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What is Project Management?

Joanna Marlow
Joanna Marlow
|
March 29, 2021

Project management has become such a widely used term nowadays. Hearing about it so often, you assume to naturally know what it is. But can you really explain what it entails? If you want to make every project you work on a success, this is definitely an important topic.

In this article we will dive into the specifics, to find out why it’s so important and which methodologies could work for you. 

What is the definition of project management?

It seems so obvious, but the definition is quite elaborate. First, you should understand what a project is exactly. It can be defined as a sequence of activities that need to be completed in order to achieve specific goals. Project management comes in, as a means to make sure these goals are met.

The complete definition of project management is the application of knowledge, experience, skills, processes, and methods needed to attain the desired outcome. It’s different from just ‘management’ which is an ongoing process. Project management is focused on a defined project with its own timespan and final deliverables. 

To the full extent, these are all the components of project management:

  • Defining the reason/necessity of the project
  • Defining the requirements of deliverables
  • Defining the requirements of resources
  • Defining the timeframe
  • Managing project budget
  • Outlining an action plan 
  • Assemble/leading project team
  • Monitoring project progress
  • Managing risks, problems, and changes
  • Communicating with stakeholders
  • Closing the project

Project management isn’t just planning the why, when, and who. Besides making sure goals are met, how tasks are completed is also part of project management. 

Will project management work in all companies?

Our answer is yes. Project management will work in any organization that works on projects. The reason it has turned into such a global phenomenon is that most companies have work that must be executed in a sequence of tasks. Of course, there is also a desired outcome within a specific timeframe.

Considering project management is designed to make sure results are delivered, in the most satisfactory way, what company wouldn’t want this? Hence, project management can be of value to any organization. Hiring a project manager and implementing project management software, are key factors herein.

For very small companies it might not be very cost-efficient to hire a project manager. This also goes for projects that aren’t big enough. But in this case, using project management software still makes all the difference.

Why is project management important?

The importance of project management is founded on the understanding that every project should be a success. By leaving it all to chance, you are leaving your business vulnerable to chaos. Without realizing it, you might be using too many resources while still delivering mediocre or even poor results. Not to mention, you might be bleeding money. 

The application of project management can show you all the opportunities you never capitalized on. You might be able to cut costs, leaving you with a much higher profit margin. Besides this, there are so many other relevant scenarios. We’ll go into more detail about all the reasons project management is important below.

It takes the chaos out of projects

Whenever work is piling up, chaos naturally comes lurking around the corner. This happens because you start to lose a clear overview. Organizing and structurally planning projects can tame this chaos, breaking down all the work into clearly defined tasks.

With everybody involved following a detailed plan, it’s easy to follow up on the progress of each task to manage obstacles when they arise. Don’t forget that clients will definitely notice if your organization is chaotic, which surely doesn’t project a professional image. 

It improves teamwork and employee productivity

They say teamwork makes the dream work. Project management governs the improvement of teamwork in many ways. It involves selecting and grouping together employees with the right skillset and availability to get the project done. With each individual member assigned to activities aligned with their expertise, you ensure the best results possible.

Employees often gain new experiences while working on projects, expanding their skillset. It’s important to keep tabs on this. You definitely wouldn’t want to waste money on outsourcing because you overlooked the full potential of your employees.

Project management maintains an overview of employee productivity based on their availability. This will clearly show when someone is too swamped with work, or who has time to take on more. The last thing you want is for employees to underperform because they are under too much pressure.

Or not noticing how some employees are able to slack. In an environment designed for smooth collaboration and clear communication, responsibility and accountability are divided over the team. A little encouragement or reassurance here and there goes a long way. In the end, improved teamwork and employee productivity will have a huge impact on the quality of the deliverables too.

It reduces the risk of poor resource management

Resources should never be mismanaged. They are always expensive, whether human or financial. A project management strategy determines which resources should be allocated to a project, and what a reasonable budget would be. This involves dividing the budget over tasks and overseeing costs to completion.

As we explained in the employee productivity segment, it’s important to use human resources to the fullest potential before outsourcing. But even once a project has commenced, staying on top of each step within the process is a vital element in controlling costs. 

Sometimes obstacles and problems may occur that require a change of direction. This should be done in the most effective and efficient way to prevent the project from overrunning the budget. Even in general, cost-efficiency can be optimized during a project when opportunities are identified along the way. 

It ensures that projects will be completed on time

Employees all have their own strengths and weaknesses, some might have time management issues. Especially creatives can get really wrapped up in the flow when they feel inspired. Regardless of your position, the whole project team needs to stay on the same page.

Project management provides a source of direction, keeping projects on schedule by constantly evaluating progress. Sometimes employees are too tuned in to even notice they were falling behind on a task, and how it potentially affects other tasks linked to it. It’s of the essence that their time spent on tasks is tracked and they are reminded of deadlines. 

It governs the quality of deliverables

While a project is divided into tasks and subtasks that focus on different details of the project, project management always maintains an overview of the big picture too. Sometimes during the course of a project, certain tweaks and adjustments might have caused a deliverable to deviate too much from what was initially desired.

With a project management strategy in place, the quality of deliverables is re-evaluated every step of the way. This can help pinpoint when and how deviations were stretched too far and how further steps can be taken on time to ensure that the expected quality is guaranteed. 

