In business organizations, projects are envisioned, planned, and initiated to take a business to the next level, and Project management plays an important role in achieving this through planning, organizing, and creating the path to meet both long-term and short-term business goals.
Project management defines and determines the efficacy and effectiveness of a project. A project can fail, be aborted, or be completed depending entirely on how tasks and activities within the project are chalked-out and executed. However, it is all about managing projects with a firm hand on timelines, budgets, scope, and resources individually and then together as a project to complete deliverables.
Project management can even be daunting at times as it includes several tasks involved in the matter, yet some Project Management certifications can be a great help. Moreover, the write-up serves as a guide to project management and its different aspects. So, delve deeper into the essential insights of managing projects through these intuitive resources and learn all about its best practices.
What is Meant by Managing Projects?
A project comprises components that work in tandem with each other. Each component is an essential contributor and has various characteristics that might turn the project into a chaotic mess if not overseen properly. One of the fundamental roles of a project manager is to ensure that all aspects of a project are aligned to ensure desired outcomes. To manage projects from start to finish, it is essential for a project manager to organize and plan the project by implementing a series of actions. This includes:
- Schedules and plans wherein cost overruns and delays have to be built in;
- A well-constituted resource team that collaborates seamlessly to ensure the successful execution of the projects.
- Optimized use of all resources, whether financial or human, is how a project stays within the allocated budget;
- Implementation and integration of the delivered objective are how a project becomes life; with the project going live, changes in the organization are inevitable, and they have to be assimilated and implemented;
- Understanding the nitty-gritty of the project, analyzing the mistakes, and recording the entire process of execution for future reference.
All these must be managed to keep a project on the predetermined path, or it could fail to fulfill a business need and become an expensive mistake. When addressing 'how to manage a project,' direction, control, and purpose guide the project manager in taking the exercise forward.
Why is It Essential to Manage a Project?
It is of utmost importance that a project is managed to deliver the projected outcomes as envisaged. Its importance lies in the high stakes riding on it, which are not limited to financials. An organization's reputation, market standing, fulfillment of projections, and vision of the future make managing projects effectively an exercise that cannot be treated lightly.
Many successful business organizations have improved output and grown bottom lines by answering how to manage a project successfully. The opposite situation, where a project is not actively managed but left to take care of itself, does not lead anywhere. The organization continues to live with legacy processes and policies. The deliverables outlined in a project can only be fulfilled if every constituent is hinged and worked precisely. Since all components are interrelated, the others are bound to suffer if one is delayed or off course. A team explicitly devoted to a project will have all the resources working towards meeting tight deadlines and strict budgets without any distractions.
- When a roadmap is outlined for a project with roles assigned to all resources, goals are well-defined, and workflows are optimized. There is no vagueness and confusion; the project's navigation is done without losing its way. This vastly improves the productivity of team members and the ultimate quality of the project completed.
- A project might be well planned, but the risks that threaten its success can only be mitigated if the project manager can manage a project from start to finish. Risks could be burgeoning costs that overspill the budget, extended timelines that make the project lose relevance, and poor performance of resources that might endanger the organization.
- A project will have multiple stakeholders. There might be investors, executives, vendors, and resources working on a project. The project manager is responsible for fulfilling every interest and ensuring an acceptable project outcome. A dedicated project team ensures that relationships amongst all are kept smooth and transparent, with the execution of the project remaining unaffected by individual interests.
- For the above reasons, the importance of meticulous project management can never be overstated. A team adhering to a project blueprint gives more assurance of being capable of delivering a successful project than otherwise. With a project management team working on a project, the customer, too, gains confidence that his goals and objectives are moving toward fulfillment.
- A professionally managed project can gain an edge over the market competition, for it leaves a minimal chance of error in fulfillment. Therefore certification courses like pmp certification is a recommended qualification for members of a project team. This assures a quality product that ensures satisfied stakeholders.
How to Manage a Project Step-by-Step?
