immense work the team has to put in to get the project off the ground and underway.
The key during project implementation is monitoring. Not everything will go as smoothly as planned and not everything that happens will have been foreseen. Changes will need to be made: to reallocate resources, identify and find solutions to emerging risks, and implement new directions.
Project leaders must be able to read red flags early so preventive measures can be taken. This is where careful maintenance and control come in. It is not enough just to be on the lookout — efficient project management also means initiating corrective action if necessary.
It is also imperative that monitoring and control are applied throughout the project’s progress and performance. This means that the project movement is ensured and there is advancement along with development in the execution of each task involved in the process.
Quality control is also observed in this part of the project. It is defined by the Association for Project Management as the inspection, measurement, and testing of project output to make sure it meets the accepted criteria. This is the verification that deliverables are produced at their highest quality and fastest time possible and that any problems are prevented from passing to the end consumer.
Solutions for Common Problems in Project Implementation
The project manager can confirm project progress by checking on task dependencies and time-constraint activities. These are crucial tasks that need to be considered when creating a realistic timeframe. Look back at the Gantt Chart and make sure all tasks are plotted properly and scheduled deadlines are established. Make sure the time tracker tools used are appropriate with the nature of the project.
Scope creep happens when there are diversions made during the project execution that are not part of the planning phase. Issues arising in the middle of project implementation are normal, but there is proper control over the project changes. Appropriate documentation of changes like contract amendments and signed requests is needed. It is also important that all changes made secure approval from the proper authority whether from the immediate team heads, project leaders, other external or internal stakeholders, or from the senior management.
These include quality planning during replanning. A good quality standard will give focus to the next project output and make the required improvements on the current deliverable. It’s also vital that the project manager reviews the test plan to assure sample size, criterion, protocols, and procedures are correct and observed. Quality control comes hand in hand with quality assurance to provide confidence in the result produced at the end of the project.
Periodic meetings can also be called in order to stay focused on the project path. Agendas should be structured, prioritizing small targets or goals for the week or for the month complemented with progress reports. You can also meet with stakeholders regularly to keep tabs on updates.
All projects have a lifespan and all projects eventually come to their end. Project close-out happens during the presentation of the final deliverable to the client or stakeholder.
As a project manager, your job is to tie all ends together and conclude project activities. Wrap things up with project evaluation to analyze if the project has really come to a close. Compare the current project progress position with the goals identified at the beginning of the project. Post-evaluation for the team is also important as part of their debriefing and to assess the learning and discoveries made.
It is also vital to note whether the project comes to a close by termination or by transfer to a different team or organization, to allow the time needed for transition and proper turnover. Make sure all contracts have ended and have been documented correctly.
Project Management Methodology
Project management methodology means having a clear way for a team to manage the development and execution of the processes through the project management life-cycle. The right project management methodology will minimize risks and reduce, if not completely avoid, failures.
A variety of different project management methodologies are described here. Traditional project management methodologies tend to be linear in the sequencing of the phases of project development. They are also known as heavyweight project management. An Agile project management methodology is more flexible or iterative—something that is developed or adapted along the way.
Popular Project Management Methodologies
Waterfall or traditional approach
The Waterfall project management methodology is used for short and relatively uncomplicated projects. Lists of tasks are performed sequentially. No changes are implemented once the project has started, and thus it is important that the planning stage is very detailed.
There is a final stage at the end of the project which is Maintenance. This covers the continuous use of the product by the customer in order to discover features for improvement until such time that the client is satisfied with the final result.
One of the software products for this traditional project management approach is Microsoft Project because it supports linear processes, single timelines, fixed deliverables, and a continuous workflow which are the main points of the Waterfall methodology. However, it is quite an expensive option.
Kanban is derived from the Japanese translation of ‘visual signal’ where the fundamental principle is that you must know where you are before you get to where you want to go.
The Kanban project management methodology uses an assembly-line concept to keep tasks moving along. The main goal of this methodology is to improve efficiency and flexibility. A Kanban board is used to map out the tasks involved in completing a project. Kanban cards represent each task. They are placed on a Kanban Board which has columns To-Do, Doing, and Done. Each card may also contain a specific policy, rules, due date, and even notes on resources involved for that task. This helps team leaders to navigate through the project as they see the position of the tasks. This aids the clear progress of the project.
Most business owners enjoy using the Kanban methodology because it provides a continuous flow of work. The automobile industry and product development firms have used Kanban successfully for years. Today’s common project management methodology tools like Trello and Asana incorporate digital versions of the Kanban Board.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
Critical Path Method (CPM) or Critical Path Analysis (CPA) is a type of project management methodology where the critical activities are prioritized. This means that the other tasks can be delayed and resources are reallocated in order to focus on the prioritized tasks.
The critical tasks are differentiated from the non-critical tasks by means of a CPM algorithm, and this gives the project a clearer picture of the earliest possible time of completion with the least amount of float. The float or slack is the calculated time delay a project can sustain for a task and still complete on time.
