As you consider potential higher education opportunities, perhaps you’ve pondered the question: what is project management, and why is it so important? Project management is a challenging but highly rewarding field that is expected to grow at a steady rate – an estimated 33 percent by 2027, according to the Project Management Institute.
Project management is important because it helps ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the expected quality of work. It also helps identify and mitigate risks, manage resources effectively, and ensure stakeholders are well informed and involved throughout the project.
Before applying to higher education programs, learn more about project management, as well as its components, benefits, and stages. Then, perhaps you’ll discover a career path that captures your interests and professional goals.
What is Project Management?
At its core, project management is the process of planning, organizing, and overseeing the overall execution of a project from the beginning to its end.
The general role of a project manager is to define a project’s goals, create an actionable project plan, allocate the essential resources, and manage the project team as a whole. In addition, project managers are responsible for ensuring that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the necessary stakeholders.
Effective project management requires strong communication skills, attention to detail, and adapting to ever-changing circumstances. It is critical in many industries, including construction, engineering, software development, and marketing, among others.
Aligning Objectives and Ensuring Clear Communication
In project management, aligning objectives and ensuring clear communication among team members is critical. Skilled project managers excel at setting clear goals and expectations, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing a cohesive communication plan.
By aligning objectives, everyone on the team understands what they are working towards and can focus their efforts accordingly. Clear communication ensures everyone is on the same page and can work together effectively. It also helps to identify and address any issues or challenges that may arise during the project.
Four Components of Project Management
The Project Management Triangle is a helpful way to visualize the four primary components of project management. This model helps visualize the need to balance scope, cost, and time to support a high-quality final product. Many roadblocks that arise with project management stem from three primary problems.
- Trying to keep their team productive with too little time
- Trying to accomplish a task with not enough budget
- Trying to solve a problem with too large of scope
The project manager must understand that these variables are usually rooted in place and must determine how to balance these roadblocks without making detrimental tradeoffs at the risk of a less-than-stellar final product. Quality is the overall goal.
Time is one of the most critical factors in project management. You cannot replenish time once you spend it because it is a finite resource. Therefore, managing time effectively is essential to ensure the project’s timely completion.
Time management involves identifying the required completed tasks, estimating the time needed for each assignment, and creating a schedule that allocates the appropriate amount of time. It also consists of monitoring progress and adjusting the project plan as necessary.
Effective time management reduces the risk of delays and cost overruns and improves the overall quality of the project. Therefore, project managers must prioritize time management throughout the project lifecycle.
Scope is a critical aspect of project management that defines the boundaries of a project. It illustrates the project’s goals by specifying the tasks, objectives, and deliverables that must be completed. A well-defined scope helps project managers to plan, execute, and control the project effectively. It also helps manage stakeholders’ expectations and ensure the project is completed within the allocated time, budget, and resources.
Without a clear scope, a project can quickly go off track, leading to delays and unsatisfied stakeholders. Therefore, it is essential to define the scope of a project at the outset and continuously monitor and control it throughout the project.
Cost is one of the most critical factors to oversee in project management. Project managers must clearly understand the budget and the resources required to complete a project successfully to ensure a high-quality product. Project costs include direct expenses such as labor, materials, and equipment and indirect costs such as overheads, contingency, and risk management.
A project manager must ensure that a project is completed within the allocated budget and that the costs are managed effectively throughout the entire lifecycle. Failure to manage costs can result in project delays, quality issues, and even project failure.
Quality is the utmost critical element of project management that cannot be overlooked. It is the degree to which a project meets the requirements and expectations of all necessary stakeholders. Quality management involves planning, controlling, and assuring that the project meets the desired level of quality. Project managers maintain project standards by ensuring a balance between time, scope, and cost, resulting in the delivery of a project that fulfills its intended benefits.
The Five Stages of Project Management
Managing a project is challenging, regardless of the scale and scope. From everyday planning to overseeing the ever-changing demands of stakeholders and clients, many variables can pop up at a moment’s notice. One strategy to maintain the order and flow of a project is to break it down into smaller, manageable stages. Each stage (or milestone) may have its own goals, timelines, and deliverables. This compartmentalization makes it easier to control the project and ensure the quality of work. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at each of the five project management lifecycle stages.
The initiation stage is the first phase of the project life cycle. It involves defining the project’s purpose, objectives, and scope, as well as identifying the clients and stakeholders and their needs. During this stage, the project manager must determine whether the project is viable and worth pursuing by asking certain questions.
- What is the objective of this project?
- What are the potential roadblocks?
- Who are the essential stakeholders?
A charter, contract, or statement of work (SOW) is also developed during this stage. This is a formal document that outlines a project’s goals, objectives, and scope, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each project team member. The initiation stage sets the foundation for the entire project. It ensures everyone is aligned and on a clear path to accomplish the project’s goals and objectives.