When it comes to laying down a roadmap on how to manage projects effectively, it is more than apparent that projects take work to maneuver. Regardless of the scope and scale, the minutest detail has to be taken care of. For this, the project needs to be broken into interrelated steps that lead one to another. To take a project idea to a finished product, it is necessary to execute it step by step. This coherent management of a project stands between success and failure. It includes the following steps which should not be confused with 5 phases of the project:
Step 1: Identifying and Determining the Project's Goal
Here, the whys and wherefores need to be answered so that the project's objective is clear from the start. Thorough research involving the entire project team is what it takes to define what needs to be done within the project. Stakeholders are to be identified, and priorities and goals are set. Every member of the team should have a clear idea of the project goals ranging from project managers to individual team members.
Step 2: Outlining and Mapping the Scope
In this step, the budget has to be considered before anything else. Timelines and workforce resources will largely depend upon the affordability of the sponsors; On this will depend the number of deliverables and the schedule for it. Things to be added include, List of deliverables and their due date, Statement of Scope, List of Roles and Responsibilities (defined in detail), Q&A process, A comprehensive plan of Communication which includes the frequency of communication with the stakeholders and the client.
Step 3: Developing a Detailed Plan
This is the plan of action based on all the steps stated earlier but now deconstructed into micro steps. A project can be planned in detail and yet go awry. So all the possible risks have to be anticipated and risk management chalked out in detail. There could be political unrest in the country a natural calamity and even a major technical glitch that can derail a project seriously. But good solid planning can minimize the impact of any disaster.
Step 4: Sharing and Discussing the Plan's First Draft with the Rest of the Team
All team members should be on the same page when the plan is finalized and sent to the stakeholders. There should be no discord amongst the team members about any step of the plan. A warm welcoming, upbeat kickoff meeting sets the tone for the unfolding of the project. The pointers to be kept in mind are:
- Invite the right people and ensure the key players can be in attendance.
- Create a detailed agenda and adhere to it. This will help everyone stay on course and have a clear understanding of the objectives of the meeting.
- The nature of the meeting should be predetermined. Can it be an online meeting or if it needs to be held in person. This will largely depend on how large the project is, whether you are onboarding a new client, the budget for the project, etc. It is to be kept in mind that in-person meetings are usually more complicated to plan—and more expensive too, especially if it necessitates travel.
- Reschedule the meeting if the key persons cannot participate.
Step 5: Finalizing the Plan to Start Working on it with Immediate Effect
The official plan would be the one that is sent to all stakeholders. In this, all possible risks are highlighted, and counteractions are proposed. Roles are assigned for each stage of the project, and point of contact details are given for each stage of the project.
- Ensuring all Members of the Team and Stakeholders Have a Copy of the Final Plan: The project can move forward once all the involved members have a copy of the detailed plan. The members are expected to sort out their queries so that the project can be implemented. To ensure faithful adherence to this plan, milestones are marked and broken into smaller daily, weekly, and monthly targets.
- Project Closure: During project closure, a thorough discussion of the project's journey is undertaken wherein every challenge, glitch, success, failure, delay, or any other issue is discussed. A memorandum is made and filed as a reference asset of the company. Fulfilling all the above steps would guide a project manager on how to manage a project step by step.
Five Process Groups Used to Manage Projects
Project managers dealing with long-term goals, that are far reaching in scope and have large resource teams need higher levels of project management knowledge, which includes deeper understanding of the project life cycle, execution and more. For this, a PMP certification is advised.
As a project manager you must know that a life cycle of a project has five process groups. This is the accepted framework for the managers to work on their projects smoothly and effectively; it makes the entire execution process of the project more cohesive. In the how to manage a project from start to finish pdf, it is stated that five process groups are cited as best practices to be performed. These are:
- Monitoring and Controlling
Each process group, in turn, has its individual processes that must be performed for successful completion. These process groups break up a project for categorization and then mark its sequential progression from start to finish.
1. Project Initiation
When a project is initiated, the vision of the objective is formalized. The project's goals are put on paper for the sponsors and stakeholders to authorize it. A project charter at this time defines the scope, intent, key stakeholders, and goals and objectives. A stakeholder register is created with a list of identified stakeholders. At this initiation stage, the designated project manager is authorized to execute the processes by utilizing the organization's resources. The importance of this process lies in providing the project with a methodical take-off. Without this, a project could start without goals and objectives aligning with organizational strategy and ideology.
