What Is Project Management

Key Takeaways
Project management is the process of ensuring that your projects are completed on-time, within budget, & to the highest business standards.

When you hear the word project, you most likely think of school. Or a gut-job investment property. Or worse — a dating prospect with tons of red flags but you’re so optimistic you think it’s a carnival.

However, projects go beyond the four corners of the classroom, housing market, and Tinder. Businesses and organizations take on projects, whether they be for the sole purpose of pulling in a profit or something else.

When we take on projects for profit, the main goals to realizing that profit are to complete tasks efficiently, maximize earnings, and minimize all possible expenses.

The best way to achieve these objectives?

With the help of a blueprint or a plan.

There’s a specific process in management that tackles how managers and team members execute projects. Referred to as project management, the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines it as:

The use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.

That means that in project management, we’re aiming for a predefined outcome, whether it’s for a long or short-term goal.

What Is Project Management
Defining project management is the first step in guiding teams in the planning, execution, and completion of projects.

Project Management Approaches

Project management covers distinct phases, all of which are essential for a successful project. It includes various steps such as planning, execution, and completion.

Since projects exist for practically every industry, project management is also used across many fields, from engineering to academics, marketing to digital agencies.

As we all know, marketing is an important part of running a successful business. Organizations use marketing initiatives for their business plans to introduce themselves to their target market and establish brand awareness among potential customers.

This is where project management for marketing comes into play.

To determine whether marketing campaigns are on track, we use marketing project management to keep stakeholders informed throughout the project’s lifecycle. This way, all project teams have clarity and stay within the project scope.

Using project management in marketing also helps all members of the team meet customer needs and ensure overall project success.

In this piece, we’ll discover the basics of project management — its tools, elements, and types — that can assist us in handling and managing projects, no matter how big or small.

What is project management?

As we’ve mentioned, project management is crucial for a successful project, no matter its size or if it’s for profit or not. However, before we can learn the basics of project management, we must first answer the most important question — what is a project?

What Is Project Management
Project management is essential for an end result that adds value to the end user’s life.

The PMI defines a project as temporary efforts to create value through unique products, services, and processes. This means that projects aim to increase the value of various offerings for the people benefitting from them.

You can also have projects whose sole purpose is to resolve a specific problem. For example:

  • Software development
  • Constructing infrastructures (bridges, highways, etc.)

One thing to remember when we refer to projects is that these are temporary efforts, meaning a project is not a recurring activity.

A project’s lifecycle has a defined beginning and end date, and the project timeline may be weeks, months, or even years.

Projects also have varying scopes. They may cover a lot of deliverables, goals, tasks, and come with various associated costs. Projects can be large or small, simple or complex.

No matter their specifics, a project aims to accomplish one or more of the following:

  • achieving a predetermined outcome
  • reaching a goal or goals
  • creating single or multiple deliverables

You may have heard project management and program management used interchangeably. But these are entirely different concepts.

Project management vs. program management

So, what’s the difference between program and project management?

Imagine your business as a railroad system. Your projects are the trains that pull different loads from team members to achieve your goals, which are usually finished goods or services. Project managers operate these projects or trains.

On the other hand, programs can be compared to your collection of multiple trains, all of which run on different tracks.

Despite this, your trains or programs are all headed to the same station — your business goals. Project managers direct the whole train station, making sure that all trains (programs) aim for the same goal.

In simple words, project management focuses on the efficient achievement of a predetermined goal, usually the delivery of a product or service.

Program management focuses on maximizing benefits for your agency through various tools and processes.

Who are project managers?

Each project has its own objectives, tasks, scope, and costs — all of which you need to fulfill to achieve successful project management. So, it’s crucial that knowledgable individuals with industry expertise manage your projects.

Referred to as project managers, project professionals, or project management professionals, these individuals oversee the project’s success and completion.

Project managers typically perform the following tasks:

  • Use different tools, techniques, and approaches to achieve project tasks
  • Help engage project team members and keep them motivated to complete milestones using a variety of skills and knowledge
  • They drive change to meet the needs of a fast-paced society with the completion of their projects

Current times have seen the emerging demand for project managers. After all, projects are present in every field. And each project needs the proper guidance towards completion and success.