During the planning stage, the project manager and team define the strategy and purpose behind the project scope, objectives, and deliverables. Next, the required resources are identified to estimate the necessary timeline and budget appropriately.
The next step is to create a project plan, which is a detailed breakdown and forecast of each team member’s roles, responsibilities, and deadlines. The planning stage involves a great deal of collaboration and communication among stakeholders and project team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the project’s overarching goals and expectations.
A well-planned project is more likely to be successful, as it helps to minimize risks, avoid delays, and ensure that the project is completed within budget and on time.
The execution stage is where the actual work of the project takes place. Project team members are assigned their tasks and responsibilities and begin working on specific project deliverables defined in the initiation stage. The project manager is responsible for monitoring the progress and deadlines of a project and ensuring that it stays on track.
It is vital to manage these workflows, pinpointing any issues or risks, then adjusting the project plan, as needed. In addition, project managers are responsible for keeping all teams in the loop as the project progresses, especially if given milestones create dependencies that impact the work of team members.
4. Monitoring and Control
The monitoring and control stage ensures a project is on track and meets its objectives. During this stage, project managers use various tools and techniques to monitor project progress against the original project plan. Additionally, the progress is often held to specific key performance indicators (KPIs). If roadblocks occur, the project manager must identify potential issues and take corrective actions to keep the project on track. Effective monitoring and control help project managers to identify and address issues before they become major problems.
The closure stage is the final phase of a project, where the teams complete all the remaining tasks and activities to bring a project to a successful conclusion. This stage often involves a series of duties, such as finalizing project deliverables, conducting a final project review, obtaining final client approval, and closing out (or renewing) contracts.
Overall, the project manager is responsible for ensuring that all project objectives have been met (and met with quality), all stakeholders are happy with the completed work, and all project documentation is complete.
The closing stage is critical as it provides an opportunity to evaluate the project’s success, identify lessons learned, and apply them to future projects. It also allows the project team to celebrate their achievements and recognize their contributions to the project’s success.
Why Is More Work Becoming Project-Based?
More work is becoming project-based due to several reasons:
- A project-based structure allows organizations to be more flexible and adaptable to changing market conditions. For example, companies can employ project-based workers instead of permanent employees for specific tasks or projects that can be scaled as needed. Companies gain access to a broader talent pool, including remote workers and freelancers, who may only be available part-time.
- Companies often find project-based work more cost-effective, as they only pay for the work that is needed rather than providing benefits and salaries for full-time employees.
- Project-based work allows workers more control over their schedules and workloads, increasing job satisfaction and productivity.
As a result, more businesses are embracing project-based work as a way to stay competitive and meet the changing demands of their customers and employees.
Benefits of Project Management
Project management is a necessary process in many fields that helps organizations achieve their goals and objectives efficiently and effectively. The advantages of project management are considerable, including improved communication, enhanced consumer satisfaction, better risk management, and increased productivity.
In addition, by using project management methodologies, businesses can ensure that projects are completed on time, within the allocated resources, and to the required quality benchmarks. Project management also helps identify potential problems early on, which reduces project costs, improves project results, and increases client and stakeholder satisfaction. Project management is essential for any organization looking to succeed in today’s competitive business environment.
Clear, shared goals and objectives
Everyone involved in the project is working towards shared goals and the same objectives, which increases the chances of project success. It also promotes clear collaboration and communication among team members, leading to more efficient and effective project execution.
Quality control measures are implemented throughout the project lifecycle, resulting in a higher quality end product and increased customer satisfaction. Additionally, project management allows for continuous monitoring and adjustment of quality control processes, ensuring that any issues are identified and addressed promptly.
Creating agreed-upon timelines ensures that project workflows are completed on time and within budget, leading to increased efficiency, productivity, and improved client satisfaction.
Save time and money
Project management helps to streamline processes and reduce inefficiencies, ultimately saving time and money for the organization.
A well-defined project can identify and mitigate potential risks before they become major issues. This ensures that projects are completed on time, within budget, and with minimal disruptions.
All aspects of a project are monitored and controlled, which helps prevent potential issues and ensures that the project stays on track toward its goals.
Openly sharing information and progress updates with stakeholders builds trust, improves communication, and ensures everyone is aligned.
Opportunity (to learn from mistakes and missteps)
Learning from mistakes and missteps in project management allows for continuous improvement. In addition, it can prevent similar issues from occurring in future projects.
Common Project Management Styles
Project management styles refer to project managers’ different approaches and techniques to plan, execute, and control projects. Several common project management styles are widely used in various industries and organizations.