2. Project Planning
A systematic approach to planning a project ensures its success quotient. The project's planning phase has the project manager thinking through the entire process of executing a project. All potential risks that could hinder a project's success must be foreseen and steps taken for its correction. At this stage, a complete roadmap is laid with a project plan, scope, project schedule, constraints, breaking the project into micro components, and analysis of possible threats and risks. Project planning serves as a controlling device whenever the project threatens to go off course, having answered questions on deliverables, costing, timelines, and measurement of progress.
A lot of time should be spent on this process since a hurried approach can result in loose planning, causing chaos and frustration later. This planning process will ultimately determine the smooth or bumpy passage of a project.
- Setting Clear Goals and Objectives: Goals and objectives drive a project. A clear definition of what the project aims to achieve and accomplish and the parameters for its closure must be outlined at the very outset of a project. With this imperative, the guiding baseline will be present, accounting for a weak and unstable project. In this stage, the expectations of the sponsors and stakeholders are considered.
- Defining Project Scope: The project's scope enumerates what will have to be done to qualify for the completion of its objectives and deliverables. It also includes details about the suggested solutions and the beneficiaries who will ultimately gain from them.
- Developing a Project Schedule: A project schedule is devised wherein the work breakdown structure (WBS) helps give each task a start date, an estimated time for completion, and an end date.
- Creating a Project Budget: Estimating project costs plays a considerable part in going ahead with a project. It is the first question for discussion before a project can even be initiated. Several things are calculated and estimated before an estimated budget is submitted for consideration. The segments included are employee cost, software expense, equipment purchase, and timelines. A comprehensive budget gives the management a clear understanding of how and why the financial resources will be utilized and over what period.
- Assembling a Project Team: The success of a project has a lot to do with assembling an effective project team. This can only be brought about when three instrumental forces unite. First would be specialists/experts in the organization who would be absorbed in the task. Then would be the organizational members recruited for the total work environment.
The team building process puts together a group of individuals with different backgrounds and expertise that contributes, supports, and synchronizes the objectives of the entire project team. And the last can be attributed to the resultant synergy that encourages the development of an effective project team.
3. Project Execution
This is the process where all previous planning can be rendered useless. It is the longest, most complex, and most demanding of all the five processes. A slight laxity can result in the team facing communication issues or not adhering to the carefully outlined procedures. The project manager has to ensure that the promised goals and objectives have to be kept in sight. For this, the details of the project charter have to be firmly followed. An execution plan has to be without the slightest loopholes yet flexible enough to withstand any client pressure, operational breakdowns, and other unforeseen issues during the project.
- Communicating with Team Members and Stakeholders: Communication must be robust and effective in a project if it has to progress smoothly and within the budgetary and timeline boundaries. In project management, communication with fellow team members and stakeholders means constantly swapping and sharing ideas for project progression and troubleshooting. When communicating with the project manager and other colleagues, each team member can recognize and remember the project's goals, objectives, and expectations. With this tool, the team members can be a cohesive force with a common goal and objective.
- Managing Tasks and Timelines: Execution gaps can occur as project landmarks and milestones approach. This often happens when iterations and adaptations are requested. The goalposts get moved, but the project shows rigidity in accommodating these. The gaps, so occurring, can widen and become a severe threat to the stability of the project. But too many requests can seriously alter the scope parameters, resulting in achieving more or less in the estimated timeline. Therefore project alignment is of the essence.
Keeping the project charter as a reference, steps must be taken to gather the project team and stakeholders on the same page. A tracking sheet with all the changes that have been made or requested and how these have affected or will affect the deadlines and resource utilization should be incorporated into the execution plan. A challenging team transition without any time sinks and a change in the project course has to be seamlessly worked in. A project manager with PRINCE2 certification would be adept in this exercise.
- Identifying and Solving Problems: In a project guide on managing a project successfully, the most critical skill highlighted is the ability to identify and solve problems occurring during a project. It requires a stepwise approach, the adoption of a framework, and considerations that form part of the project charter. Firstly the demands of the problem need to be identified: whether things need improvement, complete scraping and restarting, or merely an update. The accompanying risks and threats must be taken into purview supported by sufficient data. Then an all-acceptable solution that is reliable and comforting to the team has to be found.
