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The Three Most Fundamental Aspects of Project Management

Over the years I have found that my most popular blog posts are those that speak to entry-level project managers. They value information which is clear and concise and which helps them understand what tools and techniques to use. Project management is a vast practice area and for somebody who has only recently started managing projects, it can seem overwhelming. It is my observation that there are more entry-level project managers coming into the field. And there is a good reason for that. With more and more changes taking place at a faster rate, we have a need for more people to manage those changes. This can be anything from integrating new technology to streamlining business processes or producing cheaper and better consumer goods. With that being said, let’s look at the three most fundamental project management tools and techniques that will help entry-level project managers get their project off the ground.Project DefinitionProjects need to be defined and scoped before they are planned and executed. That is true for all projects irrespective of the type of methodology they use. Defining the project helps us understand what it is meant to deliver, what the benefits are, what the costs might be and by when it is needed. This may sound like a plan to you, but it’s more like a high-level description of the project without the details having been fleshed out. The main question we ask during project definition is whether the project is worthwhile doing or not. There may be lots of ideas for new projects but not all of them have a good business rationale. Therefore they shouldn't be executed at this moment in time with this particular scope. In the company where you work, I’m sure there are many things you could improve on and many ways in which you could enhance your products or services. But not all of these enhancements will be viable business ideas, perhaps because there is a small market for some of those products or too low a margin.When we define the project, we’re essentially looking at the project’s business case and ascertaining if it provides a strong enough foundation for the project to go ahead. Defining the project can take as little as a couple of days for a very small project and several months for a larger one. You can capture the conclusion of this phase in a Project Definition Document, Project Charter, Terms of Reference or Business Case. Different companies use different terms for this document, but they may essentially contain the same information. What I recommend you to put in the document is: Aims and objectives of the project, high-level deliverables, expected benefits, high-level constraints, assumptions and risks, expected costs, future revenues, expected end date, name of project sponsor, project manager, and core team members.Milestone plan  Once the project has been approved, meaning that the Project Definition Document has been signed off, you can move to the next part of the project, which is to plan it. The way you plan a project and lay out its phases, stages, and milestones will look a bit different depending on the methodology your company prefers. If you’re in a more traditional waterfall environment you’d be planning the project in a sequential way, beginning with requirements gathering and detailed statements of scope. You’d then plan for the build or execution phase to take place followed by some testing and final delivery or implantation. And of course, you’d plan for a project review to take place at the end. In more agile environments you’d carry out the above activities (requirements gathering, build, test, deliver, and review) in much shorter intervals or iterations. In addition, you’d deliver something tangible after each phase or iteration instead of all products or features being delivered at the end, which is what we do with a waterfall methodology.No matter how you plan your project, it’s a good practice to plan it collaboratively with the team. Those days are over where the project manager was sitting in isolation behind their desk doing all the planning. That approach simply doesn't create buy-in from the team members. They want to be involved in planning the work that they are expected to carry out.There are several collaborative planning techniques out there that you can make use of. I favour an old-fashioned post-it note-approach where you get people together and brainstorm what the phases, work streams and milestones of the project might look like. You’ll need lots of post-its and a white board or a wall to stick the notes onto. You also need a good facilitator (perhaps your good self) who can guide the team through the process. At the end, you should have a rough idea of which milestones and outputs will be delivered by when. You should also assign ownership to each milestone or deliverable as otherwise, the project manager may end up owning most of the items. Ask the owners to carry out the detailed planning of their individual items and revert at the next meeting with a confirmation of exactly what will be delivered by when. If your team is remote you can make use of virtual post-it-note planning tools.The outcome of your collaborative meetings and planning activities can be captured in a milestone plan. This would be a simple Excel sheet listing the project’s top ten milestones, the owner of each milestone and the expected delivery date. Very simple! As a project moves forward you can also use the spreadsheet to record whether each milestone is on track for delivery and comment on their status. In that way, this simple one-pager overview of milestones becomes a high-level plan and a tracking tool in one. This is an ideal overview sheet to use as a communication tool to your stakeholders so that they can ascertain the status of the project. Your stakeholders don’t need a detailed plan. An overview of the top ten milestones will be sufficient. The detailed plan is reserved for the core team.Risks listBe warned that no matter the size, complexity or methodology of your project, I can assure you that it will be full of risks. That’s because all projects are about creating change, meaning that the project will result in something that hasn’t been done before in that exact setting. In other words, every project is unique and therefore contains a certain element of risk. Project management methodology is essentially there to control risk and to help us execute a project with some level of predictability in spite of its uncertain elements. Defining a project, identifying and analysing user needs and requirements, planning how these requirements will result in outputs and deliveries, clarifying roles and responsibilities and prototyping the solution are all examples of activities we undertake in project management with the aim of driving down risk.Managing risks is a dynamic process as the project’s environment changes on a daily basis. Identifying and mitigating risks is, therefore, something which shouldn’t just be done when the project starts up. It’s an essential project management activity that should be carried out on a regular basis to make sure that new risks are identified and managed and that the existing ones are reviewed. In essence, I suggest that you sit down with your team every couple of weeks to go through the risk list. The collaborative element is important, as the project manager cannot identify all the risks on her own. The team has the knowledge, not only of the things that could go wrong but also in terms of generating ideas for how to overcome potential roadblocks.The outcome of the collaborative risk management meetings is risk list. This is a simple Excel tool, which lists and describes all the risks, the date they were logged, what the potential impact of the risk is and how it can be mitigated. The risk list should also contain information about the probability and likelihood of each risk (high, medium, low) as well as an owner. In many projects, there is a tendency that the project manager ends up owning most of the mitigation strategies. But in many cases, a team member or a stakeholder is the best person to manage a specific risk because they are closer to the detail.In summaryProject management tools and techniques can be difficult to navigate for an entry-level project manager. Three of the most important tools for a project manager to make use of on any project are: a Project Definition Document, a Milestone Plan and a Risk List. Whereas the project manager owns all of these tools, it’s not sufficient to simply fill them in on their own. Irrespective of whether we are running an Agile, Waterfall or a hybrid project, it will be the collective effort of the people involved who will get the project delivered. For that reason, the tools we use must be as collaborative as possible so that we can make the most of our precious team.
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The Three Most Fundamental Aspects of Project Management