The project manager and their knowledge

The guidance of a knowledgable project manager (PM) helps your projects reach a successful conclusion. PMs oversee the project team so that every task aligns with the project objectives and plan.

According to PMI, there are ten knowledge areas that a project manager should have a deep understanding of to be considered effective.

This management body of knowledge includes the following:

  1. Integration management — A project manager must know exactly how the specific project fits into the organization’s bigger picture.
  2. Scope management — Effective project management entails the creation of a management plan that defines and controls the project scope to ensure the project team stays focused on the tasks.
  3. Time or schedule management — Project managers should be able to find ways to manage multiple timelines and schedules to minimize delays.
  4. Cost management — Minimizing unnecessary expenses is essential for an optimal ROI. A project manager, then, should maintain a budget throughout the project life cycle with this aim in mind.
  5. Quality management — A successful project delivers quality goods and services. Project managers develop and implement quality control measures that ensure the same level of quality among various projects.
  6. Procurement management — Project execution may sometimes need the services of outside collaborators. An effective project manager knows how to seamlessly integrate outside help into their projects.
  7. Human resource management — Project teams are composed of human resources. This requires project managers to understand their team members and their dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses.
  8. Communication management — Effective communication is essential for collaboration. Project managers must maintain communication between teams and project stakeholders to keep everyone updated on the project’s progress.
  9. Risk management — Nothing comes without risks, especially large and complex projects. A project manager must be able to identify project risks and create resolutions to problems that may derail the success of a project.
  10. Stakeholder management — Other than the project team, the project stakeholders are important for the project’s success. A project manager must have the ability to identify the needs and responsibilities of different project stakeholders. They must ensure every stakeholder is given relevant information.

Anyone with project management aspirations can learn this knowledge through different courses, most of which can be found in the four corners of the classroom.

So, if you are planning to embark on the project management path, these project management certifications will help propel your career:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) certification given by the Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • Google Project Management certification
  • Agile certification
  • PRINCE2 certification

Courses for these certifications are available mostly on the websites of the particular project management body. Check them out and see if you can take on the challenge of being a project manager!

Are project managers the only ones who need project management training?

Contrary to popular belief, project managers are not the only ones who need project management training.

All team members should be at least aware of and have a basic understanding of project management. This way, they will be aware of what is expected of them during the whole project lifecycle. Attending training sessions about project management can be a stepping stone for them to become project managers themselves.

Who knows — someone within your team may be the next project manager!

What are the elements of project management?

Aside from the different management bodies of knowledge, a project management professional must have a strong understanding of the different project components. They must be able to determine one component from the other and connect these components so they’re aligned with the project objectives.

Below are the four different elements of project management:

  • Resources — When we say resources, we don’t just mean tools and materials. In project management, resources extend to people, equipment, materials, software, hardware, and a lot more. Resources are anything that can be of use during the project lifecycle.
  • Time — Projects have a specific schedule to follow. They need a start date and an end date. So, project managers need to keep an eye on the clock. They can use task durations, project progress, milestone achievements, critical path, and even dependencies when keeping track of the project schedule.
  • Money — If money makes the world go round, then it can also jumpstart a project. Without money, you can’t pay your team or acquire the right materials and other components the project requires.Project managers ensure that there are enough financial resources to start the project. They also think about the project’s end result every time they make their decisions, and you guessed it — it’s money.
  • Scope — Determining the project’s scope may be difficult. After all, it can cover anything as long as it is related to the project. However, we should note that there are several factors that we should consider when determining project scope.Ask questions to identify the project requirements, how large and complex the project will be, and the objectives. Project management professionals should ask these important questions as they will heavily impact the project scope as well as the other critical elements like time and money.

What are some different project management methodologies?

Just like any other process, project management follows a specific set of guiding principles to plan, manage, execute, and complete projects. We can call these guidelines project management methodologies. They determine how your team will prioritize and complete project tasks.

