A project management process is a framework for any project you undertake.
Which begs the question, what even is a project management process?
Considering how important the steps in a project management process are to the development and delivery of a project, we have outlined the 5 steps typically followed for any project.
So, let’s get to it!
Project Life Cycle, what is it?
When considering project management, there is no doubt you have heard of the term project lifecycle.
But what is a project lifecycle?
Well, simply put, a project lifecycle is the series of phases or steps any particular project goes through. This includes starting from the initiation of the project all the way to its closure.
The style and type of your project lifecycle, and more specifically the number and sequence of your project lifecycle, are determined by several various factors.
The factors that may affect your project lifecycle’s stages include the nature of the project you are working on, the particular needs of the organization working on the project, as well as the area of the application of the project.
A project lifecycle provides a basic framework of the actions that need to be performed in your project.
The style of your project lifecycle may also vary. Project lifecycles can range from plan-driven approaches to more change-driven approaches.
If your project lifecycle defines the specifics at the start of the project and pre-decides how to address changes to scope, you are working with a predictive lifecycle.
On the other hand, in an adaptive lifecycle detailed scope is defined for a particular iteration, and the product itself is developed over multiple iterations.
Your project lifecycle can also be adaptive or more change-driven and agile.
Typically, whichever type of project lifecycle your organization requires, your project lifecycle will include 5 phases, these phases are often referred to as the 5 project management process groups.
5 Project Management Process Groups
The standard framework for any project management lifecycle involves 5 project management processes, groups.
Although your project lifecycle may vary and be unique in its structure and detail, the standard framework consists of the same generic lifecycle structure.
These 5 phases include:
- The initiation phase
- The planning phase
- The execution phase
- Project monitoring and control
- The project close
Although we can go into lengthy detail explaining detailed elements prevalent in each phase, for this article, we will briefly discuss an overview of each phase, to allow you the ability to understand how to make the project phases work for you and your team.
Let’s take a closer look at the project management process groups.
1. The initiation phase
The beginning of any project lifecycle starts with the initiation phase.
The initiation phase of any project aims to highlight the vision of the project you wish to undertake, identify, and document what you wish to accomplish, as well as achieve approvals from stakeholders.
Therefore, the initiation phase of a project requires the project charter as well as the stakeholder register.
First things first, what is a project charter?
Well, a project charter is your entire project portrayed on a short, formal document.
The project charter will answer questions such as:
- The objectives of your project
- How you will carry out your project
- Who the stakeholders are?
- Identified risks of the project
- Any benefits of the project
- An overview of the project budget
Therefore, the key components of the project charter are as follows:
- Business case– the business case is a document where you justify the need for the project
- Project scope– a document of what needs to be achieved in the project and what must be done for a successful project.
- Deliverables– deliverables are the quantifiable goods or services that should be achieved for a project to be deemed completed.
- Resources– resources can include facilities, equipment, and people that are needed to carry out the project.
- Objectives– objectives are the goals of the project, in other words, what the project aims to achieve.
- Possible issues– the project charter should highlight the possible issues and risks that may arise during the lifecycle of the project.
- Timeline– the project charter should also outline the milestones of the project and a rough estimate of when they should be met.
- Estimated budget– it is also beneficial to outline the estimated budget of the project in the initiation phase.
- Dependencies– dependencies show the relationship between tasks, more specifically the order in which tasks should occur.
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2. The planning phase
Once a project has received approval, it is time to start on the project.
However, before you can get down to the actual project itself, or in other words the execution phase, it is essential to assemble a team to run the project as well as plan how to run the project to achieve its goals.
This means you need to first determine your goals for the project.
When setting goals for any project there are two popular methods you can adopt.
These two common methods for setting goals are S.M.A.R.T and C.L.E.A.R.
2a. S.M.A.R.T Goals
Adopting the S.M.A.R.T approach to setting goals allows you to properly understand the effects of the goal-setting process.
S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
- Specific- specific goals answer the questions related to what, where, who, when, and why.
- Measurable- being able to measure the success of your goal is imperative to creating your goals.
- Attainable- it is important to highlight the most important goals and how you will achieve these goals.
- Realistic- your goals also need to be realistic and allow your team to be willing to work towards them.
- Timely- the goals need to be created with a timeframe in mind for when they should be achieved.
Other than the S.M.A.R.T approach to creating and setting goals, there is a newer method of C.L.E.A.R.
2b. C.L.E.A.R Goals
With the newer approach of C.L.E.A.R, creating goals takes into account the fast-paced business environment of today.
C.L.E.A.R stands for Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, and Refine-able.
- Collaborative- the goal you create to inspire employees to work together.
- Limited- the goal should also be manageable in terms of scope and time and therefore be limited.
- Emotional- employees should connect to goals on an emotional level, thus inspiring a greater level of productivity.
- Appreciable- goals should be broken down into more achievable smaller goals.
