Have you just landed a job in the field of project management? Are you going to manage your first project? Has your boss given you a project and you don't have a clue what to do? Or maybe you are curious and want to know how project management happens. So, this article will provide you a basic and elementary understanding of the various stages of project management.
Define the project (initiation)
The first step is to conceive, conceptualize and define the project by identifying the objectives and scope of the project by taking into account the business goals to make sure the project benefits the organization and can realistically be competed with in the three key project constraints: time, cost and scope.
Once the project is crystal clear and put on paper, a mandate is obtained from the project sponsor in order to initiate the project. The project officially begins with a kick-off meeting that sets the stage for your entire project.
Build a project team and identify stakeholders (initiation)
It is important to note that building a team and defining a project goes hand in hand and are done at the same time. This stage includes a lot of to and fro and brainstorming meetings between project team members and stakeholders.
As a project manager, you can't do everything on your own. You need to have a team. So, assemble a project team that includes a project sponsor, project owner, functional managers, project manager, team leader, other team members or subject matter experts. To get an exhaustive list of project team members and their roles and responsibilities read this article.
Plan the project
It is one of the longest and most important stage where the project manager along with the project sponsors, team members and stakeholders:
- Specifies the project needs and requirements
- Examines the project assumptions, concerns and risks.
- Fixes the project delivery date, charts outs timelines, creates Gantt charts and sets up milestones.
- Creates a work breakdown structure (WBS)
- Identifies, lists and schedules tasks
- Identifies and allocates project resources and specifies their roles and responsibilities.
- Evaluates costs and Allocates budgets
- Establishes communication and reporting channels
- Installs collaboration and monitoring tools
These elements are then organized and compiled to produce a project management plan and project schedule.
In some organizations defining the project, building the team and planning the project can happen at the same time or can overlap.
Execute the project
In this stage all the major action happens! In short, in this stage, project managers and team members work and get things done. In project management terms, they work to produce deliverables according to the project plan. They make sure that project tasks are being completed on time and according to the specifications. Once a milestone is achieved you will have to obtain a sign-off from your project sponsor or senior management in order to move forward to the next task or project phase.
During this phase, as a project manager, you need to encourage regular collaboration and communication between team members and all stakeholders. It is also vital to be aware of the delays, costs and performance of the project.
As a project manager, you need to also keep a bird eye view of the execution phase. You can easily do this by regular update meetings or a project management software.
Manage and monitor the project
The execution and monitoring phase go hand in hand. The project manager regularly monitors the costs, teams and the progress of the project. He does a regular check for conflicts, challenges and other issues and accordingly offers solutions or adjusts the project plan. He produces reviews, reports and dashboards to provide regular feedback and upholds the integrity of the project. He makes sure that everyone is on the same wavelength.
Close the project
Projects have a beginning and an end, otherwise they wouldn't be projects (regular work without any beginning and deadline are called operations). Once a project has met its goals, it is ready to be delivered to the operations team or to the client. But before the hand-over a project review is conducted to analyze the results and to see if there are any lessons learnt. The lessons learnt are documented for future projects. All administrative procedures should be taken care of, for example, closing of contracts with vendors. And just before handover an official sign-off is necessary form the project sponsor or the client. In the end if the project was successful, it is always good to celebrate it with a party.
To conclude, it is very important to note that this article provides a basic and elementary understanding of project management. There are different facets, aspects and dimensions of project management. To learn more, you may want to read the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) produced by Project Management Institute. Good luck with your new project.