Project Management Basics [The Complete Guide]

What are the “project management basics”?

According to PMI, “Project management, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and practices to project undertakings to meet the project requirements.” It focuses on planning and organizing a project and its resources. A project is always and will be temporary in that it has a well-defined beginning and end in time, and therefore clear scope and resources. Also, every project is unique. It is not a routine operation but a precise set of operations designed to accomplish a common goal. 

Great! Now read on for a detailed breakdown of the basics of project management.

Elements of a Project

project management basics

Each project manager must keep in mind that there are 4 basic elements that they need to simultaneously manage.

  • Scope: This is about the goals, size and requirements of the project at hand.
  • Resources: The people, materials and equipment you need for the project.
  • Time: Not just about the duration when is the expected completion time of the project but it’s also about task durations, dependencies and critical path.
  • Money: budget, cost, contingencies and profit.

5 Phases of a Project

Project management is typically broken into phases. Each phase outlines the work that should be done and should specify who is involved. All deliverables need to be completed and successfully handed off in order that phase to be considered complete. There are five phases of project management.

Phase 1 (Project Initiation)

This phase will be the foundation of the project. This is basically the start of the project, the first step. The main goal of this phase is to define the project a broadly as possible. This is the phase where you will do a research if the project is feasible and if should be undertaken. This is considered the most crucial phase of project management because this is the time you will define the scope and assemble the right team for the project. Only with a clearly defined scope and a suitably skilled team, can you ensure success.

Phase 2 (Project Planning)

This is the phase or stage that the project solution is thoroughly developed in as much detail as possible and the necessary steps to take to meet the project’s objectives are planned. This is the time where the team identifies all the work that needs to be done, the tasks and resource requirements are also identified with the strategy to produce them.

In general, a comprehensive project plan is developed which outlines project costs and the budget, scope, duration, deliverables, and quality, communications, metrics, risks, and resources.

Phase 3 (Project Execution)

Deliverables are developed and completed in this phase. This is the launch time. They call it the meat of the project because there are a lot of things that are happening. This is usually marked with a “Kick Off” meeting. The project manager uses this meeting to present the key tasks and milestones to the team, and discuss the project in full detail. During project implementation, people are carrying out the tasks, and progress information is being reported through regular team meetings. The project manager uses this information to sustain control over the course of the project by comparing the progress reports with the project plan to measure the performance of the project activities and take counteractive action as needed.

Tasks that are completed during the Execution Phase:

  1. Develop team
  2. Assign resources
  3. Set up tracking systems
  4. Status meetings
  5. Execute project management plans
  6. Procurement management if needed
  7. PM directs and manages project execution
  8. Task assignments are executed

Phase 4 (Project Performance Monitoring)

This phase is all about measuring project progression and performance and ensuring that everything that is happening aligns with the project management plan. Monitoring is conducted in parallel with project execution. (While a little outside the scope of project management basics, suffice it to say that there must be measures of success!) Using KPIs and other metrics defined in the project plan, the project manager monitors progress and performance to avoid scope creep. During this time, PMs may need to modify schedules and resources to guarantee the project is on the right track.

  1. Project Objectives: Assessing if a project is on schedule and budget is an indication if the project will meet stakeholder objectives.
  2. Quality Deliverables: This determines if exact task deliverables are being met.
  3. Effort and Cost Tracking: PMs will account for the effort and cost of assets to see if the budget is on track. This type of tracking informs if a project will meet its end date based on present performance.
  4. Project Performance: This monitors changes in the project. It takes into consideration the amount and types of issues that arise and how quickly they are addressed. These can occur from unforeseen hurdles and scope changes.

Phase 5 (Project Closure)

This is the end phase. This phase represents the completed project. This the time where the project managers do a post mortem to list all the things that didn’t get accomplished during the project and work with the team to complete them. Doing a post-mortem is very important because this will document the lesson you learned for future project success.  It’s also essential to celebrate to know and celebrate success.

10 Project Management Knowledge Areas

From simple principles to wide to a wide subject with complex concepts, project management can be complex. The PMBOK Guide classified 10 areas of knowledge to make it easier for people to understand project management basics.

Project Integration Management

This holds the project together. Integration management includes such vital plans as developing a project charter that is made during the initiation phase. This is the document that sets up the project and assigns the project manager. Another feature of this area is the project management plan, which is developed as a roadmap for the project to reach a successful end.