- Refinable- goals should also be created that are flexible and thus can be refined when needed.
Apart from creating and determining the goals of the project in the planning phase, the scope of the project is defined and the project management plan is developed.
The planning phase is also to allow teams to properly understand their roles and responsibilities.
Other documents need to be created for a project(s) to stay on track.
These documents may include:
- Scope statement: The scope statement is a document that outlines the entire project. The scope statement will typically outline the deliverables and their features as well as the stakeholders who will be affected. The scope statement will also define the goals that will measure the success of the project.
- Work breakdown structure: The work breakdown structure defines the “what” of a project. This document outlines clearly all the elements of a project that are required to be completed to be deemed a success.
- Communication plan: During the planning phase of your project, it is important to plan when and how often you will communicate, not only with your team but also your clients and stakeholders. This is particularly important if your project involves external stakeholders.
- Project budget plan: The project budget plan highlights an estimate of all the costs that will be incurred during the duration of the project lifecycle. Creating a budget plan at the start of a project allows you and your team to acquire the necessary resources from the start and therefore avoid unnecessary delays.
- Project Risk management process: The project risk management process allows your team to be prepared and stay on top throughout the lifecycle of the project. The plan will anticipate and highlight potential risks, estimate impacts of those risks, and define responses to if those risks occur.
- Project plan: The project plan identifies the timeline of the project, the tasks that need to be performed throughout the phases of the project, and any possible constraints that may be met.
3. The Execution Phase
Once you’ve received business approval and all the planning is done and all your team is on the same page, it is finally time to kick your plan into action.
This phase is often commenced with a “kick-off” meeting. A kick-off meeting is the first meeting between a project team and the client.
The reason for this meeting is to allow the team to be introduced, as well as to understand the project, both in terms of its background as well as what success of the project would be.
Apart from the kick-off meeting, certain other tasks get completed during the execution phase.
These tasks include but are not limited to:
- Creating a team
- Assigning resources to the project
- Executing project management plans
- Setting up tracking systems
- Assigning tasks
- Status meetings
- Create an updated project schedule in light of developments
- If there is a need, update the project plan as needed
Often project managers will create a project management process flowchart, these charts help teams visualize the steps and sequence of tasks to be followed throughout the project management lifecycle.
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4. Project Monitoring and Control
Usually overlapping with the execution phase, the project management monitoring and control happens continuously throughout the project management process, once the project commences.
It is essential for any project success that a project team performs constant monitoring and checking of the project processes.
Project monitoring and control are aimed at ensuring that the project is progressing in alignment with the project management plan.
It is often beneficial for project managers to use visual tools that can identify and highlight which deliverables have been completed, and thus provide you with a visual of whether your project is on track.
Certain such visual tools depend on the project management methodology your company uses and can include Gantt charts and Kanban boards.
Other than visual tools to track your project, project managers often rely on Key Performance Indicators.
These key performance indicators allow project managers to track whether the project is on track and going according to plan.
Project managers will often pick either 2 to 5 of the following key performance indicators to determine the progress of their project.
These indicators include:
- Project objectives: Measuring whether a project is on schedule and budget according to stakeholder objectives.
- Effort and cost tracking: Measuring the effort and cost of resources to determine whether the budget is on track, this allows you to determine whether a project will meet its deadline based on the current performance of the project.
- Quality deliverables: Determining whether specific task deliverables are being met.
- Project performance: Consider the types of issues and how many occur and how quickly the team can address and rectify them.
During the monitoring and control of a project, you need to make sure that you adjust schedules and resources if need be, and ensure that the project is on track and progressing as per the requirements determined in the start.
5. Project closing
The project is now at the final stretch, but before you can light the fireworks and let the celebrations begin, there are certain tasks left for a project manager to complete.
Final deliverables will be provided, project resources will be released and the project’s success will be determined.
These tasks include:
- Evaluating project performance: this is where you make sure that the project’s goals were met.
- Analyzing team member’s performances: it is important to analyze how team members performed during the duration of the project to ensure that similar mistakes are not met in the future but to also acknowledge members that performed well to boost morale and productivity for the next project.
- Project closure should be documented: you need to make sure that you tie up loose ends and that reports are provided to stakeholders.
- Final analysis of the project: this is often done by a meeting, which is at times referred to as a “post mortem” to identify what went well during the project and what were if any, the project failures.
- Account for budgeting: whether there is used or unused budget remaining, this should be accounted for.
It is important to give the project closure phase as much importance as you did for the rest of the project lifecycle.
Even though technically the project is completed, the tasks performed during the project close phase will allow you to be prepared for future projects and avoid mistakes you made in this project and thus become more productive as a team as a whole.
And there you have it — everything you need to know about the project management process that will aid you in your next project.
However, keep in mind that this is a template and that details of the project management process will determine your project.
This guideline is a standard process to follow but can be altered to fit your needs and requirements.
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