Project Management 101: What Is a Project?

Project Management 101: What Is a Project?

Neil Miller

July 19th, 2019 Project Management  

what is a project?

Project management is  the process of how projects are completed. It’s quite a complex discipline that involves the use of various procedures, principles, and policies that take a project from its conception all the way to its completion.

No matter what industry, the ability to accomplish projects on time and within budget is crucial to your success in a highly-competitive global business landscape. As economic and technological factors quickly evolve, companies must be good not only at optimized routine processes, but be able to pivot in an instant and carry out projects that are more flexible. With a clear roadmap to follow, organizations can move towards their goal despite all the uncertainties and challenges they’ll face along the way.

What is a project?

A project is a sequence of tasks that must be completed to attain a certain outcome. According to the

Project Management Institute, the term refers to any temporary endeavor with a definite beginning and end. Depending on its complexity, it can be managed by a single person or hundreds.

Projects have limitations in terms of scope, schedule, people, and resources. All of these constraints depend on what the project aims to achieve and when. The outcome of a project results in deliverables. Anything that’s produced during the project’s development–documents, plans, and reports–is considered a deliverable. A deliverable may also be the result of the project itself.

Having a final deliverable, as well as a finite timespan, distinguishes project management from business-as-usual operations. Since projects are unlike routine operations, most people involved are those who usually don’t work together. Sometimes, the professionals involved will come from different organizations and geographies.

If the desired outcome is achieved on-time and within budget, a project is considered to be a success.

The 5 phases of a project

Often, projects are divided into five phases, each of which comes with a distinct set of tasks, objectives, and a particular deadline. Dividing a project into different phases enables teams to stay on track throughout its entire lifecycle.

  1. Initiation

The first phase in a project’s lifecycle is called initiation. Here, a project officially launches. It is named, and a broad plan is defined. Goals are identified, along with the project’s constraints, risks, and shareholders. At this point, shareholders decide if they want to commit to the project.

Depending on the project, studies may be conducted to identify its feasibility. For IT projects, requirements are usually gathered and analyzed during the initiation phase.

  1. Planning

A roadmap that will guide teams throughout the project’s execution and closure phases is developed comprehensively during the planning stage. Deadlines must be set, and resources must be allotted. Breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable activities makes it easier to manage risks, costs, quality, time, and so on. At the same time, breaking down tasks into digestible pieces will empower everyone involved to accomplish the project on time and stay within budget.

  1. Execution

The project plan is implemented during the execution phase. At this point, teams will work on the deliverables to ensure that the project meets the necessary requirements.

Everyone usually gathers for a meeting to mark the official start of the project, where teams can get acquainted with each other and discuss their roles in the success of the project. Modes of communication and tools are identified before the project plan is executed. In addition, team members familiarize themselves with the necessary status meetings and reports that will be conducted throughout this phase to collect project metrics. The execution phase is a critical point in a project’s lifecycle as it will help everyone determine if their efforts will ultimately be fruitful or not.

  1. Monitoring and controlling

The monitoring and controlling phase happens at the same time as the execution phase. It’s the job of the project manager to oversee operations and make sure that everything is headed in the right direction, according to plan. Aside from overseeing the project’s performance, project managers have to monitor resources, manage risks, head status meetings and reports, etc. If unforeseen issues arise, the project manager may have to make adjustments to the plans, as well as the schedule.

  1. Closing

The final phase of the project management lifecycle isn’t as simple as delivering the output itself. Project managers have to record all deliverables, organize documents in a centralized location, and hand over the project to the client or the team responsible for overseeing its operations. Not only that, teams may come together for a final meeting to discuss the insights they’ve learned and to reward the hard work of each member.

Why use project management principles in executing a project?

Projects can be very complex undertakings that require a huge amount of effort and resources. No matter what the goal is, using the principles of project management will help the initiative run smoothly. Without proper project management principles, projects will be handled haphazardly and are at a much higher risk of failure, delay, and being over budget. 

Conclusion

Knowing the fundamental principles of project management improves one’s chances of completing a project successfully. No matter what industry or niche an organization is in, project management enables them to steer the project in the right direction.