Good project integration is not probable without good teamwork. In order to be successful, you should have the resources who know their role and tasks. It is the responsibility of project managers to make project objectives clear and manage the inter-dependencies effectively to complete projects successfully.

Project Scope Management

Scope relates to the work of the project.  It includes plan scope management, which is a vital part of the project management plan. It also is when a detailed requirement for the final product or service is collected. Defining and documenting all the work comes under scope management. Your project team should see what the deliverables are and what problems your project will solve along the way. This will help you and your team makes it easier to achieve all the goals that are set and helps your clients understand what to expect about the project.

Project Time Management

project management basics
Time stops for no man. Or woman. Or project.

The biggest challenge of being a project manager is to finish your project on time but most do not fully master this knowledge area. That is why most projects fail to meet deadlines! And it is also why it is considered one of the project management basics. Without it, you are toast.

The project is allocated into tasks, which are scheduled with start dates and deadline. Things are constantly changing over the phases of any project, which means revising these things often.

There are six sub-processes connected with the project time management knowledge area. Every project manager should know these sub-processes in order to complete projects on time.

  1. Define activities
  2. Sequence activities
  3. Estimate the resources required
  4. Estimate the time required
  5. Develop a schedule
  6. Control schedule

Project Cost Management

This knowledge area involves the budget that is why you need a good estimating tool to make sure the budget covers the entire project and its monitored regularly to keep to keep sponsors and stakeholders updated and informed.

A lot of projects are being terminated because of budget problems. This won’t happen if every project manager knows the art of effective project cost management and complete projects within the specified budgets. Make sure that you keep an eye on budget and expenditures so that you do not end up exceeding the budget. To keep project costs in check, you should track every dollar and where it is spent.

Here are the 3 main sub-processes in project cost management.

  1. Estimate costs
  2. Determine budget
  3. Control costs

Project Quality Management

You can finish a project on time and within budget but if the quality is not at par with the standard that was set, it will be considered a failure. Getting quality right is part of project management basics – without it, you cannot succeed. A high-quality project is the one which will satisfy the customer’s needs and does not contain any defects and deficiencies. The quality level should be established during project planning and specified within the project management plan.  Then when problems arise regarding product specifications, there is a plan to deal with it.

Project Human Resource Management

You need to assemble the best team possible and your team is your greatest resource. You want to make sure they are happy but you need to track their performance to ensure the project is progressing as planned. To be successful at it, project managers should have a clear strategy when it comes to hiring and staffing people and inducting them into project teams. Hiring the right people can increase the chances of your success.

Project Communication Management

If not addressed, this can wreck the entire project. It can lead to failure. To be able to be successful the team should be always on the same page. In order to achieve that, the team should communicate effectively and regularly. One way to enhance communication is to use a collaboration tool. This will also involve controlling communications by reviewing their effectiveness regularly and adjusting as needed.

Project Risk Management

All most all project managers consider risk management as the most essential factor for any project to be deemed successful. That is why being effective in risk management is very critical, and part of project management basics. Risk management plans will find how the risks will be itemized, categorized and prioritized. This involves recognizing risks that might occur during the implementation of the project by making a risk register.

You’ll need to plan risk responses. If those risks in fact become issues, then a response needs to have been planned in advanced. Make sure the risk is properly identified and handled. Controlling risk involves regularly reviewing the risk register and crossing off those risks that are no longer going to impact the project.

Project Procurement Management

This knowledge area covers the purchasing and acquiring or products and services that are needed to complete the project. Planning procurement management starts by identifying the outside needs of the project and how those contractors will be involved. You want to understand the procurement process whether you are the buyer or seller. You need to control the procurement process by managing and monitoring and also closing the contracts once the work has been finished.

Project Stakeholder Management

Since the project was created for the stakeholders need then they have to be happy. That’s why they have to be effectively and actively managed. First is to identify and know who the stakeholders are. Knowing their concerns are very critical because knowing their concerns and how will it impact the project is a crucial part of starting any project.

The project manager must control stakeholder engagement. This is to make sure that every stakeholders needs are being addressed. If not, figure out what changes need to be made to either satisfy those needs or adjust the expectations.

Project Management Basics: A Summary

These are the fundamental basics of project management. Master these and you are able to manage simpler projects successfully. Of course there are loads of advanced techniques and methods out there for you to learn – but pat yourself on the back, you’ve got a grip on project management basics.

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