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The Three Most Fundamental Aspects of Project Management

Over the years I have found that my most popular blog posts are those that speak to entry-level project managers. They value information which is clear and concise and which helps them understand what tools and techniques to use. Project management is a vast practice area and for somebody who has only recently started managing projects, it can seem overwhelming. It is my observation that there are more entry-level project managers coming into the field. And there is a good reason for that. With more and more changes taking place at a faster rate, we have a need for more people to manage those changes. This can be anything from integrating new technology to streamlining business processes or producing cheaper and better consumer goods. With that being said, let’s look at the three most fundamental project management tools and techniques that will help entry-level project managers get their project off the ground.

Project Definition

Projects need to be defined and scoped before they are planned and executed. That is true for all projects irrespective of the type of methodology they use. Defining the project helps us understand what it is meant to deliver, what the benefits are, what the costs might be and by when it is needed. This may sound like a plan to you, but it’s more like a high-level description of the project without the details having been fleshed out. The main question we ask during project definition is whether the project is worthwhile doing or not. There may be lots of ideas for new projects but not all of them have a good business rationale. Therefore they shouldn't be executed at this moment in time with this particular scope. In the company where you work, I’m sure there are many things you could improve on and many ways in which you could enhance your products or services. But not all of these enhancements will be viable business ideas, perhaps because there is a small market for some of those products or too low a margin.