- Tracking Progress and Making Adjustments: Poor project performance can often be because project progress needs to be tracked stringently, and appropriate and timely adjustments are not made accordingly. Keeping track of the project milestones helps spot deviations or possibilities of deviations. This works as a prompt to foresee a delayed project delivery and then take corrective measures like:
- Introducing more resources.
- Shrinking the scope of the project.
- Having a detailed discussion with the client or project sponsor and negotiate for an extension of the deadline or increasing the budget.
- Managing Risks and Issues: Risks must be anticipated and worked into the project completion strategy when managing a project. Risks could be unexpected costs, transportation strikes or accidents, employee sickness, natural calamities, or unsuitable, harsh weather conditions. There could be positive risks of completing a project before the scheduled time, outperforming chalked-out goals, or completing a project in much less than the estimated budget. All the risks need to be put on a list, and the consequent impact of each one is analyzed - qualitatively and quantitatively. This helps assign a priority order to each, guiding the team in focusing its energy on circumventing or mitigating it.
4. Project Monitoring and Controlling
This phase of the project is perhaps the most important of all. It is to be carried out all through, not being a mere milestone. This happens in tandem with all the phases of a project, as soon as it begins soon after the planning phase. This demands that the project be actively steered, wherein its progress status is reviewed as it proceeds, and all the risks and threats are evaluated and either resolved or steps taken to contain them. The project team needs to keep several things in sight when monitoring. These include: adhering to the schedule, keeping within a budget, and preventing scope creep.
- Tracking Progress Against the Project Plan: When the actual progress of a project is measured in terms of deliverables, it works to assess the rate of progress of a project. It aims to aid project managers in adjusting budgets and timelines based on milestones achieved. These are referenced against the outlined goals and objectives of the project planning phase. As a part of the controlling process, the project manager might be called upon to reshuffle or continue using resources if a particular stage has spilled over its timeline. For tracking, project managers often use a Gantt chart or Kanban boards, but effective communication within the project team is the best tool by far.
- Identifying and Addressing Variances: Determining variances requires the establishment of a firm baseline. This is a device to track and evaluate the progress of a project by calculating the difference between the original project plan and the progress to date. This way, the progress can be quantified regarding how well or poorly the project moves. Without this, the project might chase shifting targets. The two baselines to be employed are cost and schedule. After having identified variances, they need to be addressed with a plan. Steps to be taken become a roadmap for managing variances and deciding whether a project change management is required or a project change request (PCR) needs to be activated.
- Managing Changes: Changes in a project can be due to unsatisfactory progress of the project or due to the additional requests of the client. These changes then become necessary for sustaining the project. It could translate into a change in process, resources employed for the project, or a change in the proposed timeline. Processes must be reworked and resources reorganized to commiserate with timelines and budgets. Considerable flexibility has to be worked into the project's planning so it does not become complicated when there is a possibility of changes during the project.
- Ensuring Quality: The quality of the project delivered determines the level of customer satisfaction. To ensure this quality has to be maintained through milestones so that there are no costly delays due to a dissatisfied customer due to rework or low morale and frustration in the project team. So, first and foremost, quality criteria that work as a guideline for the entire team must be defined. There should be no trade-offs in the organizational ideology and strategy. The commitment to quality standards that have been recognized should be non-negotiable so that there are no cost-saving shortcuts to compromise quality.
Towards this purpose, the project manager and his team have to work out practical approaches to applying quality standards and processes outlined in the project blueprint. A quality assurance check has to be performed at the end of the project to ensure that all the checkpoints have been achieved faithfully.
- Managing Scope Creep: Scope creep is one of the most common risks a project can encounter. Scope creep what happens in a project when changes in the scope of the project are made on random requests of the customer/client or due to any other unforeseen risks. But the cause is often due to new requirements being added by stakeholders or clients after the project execution has started. The deliverables defined change, and the project team might be expected to deliver more within the exact timelines, resources, and budget.
This puts undue pressure on all the careful planning and affects the project deadlines, budgets, scheduled milestones, and resource allocation, ultimately affecting the quality of the project. There could also be a situation where every time a project is nearing completion, its scope is extended and turns into a never-ending project. To manage this severe threat, a scope management plan has to be built into the project plan that will firmly establish the scope and its management. This plan includes a work breakdown structure, scope statement, and the process by which the stakeholders will approve the scope as a recognized project baseline.
