Project Management Process: A Definitive Guide to Executing a Successful Project
Last Updated on November 9, 2020 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
We all encounter projects in our day-to-day activities, whether at home or in the office.
Projects could be as simple as making a meal at home or as complex as supervising the construction of a building. Whichever it is, they all require a certain level of management to ensure that they do not end in futility.
We’re confident you would agree that carrying out a project successfully, whether as an individual or as an organization, can be an arduous task. There are different things to do, people to consult, tasks to assign and most importantly, deadlines to meet, all while ensuring the project runs smoothly and you achieve your goals.
It is important that you complete each project at the right time and in the right sequence if you want your project executed properly and successfully.
But how do you achieve that?
The answer is simple: project management.
Project management helps properly manage each step of the process and ensure that it is executed perfectly. We will discuss the entire process and procedures involved with project management in this article. With that, you will be able to carry out any project successfully with ease and on time.
Without wasting time, let’s dig in!
The Definitive Guide to Executing a Successful Project Index
What Is Project Management?
Project management is the process of applying knowledge, tools, skills, deliverables, and techniques to successfully guide a project from conception to completion, while ensuring that all project goals are met at the specified time and within the given constraints.
In simpler terms, it is the process of managing a project from start to finish, to ensure the goals are met in due time.
To do this, you need to know what the project goals are, how you can achieve them, how long it will take you to achieve them, what resources you will need to achieve them, and how to overcome possible challenges you might experience during this process.
Project management provides a structure and simplifies what may appear to be a complex process.
How the Project Management Process was Created
According to Smartsheet.com, the five stages of project management, or as we like to call them, project management procedures, were developed by the Project Management Institute.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) began in 1969, and it is the world’s largest non-profit membership association for the project management profession. This institute sets the standards for program, project, and portfolio management. It even offers training and certifications.
So, yeah, they are a big deal in the project management world! They sought to standardize project management practices by putting together a team of over 80 PMI members who created the text, A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), which is currently in its fifth edition.
This guide contains a process standard that can be used to execute many projects, but it also acknowledges that each project is different. Projects become easier for project managers when they apply the techniques in that guide.
Why do you need project management skills?
As a project manager, you need to be skilled at project management. The obvious reason for this being that it helps you to successfully complete your projects with ease and on time.
Beyond that, there are other benefits project management offers you. By using proper project management techniques, you enjoy:
- Better efficiency in delivery services: You work smarter instead of harder and longer, while still achieving brilliant results.
- Improved quality of work: Your team is able to create a higher quality outcome for the project.
- Increased customer satisfaction: Your customers are happy, and because of this, they keep coming back for more.
- Team growth and development: With consistent communication among team members, it becomes easier for them to work together seamlessly.
- Competitive edge and greater standing over your competitors: You gain the reputation of being the organization that provides superior performance over others.
- Effective risk assessment: With everything lined out, it is easy to spot potential risks and figure out the proper steps to take to fix or reduce risk.
- Service expansion: With a reputation for sterling performance, you can easily seize new opportunities to expand your business.
Now that you know what project management is and why you need it, it is time to get to the most important discussion: How can I properly manage my project?
Simplifying The Project Management Process
The best part of the project management process is that there are procedures that simplify the tasks and make them seem far more manageable.
To get the best out of every project, there are five procedures you need to complete within every project management process. These procedures will guide you through each thing you need to do at each point of the project to ensure excellent results.
In this article, we will be focusing on professional projects rather than personal ones. However, you can easily apply these tips in your personal, day-to-day projects.
What are the necessary procedures needed to complete the project management process?
Below is a video by Project Management Videos featuring Jennifer Bridges that explains the five project management steps needed to carry out every project successfully.
Before we go into these procedures, let’s look at the PMBOK® Guide, which we’ll also be using as a basis for our own project management process structure.