To know more about CPM, team leaders must define the project’s Critical Path — the direction the project will use in order to realistically meet the deadline. This entails taking a detailed look at all the tasks, knowing how long it will take for each task to complete, and recognizing the task dependencies for the entire project.
Calculating the Critical Path
- Enumerate ALL tasks and activities involved in the project
- Identify the task dependencies
- Create a Critical Path Analysis Chart, also known as the network diagram, or the order of tasks in the project
- Identify the time needed for each task
- Calculate the earliest time to start and the latest time to start for each task
- Identify the float, or lee-way, between the earliest and latest possible start times for each task
- The activities with zero (0) float make up the critical path
With today’s technological advancement, the Critical Path Method can now be integrated online with the use of LucidChart and other critical path generators. This enables project leaders to have more time to focus on the critical activities rather than calculating each task manually. However, because of the complex nature of projects being implemented today, the network diagram will evolve during the project execution. With these changes, the critical path may not be accurate anymore, resulting in constant revisions through the implementation stage. The more you account for these changes before the execution of the project, the more accurate your critical path will be.
The Lean project management methodology focusing on providing products that give customer value while minimizing waste. This method also gives emphasis to 3 kinds of waste – Muda (waste of time and effort), Mura (inconsistent processes), and Muri (abuse of equipment and people).
Compared to traditional project management methodologies, the Lean methodology is customer-centric and aims to deliver the project at the earliest possible time using minimal resources. The project cycle revolves around improving the deliverable until the customer is satisfied. It aims to give value to cycle time – the time it would take for a finished product to be delivered to the customer – through a Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle, so that the next deliverables are given to the client more efficiently. Streamlined workflows are used to detect and remove wasteful practices.
The Lean project management method is a great fit for smaller teams who want to deliver significant value without increasing budgets.
Lean project management methods are incorporated in most of today’s software. But traditional approaches are still being used, such as:
- 5 Whys: It is the process of asking Why from the root problem until the 5th Why which is where the team leaders derive their solutions.
- Flowchart: Flowcharts help identify the predecessor and successor tasks while identifying the bottlenecks and how to address them
- Fishbone diagram: This is used to know the cause-and-effect relationship of a project issue through a visual presentation which guides in generating solutions faster.
Lean metrics are used to measure where teams need to be improving. The drawback of this method is that by focusing on small detail, a larger perspective may be lost.
Agile project management methodologies are centered on a systematized set of repetitive processes in order to achieve successful results.
Business owners who are looking for a project management methodology that improves the speed and quality of deliverables usually choose Agile. This project management methodology uses short project cycles known as sprints. These sprints help teams continually improve services and products throughout the progression of a project. Higher quality deliverables are possible with Agile methodology due to the flexibility of sprints.
What is SCRUM in Agile methodology?
SCRUM is a framework within the Agile project management methodology that aims to help solve complex problems within the project. First, an assigned ‘Scrum Master’ or Scrum team leader translates the complex problem into a product backlog which is then broken down into several sprints. The Scrum team then looks at how to develop the work in the sprint, reviews and inspects it, closes it in a Sprint Retrospective, and moves on to the next sprint.
Agile vs Lean methodologies
Both agile and lean project management methodologies focus on giving an end-product or service that is of the most significant value. They both aim to do so by constantly observing the process and making changes along the way to perfect what the customer wants, while focusing on the team rather than other tangible resources used in the project duration.
The Lean method was founded in the manufacturing industry where the production of high-quality deliverables is critical. Agile methodology on the other hand originated in the software development industry where the final product is expected to be tested again and again in order to create the final product.
Another difference is that the Lean method focuses more on the production process while the Agile method relies on variation and rework – the development process. Agile’s focus on the development process is considered expensive and wasteful with the Lean project management method.
Alternative Project Management Methodologies
Projects in Controlled Environments or PRINCE was developed by an IT-based UK government support company. At first, it was only used as a step-by-step guide in creating IT projects. This evolved into a 2nd edition and was used as a project management methodology in numerous UK organizations and later across the globe.
It became the go-to project method by businesses mainly because of its organization-based structure. PRINCE 2 divides a large complex project into several parts that are more manageable and therefore more suitable to the corporate environment. It features the following steps:
- Identify the problem by making a project brief
- Identify the different questions involving the problem: the whats, whens, and hows by making a project scope
- Monitor project initiation, implementation, and close-out by the project board. The project board is composed of representatives from both the customer side and the supplier or specialist side.
- Control of stages by the project management body reporting progress to the project board, before moving on to the planning of the next stage by the project board who review and approve the current stage deliverable.
- Close the project by project manager transition and project evaluation and recommendations.
Monday.com has several PRINCE 2 themes available depending on the requirements, size, and structure of your project and your team. It is fully customizable to suit your business needs and can definitely help manage complex projects.
Six Sigma is a project management method of improving quality and ensuring consistency of output. The process uses empirical and statistical quality management methods together with specialized personnel to eliminate errors.
Introduced in 1986 in Motorola, the process is effective by 99.99966% in defect elimination and variation reduction. It also helps identify the fundamental cause of an error and enables a business to improve products and services. Six Sigma equips a business with techniques to improve structure, quality of process, and expansion of bottom-line profit.