5. Project Closure
This is the phase when the project is finally closed, with all its activities and processes finalized, with no more work to be done. A project closure also signifies that the contract with the client has been faithfully completed. This does much to enhance an organization’s image in the market and considerably adds to the team members' experience and qualifications. Therefore, this stage needs to be executed according to the template defined in the planning and the scope delineation phase.
- Completing Final Tasks: Closure of the project is not just about handing over deliverables. It is process driven and looks after a formal closure of all phases, including documentation approved by all participating members. The process also ensures that there are no outstanding invoices and pending payments. A complete and thorough review of the project work is carried out to evaluate its success or failure. This is the final phase in the lifecycle of a project, and it requires the formal transfer of deliverables, necessary approvals, and archiving of all documented knowledge generated during the project.
- Gathering Feedback: After the project has been closed, a feedback-gathering exercise has to be initiated for future reference. Feedback is about how things went during the project and can be through chats, emails, team meetings, and collaborative spreadsheets. Feedback could be amongst team members, themselves, or solicited by the organization from the client. This helps streamline internal processes and interpersonal relations among colleagues. Customer feedback is essential for improving products, services, or consultancy rendered, as this powers improvement within the organizational business strategy.
- Communicating Project Results: The results of a project need to be communicated to all the stakeholders and sponsors. This can be done orally through presentations or visually to communicate complex takeaways. The study and implementation of results provide guidelines for structuring business strategies. Sharing the results with all the audiences also demonstrates and advertises the project's success, and if otherwise, it serves as a guide on what not to do.
- Archiving Project Documents: All the project documents are collected and securely archived at the closure of the project. This is an essential step to project closure because every project is unique. There are lessons to be learned. The information in these documents serves as a reference to resolve difficulties encountered in all future projects. When a ready, accessible reference is available, less time is lost in searching for solutions. Consequently, the lag time is lessened, minimizing the toll on the budget.
- Celebrating Project Success: In a project, only the kickoffs and completions are given recognition. But there are successes in achieving milestones. This keeps the morale of the working team intact, and work progresses smoothly toward completion. Once it reaches that phase, the celebration is called for. This includes calling and issuing letters of appreciation and certificates of appreciation that are a public recognition of the hard work put in by the project team. An event could also be organized to bid farewell to outsourced or temporarily hired resources. This celebration closes the project formally and helps its team members to forge ahead with new experiences to be put into practice.
To ensure a project's success, some tools have to be actively used. These are Jira, Gantt charts, and Kanban boards, to name a few.
- JIRA: Jira is an agile project management tool for planning, tracking projects, generating reports, and automating processes on a single platform.
- GANTT: Gantt charts facilitate teams in planning projects according to deadlines and allocating resources as needed. These charts help to keep an overview of the project.
- KANBAN: Kanban board is a tool that gives an instant update of all the tasks that have been completed, are pending, or need to be addressed.
Tips for Managing a Project Successfully
For a project to be effectively managed, a few tips should be taken into consideration.
- Clear and effective communication among team members, stakeholders, and sponsors.
- Predefined goals and steps to achieve them in very lucid terms.
- Use of the right tools throughout the project execution cycle.
- Proper resource allocation so that there is no conflict during execution of the project.
- Regular boost of morale and motivation for the team, to ensure a healthy project execution.
- Timely tracking of challenges to mitigate risks and avoid issues/conflicts in the team.
- Ensuring focus from strategic goals to developmental activities for alignment and overall success.
Download PDF on How to Manage a Project Successfully
If you want to manage a project successfully, it's important to have the right tools and strategies in place. Downloading a PDF guide can provide you with a comprehensive resource to help you navigate the complexities of project management. With the right guidance, you can learn how to define your project goals, create a detailed project plan, track your progress, manage your team, and communicate effectively with stakeholders.
Projects are generally defined as temporary efforts to create products, services, or processes that would ultimately affect organizational strategy, margins, or public response (in the case of Samaritan projects). However, each project is unique and needs to be worked on with a detailed plan that must be managed with exemplary skills. All the tasks and activities must be aligned to merge and produce the desired outcome. A project manager with KnowledgeHut's training on Project Management is best equipped to handle the challenges of managing a project.