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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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Top 10 Certifications in Project Management

Whether it is the IT or non-IT industry, a successful project always depends on a highly competent project manager. An adept and proactive project manager helps the teams in becoming consistently productive and accountable for their tasks and responsibilities. Nowadays project management is a highly pursued job title. Any professional aspiring to be a project manager can greatly benefit from working in this role. This is not only because of the lucrative salary but also because a lot of skills can be acquired after being certified as a project manager, like knowing how to plan, schedule, budget, execute, deliver and then report on the business projects. Here are some of the top certifications in project management that companies are looking for, presently:1. PMP®: Project Management Professional Project Management Professional (PMP)® is one of the top-level project management certifications and is globally recognized as the gold standard in project management. By being PMP® certified, you can work in any industry with any methodology irrespective of the situation. This certification includes all the top necessities required to test your knowledge and skills in managing the project "triple constraints", that is time, cost, and scope.Accreditation body: Project Management Institute (PMI)® Eligibility criteria:Eligibility RequirementFour-year degree or global equivalentA secondary degree or global equivalentYears of Project Management Experience3 Years (36 months)5 Years (60 months)Hours Leading & Directing Projects4,500 Hours7,500 HoursHours of Project Management Education35 Hours35 Hours2. CAPM®: Certified Associate in Project Management Another certification governed and accredited by the Project Management Institute (PMI)®, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® lays the foundation stone for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. CAPM® is perfect for professionals who want to move steadily into the project management field. Individuals who do not possess a college degree or have no/minimal experience in the field can also apply for this certification. Accreditation body: Project Management Institute (PMI)® Eligibility criteria:A minimum of 23 hours of project management education before the examination. The minimum educational criterion to go for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification is a high school diploma certificate or any global equivalent form of education.3. CSM®: Certified Scrum MasterEver since agile methodologies have become the standard in most industries, especially the IT sector, Certified Scrum Masters have been in high demand. Despite various Scrum master certifications being available in the market, the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)® from the Scrum Alliance is a great way for aspiring project managers to start as Scrum practitioners. Scrum Alliance® offers this CSM® credential and is a non-profit organization that promotes the concept of adopting Scrum and agile practices. The organization globally has 450,000 plus certified practitioners. Accreditation body: Scrum Alliance® Eligibility criteria: There is no set of eligibility requirements to attend this Scrum Master Certification course and it can be taken by freshers or professionals who want to:Extend their careers in project management.Strengthen their grasp of Scrum.4. PMI-RMP®: Project Management Institute-Risk Management ProfessionalNowadays it is normal for any undergoing project to face risks at every stage, thus affecting its execution, success rate, and the final result. This requires planning the project by detecting potential risks, both threats, and opportunities, taking actions to reduce threats, and increasing opportunities.  The Project Management Institute-Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® credential affirms that Risk Managers know the best way to identify project risks and lessen threats while making the best of available opportunities. Accreditation body: Project Management Institute (PMI)® Eligibility criteria: Either Secondary degree (high school diploma, an associate degree, or the global equivalent) 4,500 hours of project risk management experience within the last 5 consecutive years 40 hours of project risk management education Or Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent) 3,000 hours of project risk management experience within the last 5 consecutive years 30 hours of project risk management education5. CompTIA Project+ certificationTraining in the CompTIA Project+ certification will enable professionals to learn and implement common project management principles and important soft skills such as team building, conflict resolution, communication, negotiation, setting, and managing expectations. CompTIA's Project+ serves as a primary-level project management credential.Accreditation body: CompTIAEligibility criteria:There are no strict prerequisites, however, according to CompTIA, a candidate should have at least one year of experience managing, directing, or participating in small- to medium-scale projects.6. PRINCE2® Foundation/PRINCE2 PractitionerAccredited by Axelos, PRINCE2® is a de facto standard that describes project management standards and assists in forming consistency among projects. It began in the UK and then applied it to its government entities. 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However, it is recommended to possess basic project management knowledge.PRINCE2® Practitioner Certification: To get certified with PRINCE2® Practitioner Certification, applicants must have one of the below-mentioned certifications:PRINCE2® Foundation Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® IPMA Level A (Certified Projects Director) IPMA Level B (Certified Senior Project Manager) IPMA Level C (Certified Project Manager) IPMA Level D (Certified Project Management Associate)7. PgMP®: Program Management Professional (PgMP)® Certification Training This certification is created and administered by the PMI® and is the next step, after achieving the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification. PgMP® is for professionals who coordinate and manage multiple projects aligned with strategic objectives. 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At the end of each sprint, work is then reviewed in a sprint review meeting to determine together with the Product Owner if it clears the Definition of Done (DoD). Scrum is further facilitated by a Scrum Master who leads the sprints, demos, reviews and ensures that the team is continually optimizing and improving. 3. LeanLean project management is the methodology that emphasizes the dictum of maximizing value while minimizing waste. In project management, it aims at creating most value with a minimum amount of resources, labour, and space. There are 3 ‘M’s in Lean: Muda refers to wasteful activities that consume resources without value generation, Muri refers to overutilization of equipment or employees and Mura which corresponds to operational inefficiency. Lean project management methodologies when practiced are capable of reducing these 3 Ms within the project process. 4. Kanban Kanban is a project management methodology that’s focused on Lean principles. Its primary focus is to increase efficiency. It’s an evolved version of Scrum. It’s flexible and not focussed on roles. It keeps the team focussed on what actually matters. It’s ideal for environments where priorities are changed frequently. The online tool Trello is based on Kanban. It gives an accurate visual depiction of the progress of work for the team and other stakeholders. It’s ideal in organizations that demand a consistent output. 5. eXtreme Programming methodology (XP)  eXtreme programming (XP) is also a software development project management methodology that focuses solely on development  while ensuring quality. It lays down the processes needed to improve software quality as well as meet customer requirements. It is quite similar to Scrum but differs in certain prescriptive processes. These processes include making compulsory user stories, Test Driven Development (TDD), Pair programming, and Continuous integration. 6. Waterfall  Waterfall methodology, also known as the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) values solid planning and doing everything in one shot unlike Agile. Planning and resource allocation are done in the beginning, work is executed in cascades. Like a waterfall. However, Waterfall is pretty rigid as it offers no scope to make changes to the plan unless absolutely necessary. Because of this approach, upon reaching the testing stage, it’s very difficult to go back and rectify mistakes. That could end up being quite risky. The many shortcomings of Waterfall approach is the reason why Agile methodologies gained acceptance worldwide. 7. PRINCE2   Created by the UK govt in 1996 for IT projects, PRINCE2 methodology is controlled project management practice which divides projects into various stages with their own set of plans and processes to follow. It’s an excellent framework that can be applied mostly in the large projects. It lays down the need for the project, identifies the target audience and whether the project is feasible.  A PRINCE2 Practitioner often oversees the team in these projects and ensures that the team has the right resources and guidelines to conduct the project as well as mitigate risks effectively. Ultimately, choosing the right project management methodology is based on the project and business environment. When chosen appropriately, these methodologies can play a major role in project success. Learn more about project management methodologies like these from our series of immersive workshops.
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Top 7 Project Management Methodologies

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