The PMBOK® Guide: Project Life Cycle
The project phases, as mentioned in the guide, make up a project life cycle or project process. According to PMBOK® Guide, the elements of a project life cycle have to define four major things. They include:
- What work has to be accomplished
- Which deliverables should be generated and reviewed
- Who must be involved in the project
- How to control and approve each phase
These elements provide a systematic and controlled process for every project, which greatly benefits a project’s stakeholders.
These elements are the summary of procedures that need to be completed in every project management process.
Having explained that, let’s go ahead to discuss, in detail, the five procedures involved in the project management process.
Project Management Process: Five Procedures
Procedure One: Project Initiation or Inception
This is a critical moment in every project’s life cycle. The goal of this procedure is to define the project at a broad level.
This will determine if the project dies as just an idea, or moves forward to be executed. It is at this stage you ask questions like: Is it feasible? Does it add value to you or your organization?
This stage also helps to figure out the “why” behind the project.
Usually projects, especially in organizations, stem from a business’ need to solve a problem or explore new and more profitable ways to do business.
To fully understand what the project will entail, you need to figure out what your project will achieve and the challenges you might face.
In doing that, you need to create two major deliverables:
Business Case Document:
A business case document spells out the project in terms of what your organization needs, ways it will benefit them, and the potential financial profit that is to be gained.
Basically, the aim of this document is to justify the project and prove its value.
A feasibility study addresses the resources the project requires to be successfully executed and compares these resources to what the company currently has available.
In this document, you will evaluate the project’s goals, the time/duration necessary for completion, and how much it will cost the organization to carry out.
This study will determine if the resources needed to carry out the project make sense for your business and your project’s budget.
After creating these documents, what happens next?
You will present your idea to the stakeholders or your company’s decision-making team, who will then determine if you go ahead with the project or not.
If the group decides that the project is unfeasible or unprofitable, then it is abandoned or sent back to the team to make adjustments/changes and re-submitted again. However, if it passes both tests, then it will be assigned to a project team to begin its execution. If stakeholders decide that a project can proceed, there is one more deliverable you need to create before you can get started.
This is the project charter or project initiation document (PID). This document outlines the purpose and requirement of your project. Your project charter should include business needs, stakeholders, and the business case.
Once the project is approved and your charter has been created, you can move on to the next step.
Procedure Two: Project Definition and Planning
This procedure has a lot of to-dos within it. While it may seem that this procedure is complex and daunting, it’s vital to keeping your project on schedule and on budget.
First, you need to define your project goals and lay out every detail of the project plan from start to finish. This will shape how your project turns out and how effective the results will be.
The first thing you need to do is spell out your goals in detail. How do you do that? Create SMART and CLEAR goals.
What are SMART goals?
They are goals that are:
S – Specific: Your goals should cover the who, what, where, when, which, and why of the project.
M – Measurable: Create criteria you can use to measure your team’s progress at each stage of the project and the success of each goal.
A – Achievable: Identify the most important goals of the project and what it will take for you to achieve these goals.
R – Realistic: Make sure you have the resources to achieve your goals. You and your team must be willing and able to work toward achieving your goals.
T – Time-based: Your goals must have a timeline in which they must be achieved.
As well as being SMART, your goals should be CLEAR.
What are CLEAR goals?
C – Collaborative: Your goals should encourage your team to work together and foster good relationships among them.
L – Limited: Don’t get too carried away. While you want to dream big, make sure that your goals are limited in scope in order to make them manageable.
E – Emotional: Your team members should be able to make an emotional connection to your goals.
A – Appreciable: Create goals that can be broken down into smaller tasks to make them more achievable.
R – Refine-able: Your goals should be flexible. As new situations and challenges arise, you should be able to refine your goals when necessary.
Whatever method you choose, make sure you spell out the quality of the end result, the resources which are at your disposal, and the timeline for each small task to be completed.
After you are done defining these goals, then you can go into the planning phase. This is where the main work lies for a project manager.
What are the steps to take when planning your project?
Planning a project can be quite tasking, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. The following steps will guide you through the project planning process:
a. Define major roles and responsibilities
You need to define whom you will be needing to help plan, approve, and execute the project. Some of the key roles that need to be filled include:
- Project sponsor: This is the person(s) who funds and owns the project. Your sponsor has to review and approve every aspect of your project plan before you can take the next step.