It retains and applies valuable knowledge

Whether projects succeed or fail, there are always lessons to be learned. But lessons tend to fade if the knowledge that came to light is not properly retained. Capturing all important data derived from projects is crucial to ensuring future ones will become successful.

A very seasoned project manager already offers a lot of knowledge through experience, through successes and failures alike. It’s their job to retain and apply the knowledge they accumulate, relaying it to the team but also maintaining contact with higher management and other stakeholders.

Project management software plays a similar role as it collects data throughout the progress of a project. This data provides valuable insights for the project team, as well as higher management and stakeholders. 

Why are project management tools important?

You can hire the best project manager your company can afford, but they will still need a system and the right tools to work with. Spreadsheet programs have made life so much easier already, depending on your level of proficiency.

Regardless, they lack the intuition needed to support modern business activities. In this day and age, nobody has time to constantly make lists, tabs, and formulas to keep track of projects. 

Project management tools are specifically designed to do exactly what the name suggests: manage projects. They are engineered to display an appealing visual translation of data, making intuitive connections and calculations. With just a few clicks and minimal input, you will have a clear visual overview of a project plan.

Next, tasks can be divided and assigned to employees. Some tools allow for progress to be viewed in different ways, such as graphs, charts, diagrams, or tables. The extent of features to monitor and audit projects really varies per tool. There are so many different ones out there. Some provide detailed reports giving ample insights, while others just show basic statistics. Nevertheless, smart tools do so much of the complicated work for you. 

Gaining easy access to valuable data derived from them, also helps them make informed decisions. For small companies without a project manager (yet), having a project management tool already provides a lot of the guidance they need. 

What are some project management methodologies and which one is the best for your business?

Every project is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all methodology that can be applied. With so many different methodologies to choose from, it can be hard to determine which one would be most suitable. Let’s go over some of the most popular methodologies.

  1. Waterfall: As a more traditional methodology, waterfall project management follows a linear approach to planning. It involves a clearly defined plan, and taking chronological steps. Once you finalize one step, you are able to move on to the next, with evaluation and revision only at the very end. Best suited for: Large, but relatively straightforward projects a team has done more often. 

  2. Agile: This methodology is particularly common for software development. It breaks a project down into multiple short work cycles, during which the team collaborates with the stakeholders to constantly evaluate and then rework the project. Taking a broad initial approach, the project improves with each cycle. Best suited for: Very complex projects requiring a lot of flexibility.

  3. Scrum: This is an agile project management methodology, which translates cycles into sprints, using specific roles and events to manage them. The scrum master makes sure the team adheres to the principles of scrum methodology. While the product owner functions as the voice of the stakeholders. Best suited for: Teams of max 10 members working on fairly complex projects requiring some flexibility.

  4. Kanban: Yet another agile methodology, although this one relies on the visual representation of a project. A ‘Kanban board’ is made up of ‘Kanban cards’ that represent tasks that are moved along the ‘to-do’, ‘doing’, and ‘done’ columns. Best suited for: Again relatively small teams requiring a flexible approach to the project.

  5. Lean: Originating from Japanese manufacturing industries, the lean approach aims to create the most value, while minimizing the number of resources used. It involves cutting waste categorized as ‘Muda’, ‘Mura’, and ‘Muri’. These three M’s represent waste in the form of non-value-adding activities, variances in the workflow, and overload that slows down the process. Best suited for: Organizations that want to try an approach that promotes maximum efficiency.

Illustration of three people standing in front of a Kanban board.

An agile project management methodology involves the use of a Kanban board

Can project management be automated? 

While some components to project management will always require a human touch, some can be automated. In particular, the things people generally don’t really like doing anyway. 

Automating estimations

Before starting a project, a lot of work goes into determining a realistic budget. This process is accelerated by using data from previous similar projects. When all of these things are documented, a system will be able to make quite accurate suggestions.

These can be used to base the budget on, rather than simply allocating all the funds available. Once the budget is calculated, a proper estimate for clients can be based on this. Some project management tools like Rodeo, allow you to simply transfer budgets to estimates.

Automating planning

Cut back on all those meetings to discuss the progress of projects, just let the updates from the planning tool do all the talking. Employees will see when they are added to projects, working through a digital list of tasks they dissolve once completed.

No need to ask what your team has been doing, everybody can clearly see. When similar projects come up again, a tool that enables you to copy and reuse old project formats would be very handy. This is exactly what Rodeo does.

Automating time tracking

Let’s be honest, nobody really likes to track the time they work on things. But if it’s made as easy as possible, they will actually do it. Time tracking is extremely useful, and not meant for over-zealous managers to micromanage their team.

When all time is tracked and accounted for, the data will show exactly how much effort goes into each task. This can help make your projects more profitable. 

Automating invoicing

Not a lot of project management tools have a function for creating and sending invoices. Although any company would benefit from easier ways to keep the cash flowing in. A few tools exist that include this feature, including Rodeo. We even offer the possibility to automate recurring invoices.

Takeaway

By not leaving the success of your projects up to chance, you will be maximizing the profitability of your company. Project management can work for any business, as optimizing processes is beneficial to any organization. Adequate project management requires you to consider hiring a project manager.

Project management software, on the other hand, is quintessential. Intuitive tools make all of your processes so much easier, quicker, and smoother. They can do so much of the work for you, leaving your employees with more time to spend on the parts of their job they enjoy most.

Review the different types of methodologies and tools for project management, to find out which one best fits with your organizational workflows.