Here are some popular project management methodologies that project managers apply when initiating, planning, and executing projects:

  • Waterfall project management — AKA linear project management approach and traditional project management approach, waterfall project management includes stakeholder requirements gathered at the project’s start. After determination and gathering, a sequential project plan is created.
  • Agile project management — Often prescribed as an iterative solution to inefficient companies, agile project management changes traditional project management by not following rigid project plans. Instead, this methodology implements short sprints of work referred to as agile sprints.
  • Lean project management — Also referred to as lean manufacturing, lean project management aims to improve processes. This project management methodology was first introduced to manufacturing companies and spread throughout different industries over the years.
  • Kanban project management — Originating in Japan, Kanban project management uses visual boards and cards to manage work. Agile and scrum teams often use this project management type.
  • Critical chain project management — Focusing on resource management, critical chain project management uses the theory of constraints in managing projects.

What Is Project Management
Learn all about project management before beginning a new project

There are still other project management types you can use for your projects such as Six Sigma, Scrum project management, and PRINCE2. However, the ones we mentioned in this list are the most common.

Agencies and companies use various types of project management methodologies. The thing is, no project methodology fits one specific industry.

You have to check which suits your operations best and which can bring results and optimize your processes. Project management allows you to evaluate your operations so that you will be able to implement which methodology best suits your company culture.

What are the phases of project management?

To achieve project objectives and goals, managers have to follow a certain project management process. This allows them to plan carefully and make the right decisions for the project.

The project life cycle is broken down into five project management process groups. At every phase of the project, a series of processes occur, all of which are crucial before you can move to the next stage.

Here are the five stages of the project life cycle:

Initiating phase

Before project planning and execution can start, project managers have to first check whether the project is valid or not. We must remember that for an approving body to give the green light, the project must bring value to its intended end users.

The initiation phase is also where project managers determine the key elements of the project such as the stakeholders, required resources, risks, estimated costs, and the project timeline.

In doing so, they use the following project management documentation:

  • Business case
  • Feasibility study
  • Project charter

Once you’ve got the required documentation with T’s crossed and I’s dotted, it’s on to the planning phase.

Planning phase

After the project manager has found out whether the project is valid, it’s time to create a project plan. This will serve as the action plan in the execution of the project from start to finish.

A project plan covers every project management area such as the project scope, budget, and timeline. Important milestones for the project are also determined in the planning phase.

Here are some of the contents of the project plan and what they cover:

  • Project schedule — This defines the timeline for resource allocation and task execution. The project schedule can be monitored with the use of time tracking and other task management tools.
  • Project budget — This is the estimated project cost. Project managers aim to not exceed the overall project budget.
  • Work breakdown schedule — This is a project planning tool that helps managers visualize all the activities, milestones, and deliverables defined in the project scope. Through this, project managers can determine which tasks to prioritize.

What Is Project Management
What is a project management workflow? They help teams to analyze tasks needed for the project and identify all possible obstacles that might arise.

Executing phase

Now that the initiation and the project planning phases are done, it is time to execute the plans. The manager will talk with the project team about how they can meet the project objectives and goals they’ve outlined.

The executing phase is also where teams work on the tasks assigned to them and determine whether they’ve achieved any of the milestones provided in the project plan.

In simple terms, the execution phase of the project is where the magic happens — project team members complete their assigned tasks with the project manager overseeing progress.

Monitoring and controlling phase

When the project has been executed, the manager has to ensure the deliverables are high-quality and meet business standards. This is where the next stage of project management takes place — monitoring and controlling.

Here, the project manager has to monitor the progress and performance of the project parts, making sure that the project stays on schedule and within budget. This is also where quality control takes place to ensure the quality of the goods and services the project produces.

When a manager monitors and completes reports, they may encounter some issues with their variables. When these arise, they can apply all the necessary corrective actions so that the project stays on track.

Closing phase

The final phase of the project life cycle is called the closing phase. This is where the manager and team can conclude the project.

As the name suggests, this phase is when the final project deliverables are presented to all stakeholders or persons concerned with the project. This is the manager’s opportunity to review project leadership, as well as the whole project life cycle itself.

Is communication important in every direction of the project?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

As we mentioned before, you can’t move to the next stage of the project management life cycle without completing the former stage.