When we define the project, we’re essentially looking at the project’s business case and ascertaining if it provides a strong enough foundation for the project to go ahead. Defining the project can take as little as a couple of days for a very small project and several months for a larger one. You can capture the conclusion of this phase in a Project Definition Document, Project Charter, Terms of Reference or Business Case. Different companies use different terms for this document, but they may essentially contain the same information. What I recommend you to put in the document is: Aims and objectives of the project, high-level deliverables, expected benefits, high-level constraints, assumptions and risks, expected costs, future revenues, expected end date, name of project sponsor, project manager, and core team members.

Milestone plan  

Once the project has been approved, meaning that the Project Definition Document has been signed off, you can move to the next part of the project, which is to plan it. The way you plan a project and lay out its phases, stages, and milestones will look a bit different depending on the methodology your company prefers. If you’re in a more traditional waterfall environment you’d be planning the project in a sequential way, beginning with requirements gathering and detailed statements of scope. You’d then plan for the build or execution phase to take place followed by some testing and final delivery or implantation. And of course, you’d plan for a project review to take place at the end. In more agile environments you’d carry out the above activities (requirements gathering, build, test, deliver, and review) in much shorter intervals or iterations. In addition, you’d deliver something tangible after each phase or iteration instead of all products or features being delivered at the end, which is what we do with a waterfall methodology.

No matter how you plan your project, it’s a good practice to plan it collaboratively with the team. Those days are over where the project manager was sitting in isolation behind their desk doing all the planning. That approach simply doesn't create buy-in from the team members. They want to be involved in planning the work that they are expected to carry out.

There are several collaborative planning techniques out there that you can make use of. I favour an old-fashioned post-it note-approach where you get people together and brainstorm what the phases, work streams and milestones of the project might look like. You’ll need lots of post-its and a white board or a wall to stick the notes onto. You also need a good facilitator (perhaps your good self) who can guide the team through the process. At the end, you should have a rough idea of which milestones and outputs will be delivered by when. You should also assign ownership to each milestone or deliverable as otherwise, the project manager may end up owning most of the items. Ask the owners to carry out the detailed planning of their individual items and revert at the next meeting with a confirmation of exactly what will be delivered by when. If your team is remote you can make use of virtual post-it-note planning tools.

The outcome of your collaborative meetings and planning activities can be captured in a milestone plan. This would be a simple Excel sheet listing the project’s top ten milestones, the owner of each milestone and the expected delivery date. Very simple! As a project moves forward you can also use the spreadsheet to record whether each milestone is on track for delivery and comment on their status. In that way, this simple one-pager overview of milestones becomes a high-level plan and a tracking tool in one. This is an ideal overview sheet to use as a communication tool to your stakeholders so that they can ascertain the status of the project. Your stakeholders don’t need a detailed plan. An overview of the top ten milestones will be sufficient. The detailed plan is reserved for the core team.

Risks list

Risk Management Lists


Be warned that no matter the size, complexity or methodology of your project, I can assure you that it will be full of risks. That’s because all projects are about creating change, meaning that the project will result in something that hasn’t been done before in that exact setting. In other words, every project is unique and therefore contains a certain element of risk. Project management methodology is essentially there to control risk and to help us execute a project with some level of predictability in spite of its uncertain elements. Defining a project, identifying and analysing user needs and requirements, planning how these requirements will result in outputs and deliveries, clarifying roles and responsibilities and prototyping the solution are all examples of activities we undertake in project management with the aim of driving down risk.

Managing risks is a dynamic process as the project’s environment changes on a daily basis. Identifying and mitigating risks is, therefore, something which shouldn’t just be done when the project starts up. It’s an essential project management activity that should be carried out on a regular basis to make sure that new risks are identified and managed and that the existing ones are reviewed. In essence, I suggest that you sit down with your team every couple of weeks to go through the risk list. The collaborative element is important, as the project manager cannot identify all the risks on her own. The team has the knowledge, not only of the things that could go wrong but also in terms of generating ideas for how to overcome potential roadblocks.