Six Sigma project management is rooted in the data-driven quality methodology used to improve business processes and reduce defects. Developed by Motorola in the 1980s, it has since been adopted by many other companies. The overall goal is to reduce defects and errors to achieve a quality level of, at most, 3.4 defects per million opportunities
Agile Project Management
An iterative project management approach that emphasizes flexibility and adaptability, agile project management involves breaking down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks and continuously monitoring and adjusting the project plan as needed. Agile project management is often used in software development but can be applied to most projects.
Scrum (a type of agile)
A type of agile methodology that emphasizes sequential and incremental development, scrum is a type of agile strategy that focuses on delivering value and quality to the customer. Scrum teams work in two to four weeks sprints and have daily stand-up meetings to track progress and identify any roadblocks.
Kanban (a type of agile)
A type of agile methodology that focuses on visualizing work and limiting work in progress, Kanban emphasizes continuous improvement and deliverables and encourages teams to prioritize tasks based on customer needs. Kanban boards are used to track workflow progress and provide transparency for team members and necessary stakeholders.
Waterfall Project Management
In a waterfall style of project management, each project phase is linear and must be completed before moving on to the next. The process involves a clear set of steps and a defined timeline for each phase. It is a more traditional method that is often used in industries such as manufacturing.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
The Critical Path Method is a project management technique that involves identifying the sequence of crucial tasks that directly affect the project duration. It involves a detailed analysis of tasks, durations, dependencies, and deadlines, to calculate the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project.
PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments, version 2)
Is a structured project management method that divides projects into manageable stages. It emphasizes starting, controlling, and closing projects in a consistent, standardized way, with a focus on product-based planning and business justification.
Outcome Mapping is a methodology that focuses on the changes that occur in the behaviors, relationships, activities, or actions of people and organizations with whom a project interacts directly. Rather than focusing solely on deliverables, it emphasizes the journey (behavioral change) and the role of partnerships and contributions in achieving outcomes.
Lean project management
Lean project management derives from the Lean manufacturing philosophy, emphasizing the elimination of waste (be it time, resources, or effort) to deliver value to the customer more efficiently. It encourages continuous improvement, maximizing value, and minimizing waste, making it a flexible, iterative approach to project management.
Trends in Project Management
Adaptability has recently been essential in project management due to 2020 standing as an incredibly volatile year, which had profound effects on industries around the globe. Massive shutdowns, supply chain issues, and global lockdowns are still being felt even now. Those upheavals have shaped emerging trends in project management as businesses explore new ways to manage their projects. Read on to learn more about common trends in project management.
Hybrid Project Management Will Grow
Hybrid project management is a combination of traditional and agile project management methodologies. It is gaining popularity as it allows for flexibility and adaptability in project management. Therefore, the trend of using hybrid project management is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.
Rise in Remote Working
Remote work and virtual teams are becoming more common in many industries, requiring new communication techniques and collaboration strategies. While the global pandemic forced businesses to let employees telecommute due to safety concerns, remote working will likely continue for the foreseeable future. This presents a new challenge for project managers juggling multiple team members across the globe.
Reliance on Technology
Project managers increasingly use technology, such as project management software and automation tools, to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Cloud-based project management software can be easily deployed globally for hybrid or remote workforces, allowing them to seamlessly stay on top of their tasks and projects. In addition, the software can capture all the relevant data that needs to be monitored and used by project managers to make informed decisions in real-time, regardless of schedules and locations.
AI in Project Management Software
AI is being integrated into project management software to improve efficiency and accuracy. Data-driven decision-making is becoming more prevalent, with project managers depending on data analytics to navigate their decisions. It can automate scheduling, resource allocation, and even risk assessment tasks. AI can also generate performance insights and recommendations based on data analysis, helping project managers make informed estimates and predictions.
Blockchain in project management refers to the use of a decentralized and distributed digital ledger system to enhance transparency, security, and efficiency in managing projects. By recording transactions across many computers, blockchain allows the creation of immutable, traceable records of project activities and transactions, reducing the potential for fraud and disputes. It can streamline complex processes like contract management, team collaboration, and payment distribution, ensuring accountability and trust among stakeholders.
Why Project Management Matters
Project management is important because it helps ensure that projects reach the necessary quality by balancing the budget, time constraints, and scope. It involves planning, organizing, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals and objectives. As a result, effective project management can help businesses improve their productivity, efficiency, and profitability. It also helps teams work together more effectively, reducing the risk of miscommunication, conflicts, and other roadblocks. Ultimately, it is essential for success in today’s fast-paced, competitive business environment.
Upskill With National University
National University offers a project management program that helps students navigate their way to a fulfilling career. Through National University, you can learn more about specific project management strategies, like Agile and Six Sigma, designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to manage projects effectively. The program covers topics such as project planning, risk management, budgeting, and team management. The program is available online, making it accessible to students from anywhere in the world. Graduates of the program can pursue careers in various industries, including construction, healthcare, and technology.