Also, when project teams communicate with each other, they can find any issues at any level or stage of the project life cycle. This not only makes it easier for the project manager but also for the whole team.

What are project management metrics?

It’s important in project management to track your progress. One effective way of measuring project progress is to use specific project management metrics for comparison.

These are factors that can guide you in determining your objectives, as well as clarify the management process.

Also, project management metrics allow you to track your performance and make improvements if necessary.

Here are some project management metrics you can use to track project progress:

  • Schedule — Take a look at your project tasks and milestones. Determine if you’ve achieved them on time in accordance with what you’ve estimated in your planning phase.
  • Budget — Check whether your project progress matches the amount that you’ve estimated and budgeted. Often, going over budget is a result of poor planning.
  • Scope — Project tasks and deliverables are products of the project scope. However, there are times when scope creep occurs during project execution leading to delayed delivery.So, make sure you match your tasks and deliverables to your scope. And, clearly define your project scope during the initiating and planning phases of your project.

What are project management tools?

Project management, like any other framework and process, utilizes tools and techniques to achieve its goals and objectives.

Here are some project management tools that project managers use for their projects.

Project dashboard

Project managers use the project dashboard to monitor costs, tasks, and the overall project progress. This helps managers determine whether the project is on the right track or not.

Project management software

The tools we use for project management cover a lot of tasks, from scheduling to documentation. Technology has provided us with software that contains all tools necessary for project management. But finding the best project management software for a specific project isn’t easy.

Managers have to consider several factors as there are many alternatives to choose from. It’s a good idea to use assessments to determine which you can use for your project.

Project management workflows

A project management workflow represents a sequence of tasks needing completion in order to mark a project completed, a goal reached, or a process step finished.

Project management workflows are used to break down complex tasks and processes into smaller steps and arrange them into a logical order sequence. This way, the project team can easily accomplish their tasks.

Why do we need to have project management workflows?

These workflows allow project managers to check whether work gets done without any bottlenecks or stoppages. In short, project management workflows allow the project team to work smoothly during project execution.

Creating, standardizing, and optimizing your processes with project management

One of the biggest benefits of project management is the standardization and optimization of your operations. Project management allows you to maximize all your resources while minimizing your costs.

Unfortunately, many agencies still ignore this helpful methodology and risk their projects going awry.

If you’re still undecided about whether to apply this methodology, here are some benefits of project management when it comes to the optimization and standardization of your operations:

  • Improves clarity since it eliminates the need for the project team to use guesswork or time-consuming research.
  • Guarantees quality as tasks become pre-defined and optimized.
  • Promotes productivity for the project team as they won’t need to comb project documentation for answers.
  • Boosts the project team’s morale since they can be proud of their results and mastery of the process.
  • Whenever applicable, this perfects your team’s customer service capabilities as they can handle every query in the best way possible.

When you apply project management concepts to your workflows, you standardize your processes and eventually optimize your workaround time. So, you finish your projects within your budgets and timelines. But your team also gets to allot critical bandwidth to more important, urgent matters.

Conclusion: Project Management is Worth the Effort

Project management is no easy feat. But like most things difficult, it’s worth the effort.

With the right project manager, knowledge and skillset, project completion can be achieved within budget and deadline consistently.

Here are some important reminders to use every time you take on a project for your marketing agency:

  • Project management is the application of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to achieve a predetermined goal or objective.
  • Many elements make up project management, all of which are dependent on each other.
  • Project management undergoes different stages. Projects cannot move to the next phase without completing the former.
  • Project management has different methodologies that project managers can choose from. Choose the methodology according to your business needs.
  • There are tools and techniques that can help ease the work for project managers and the project team itself. Research the best tools and methods for your brand.

We’ve provided this simple guide on project management to help you with your projects, whether they’re small and simple, or large and complex.

But if you’re still a little shaky on how to effectively manage your projects, well, let us adjust our cape.

Cape adjusted. Download our free project management checklist to see whether your project team has what it takes to deliver a successful project!

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana Marulanda - ScaleTime Founder
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.
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