The outcome of the collaborative risk management meetings is risk list. This is a simple Excel tool, which lists and describes all the risks, the date they were logged, what the potential impact of the risk is and how it can be mitigated. The risk list should also contain information about the probability and likelihood of each risk (high, medium, low) as well as an owner. In many projects, there is a tendency that the project manager ends up owning most of the mitigation strategies. But in many cases, a team member or a stakeholder is the best person to manage a specific risk because they are closer to the detail.


In summary

Project management tools and techniques can be difficult to navigate for an entry-level project manager. Three of the most important tools for a project manager to make use of on any project are: a Project Definition Document, a Milestone Plan and a Risk List. Whereas the project manager owns all of these tools, it’s not sufficient to simply fill them in on their own. Irrespective of whether we are running an Agile, Waterfall or a hybrid project, it will be the collective effort of the people involved who will get the project delivered. For that reason, the tools we use must be as collaborative as possible so that we can make the most of our precious team.

Susanne

Susanne Madsen

Blog author

Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Working with organisations globally she helps project managers step up and become better leaders.

Prior to setting up her own business, Susanne worked for almost 20 years in the corporate sector leading high-profile programmes of up to $30 million for organisations such as Standard Bank, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. She is a fully qualified Corporate and Executive coach, accredited by DISC and a regular contributor to the Association for Project Management (APM).

Susanne is also the co-founded The Project Leadership Institute, which is dedicated to building authentic project leaders by engaging the heart, the soul and the mind.

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Sukran 09 Jun 2018

Consulting is good for the fresher visiting this site .thanks m really interested in it program.