To develop expertise, project teams need to be trained and awarded belts after each training level, which progress from White Belts to Yellow Belts, Green Belts, Black Belts, and Master Black Belts. The White Belts and Yellow Belts are introduced to the Six Sigma vocabulary and process improvement concepts.
Green Belts work on projects assigned by Black Belts, such as data collection and analysis. Black Belts manage projects while Master Black Belts implement methods of applying six Sigma throughout the organization.
- Brainstorming -Six Sigma uses brainstorming as the primary mode of the problem-solving process where participants exchange and discuss ideas in an open session moderated by the Black Belts.
- The root cause analysis – the process uses various questions to get to the bottom of the matter. Five is the approximate number of questions asked, but they can be fewer or more depending on the clarity required.
- Customers’ opinion – the process uses internal and external means to acquire customers’ feedback on the products and services. The method notes the diversification of customers needs to help in solving the problem.
- The 5s structure – the structure is derived from the Japanese basis of workplace habits. The system eliminates waste and improves consistency by setting aside non-efficient equipment or resources. It uses five steps: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
A critical chain is the longest path in a plan which might prevent a project from being completed in the shortest time if all the resources were available. These resources include people, equipment, finances, and location or physical space.
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is a type of project management methodology that focuses on task resources. Unlike Critical Path Management (CPM), CCPM makes sure that all resources are available at the time of need in order to successfully complete a task or series of tasks. It focuses on providing safety buffers throughout the project duration so there is no risk of exceeding the project schedule:
- Project buffers – a project buffer is extra time added to the time of the last task before completion. This means that if there are delays to the critical chain, the completion date will stay the same.
- Feeding buffers – these are the buffers that are placed after the non-critical tasks in order to maintain the schedule of the critical chain.
- Resource buffers – these are the buffers to ensure there are enough resources, so that the critical chain can be maintained. The protocol of adding a 10% contingency to a budget is an example of this kind of buffer.
- Capacity buffers – these are optional buffers that are only accessed during times where there are issues like a shortage of resources. They work by identifying which tasks are using the limited resource, and rescheduling less important or non-critical tasks on other projects so that the critical task has priority on the resource at the time it needs it.
Chain management activates multiple tasks at once and allows teams to look at a project from a big picture perspective. It also aims to avoid delays and increases the team’s productivity as focus and energy are maintained throughout the project. By including worst-case scenarios for the project’s resources, contingencies are taken care of, and risks are minimized by the buffer system.
However, using CCPM imposes limitations. One of these is overestimation when it comes to the duration of tasks. Because project leaders create buffers, this increases the time allotted for each task resulting in wide gaps between project planning deadlines and CCPM schedules. It may not be suitable for projects with time constraints as this project methodology requires an increase in allocations for the project timeframe.
Green Project Management
This project management methodology integrates a green philosophy into a project. According to Green PM, this method encourages project leaders to be more conscientious when running a project. This may include considering efficient energy use, or eco-friendly packaging.
The aim is not to put the environment at the forefront of every decision made during the project, but to demonstrate that the company manages projects integrating sustainable methods.
The Green project method is more than just the ecological impact of a project, but the long-term change in perspective as team leaders incorporate sustainable planning, initiation, implementation, and close-out. It is the holistic approach to producing equitable, viable, and bearable deliverables by balancing the aspect of ethics. It is built around the idea of corporate social responsibility taking into account profit, people, and the planet.
What’s Next For My Business?
Now that you have an idea of the different project management knowledge and methodologies, what will happen next? Project management is a tough challenge, especially for business owners who take the role of project managers.
Find the perfect tools and upgrade them
Invest in tools that can be used and maximized at their true potential. Some software, databases, cloud-based apps are doing only one thing and it can be tricky to maintain all of them especially if they come with annual or monthly costs. Consider using just one or two tools and subscribe to their premium accounts to unlock more features that will help you organize your project more efficiently.
Files are meant to be kept in a systematic manner, in such a way that you, as well as the rest of the team, are able to find them. Discrepancies in document handling will not only be a source of delays but also show you have a disorganized team. Change systems to ensure files and locations are up-to-date, and check your systems for secure and confidential data retrieval and storage.
Clean up your workflow
It is a team effort to create a standardized workflow that works. Do not hold on to things that aren’t working for you, as it will only make it harder to unclog your way to project management freedom. Use this as an opportunity for optimizing your workflow and building the necessary templates that will help alleviate your project process in the future.
Learn how to delegate and coach people into becoming team leaders. This will not be a hindrance to your role as project manager, but a way to localize administrative functions in the team.
Worried that they may not have enough training in their field? Do a test run by including potential leaders in your external decision tree. This will not only help them to develop critical thinking skills but also help you as a project manager to have more options during the decision-making process.
Ensure that you take the post-project evaluation seriously. This is the basis of your project analysis: whether you have done a good job, what areas there are for improvement, what has the team learned, and what do external parties think of your performance. Always be open to suggestions and comments or reactions. Let the assessment cover both the negative and the positive so you can grow and develop along with the whole team.
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