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You should go through this once you feel that you have attained a reasonable command on the content covered by PMBOK® Guide or any other study guide which you are referring in order to ensure that you avoid any unwanted surprises while appearing for your PMP® certification exam.2.Take up a formal study course offered by any accredited Registered Education Provider (R.E.P)Project Management Institute (PMI) has approved a few organisations to offer project management training in order to establish a global network of quality education providers to help all the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential aspirants and credential holders.Enrolling yourself in a PMP® training course is one of the best ways to prepare for your certification exam. The reasons are as follows:These courses provide tailor-made PMP study materials and best practices for the PMP exam.They give you a quick start in getting a grasp of various project management concepts, formulae, terminology, and other key inputs which help you to prepare for your PMP exam.You can also get the 35 contact hours certificate by taking up these training courses which is necessary for you to be eligible for the PMP® exam.3.Come up with a study planYou should start treating your PMP® certification as a project and prepare a plan which covers all the activities that would help you to get PMP® certified. But the core element in this plan is to have a well-defined study plan. You should break your study sessions into smaller chunks and prepare a study plan which includes timelines to read PMBOK®, practice mock tests, study various materials etc.4.Review the latest edition of PMBOK® Guide and self-study books published by other reputable training organisationsNo matter whatever reference material you want to study in order to prepare for your PMP® certification exam, the PMPBOK® Guide is the recommended study material for all the PMP® aspirants. The page number 61 of the guide contains a table that shows the relation between 13 Knowledge Areas and 5 Process Groups with 47 processes. It further explains how these are applicable to project management.As a candidate, you should be thorough with this table and draw this table on a piece of paper in 5 minutes while appearing for your exam. The same can be used as a reference in answering the 200 exam questions. Other than the PMBOK® Guide, you can also review other study guides published by R.E.P.s and other reputable training organisations.5.Get ready for your exam by practicing Mock TestsDo you want to check the status of your PMP® certification exam preparation? You can do that by taking PMP mock tests. These can help you to map the gaps in your project management knowledge. You can take a test and review the results to find the areas that you need to work on.Focusing on answering the questions by sitting at a place for four hours is not a piece of cake. Taking full-length mock tests helps you to prepare for such a physically daunting and mentally straining process. However, it is a very important drill for your PMP® certification exam. So, it’s better to take up these mock tests and prepare well for your big day.6.Study groupStudying in a group can prove to be quite helpful while you are preparing for your PMP® certification exam. Catch up with the like-minded PMP® aspirants to know about new tactics and get benefited in other ways by being a part of the study group. Few of the benefits are as follows:Studying in a group is the best escape from the monotony of studying alone.You can surely overcome the areas which you are struggling with.Helping others will also boost your confidence.Sharing project management experiences with others help you to crack the scenario based questions which is the trickiest part of the PMP® certification exam.It further helps you to stay on course and helps you to motivate each other in the group.The biggest advantage of studying in a group is that it forces you to study on a regular basis and makes the preparation activity a part of your routine.Tips and tricks to prepare for your PMP® examYou need to study numerous materials in order to crack your PMP® certification exam. But do you have access to the right books and materials? Every person has his or her own way of learning. The following ways will surely help you to become efficient in your study and get equipped with all the knowledge that you need to crack your PMP® exam:If you have access to the workshops conducted by PMI then that would be a big benefit for you. This will also help you to receive the bundle of 35 credit hours which are necessary to qualify for your PMP® application procedure. Attending a PMP® boot camp gives you access to numerous benefits. Few of them are:1.Review everything which you need to cover on the examEverybody is oblivious about what he or she is going to encounter during the PMP® certification exam. Whatever you will find in the exam is sure to be geared from the PMBOK®. This means you should be thorough with the PMBOK® guidelines to get PMP® certified at one go. But the PMBOK® consists of only 75% of what you will see in the exam. What about the rest? You need to seek for a PMP instructor’s guidance in order to fill the gap in learning to qualify your PMP® certification exam.2.Review how to study for the examAs discussed, the PMBOK® guide is a great resource for your PMP® certification exam. At times, even if the questions are lengthy with a situational circumstance, you need to bring it down to a rule that needs to be comprehended. Further, there are certain focus areas on which you need to invest more of your study time than others. It is always better to seek guidance from a professional rather than guessing what you should study.3.Informal questionsIf you lack the idea of how to implement cost, schedule, or risk structure, then it’s a great opportunity for you to understand it. You should learn to shed light on practical application using fundamental examples.You should change your study methods to prepare well for a continuously evolving exam process like the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. These days, this exam is based on PMBOK® Guide 6th edition and is a lot harder than it was in the past. The 4 partially correct choices which are provided for all the questions make it even confusing and raise the level of complication for the candidate.The following tricks are surely going to help you in shaping up your exam:Get aligned with the exam dynamics by spending 30 minutes every day on a free exam simulator.Follow the rule of 85%. Keep practicing mock exams until you score at least 85% in all the model exams. This indicates that you are ready to face the PMP® certification exam.Another important trick is to understand the ‘ITTO TRICK Sheet of 49 processes’ which you can find in the PMBOK® guide. This will really prove helpful to you in mapping all the processes inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques.In order to rightly utilize the 12 minutes after the exam, you need to read and memorize the Formula Trick Sheet. You need to print and paste the same on your desk in order to practice it every day because writing this after 4 hours exam will surely help you to track the questions and save significant time.You need to read and memorize the PMPBOK® 6th Edition 49 Process Chart. Print and paste the same on your desk and practice it every day until you can draw the chart within 8 minutes.To wrap it upWhen you begin with your preparation for PMP® certification, you should remember that attaining the PMP® certification shows your commitment to the profession of project management and demonstrates your credibility to earn more as well as raising the value of your resume above the non-certified professionals. Keeping these points in mind will surely help you to avoid getting discouraged during your certification process.You can also learn more about PMP® certification hereThis blog throws light on a few best practices along with some tips and tricks to smoothly proceed with your PMP® journey. It is important for you to set a standard time for your studies other than having a thorough understanding of the PMBOK® guide. So, start clearing your calendar to fit in your daily study time as PMP® needs a lot of thorough studies and is not an easy path to success.
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A Comprehensive Guide to PMP® Exam Preparation

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