- Business experts: These experts will define the requirements for the end product or service. They will help create the scope baseline and approve all documents that are related to the scope and sometimes, the timeline of the project.
- Project manager: This person creates, plans, controls, and executes the project. The project manager does not approve the plan because he/she creates it.
- Project team: These are the people who develop the end product or carry out the service. They also participate in developing many aspects of the project plan, but do not have to approve it.
- End users: Those that use the end product or enjoy the service provided. They are involved in the development and review of the project plan.
- Other roles: These include your auditors, procurement analysts, quality and risk analysts, etc. They have their parts to play in the project and have to approve parts of the project that concern them.
Identifying who fills these roles makes planning easier, as they all have to be involved, one way or another.
b. Hold a kick-off meeting
You already know everyone who will be participating in the project. It’s time to get them acquainted.
The kick-off meeting is held to bring the stakeholders of the project together to discuss the project. This meeting helps to start building trust among team members and everyone involved in the project.
It also presents the perfect time to initiate the project planning process. Everyone’s idea is taken into account in this meeting.
Here are some of the issues that should be discussed in the kick-off meeting:
- Project vision
- Roles and responsibilities of each individual
- Team commitments
- Ground rules of the project
- Decision making process for teams
After this meeting, you can move forward to create the plan.
c. Create a scope statement
The project’s scope statement is one of the most important documents in the project plan.
It serves as a foundation and a guide for the rest of the project. It is mostly a buildup of the business case initially presented to the stakeholders.
Your scope statement outlines what exactly your project is and what it is set out to achieve. It also describes what the outcome of the project will be.
This detailed document gives the stakeholders a full picture of the project. Though this document paints the entire picture of the project, it is most likely to change within the lifetime of the project.
However, if anything is to be changed, it has to be with the approval of the project sponsor.
Your scope statement should include:
- The business need and problem that the project is trying to solve. At this point, you should explain why that problem needs to be solved NOW.
- The project’s goals and objectives: Even though you have presented your goals before, here you go into details. You can set your ideas in a project charter and use them as reference points for your project as it progresses.
- The benefits of successfully carrying out the project.
- Determine your deliverables. Deliverables are visible and concrete results that your project will deliver. You have to decide what these deliverables will be and who will be in charge of each deliverable.
- The project’s approach.
- Key milestones.
d. Create a work breakdown schedule (WBS)
While this also helps to break down the project into simpler tasks, it also helps you do so visually. Basically, a WBS is a visual representation that breaks down the scope of the project into manageable sections for the team involved in the project.
This is also very important when it comes to making time and effort estimates for the project.
e. Develop a scope baseline for the project
You need to develop a scope baseline. Baselines are also called performance measures. They are the yardstick that determine how well the project is performing.
The performance of your entire project will be measured against the baselines you set. A scope baseline focuses on the deliverables of the project at each stage of the project.
At this stage, you identify all the deliverables of the project—that means identifying all the work that will be done also.
Then you take the large deliverables and break them into a hierarchy of smaller deliverables.
Next, you assign tasks and activities to each small deliverable to ensure that it is completed in time.
f. Develop the schedule and cost baselines
How do you develop a schedule and cost baselines (performance measures)?
- Identify all the activities and tasks that are needed to deliver each small deliverable.
- Identify the resources needed for each task.
- Estimate the duration of time it will take to complete each task.
- Estimate how much it will cost to complete each task. Include the cost of all your resources.
- Examine your resource constraints. How much time will each resource be realistically devoted to your project?
- Identify which tasks are dependent on other tasks and develop a way these tasks can be done without delay.
- Create a schedule, putting into consideration all tasks, resources, and estimates. Your schedule should show which resource will be performing which task, how much time they are expected to spend on each task, and when each task is scheduled to start and finish.
- Create a budget that is time based. It should include the cost incurred at each given time period.
Note: This process is not static. You might have to make changes throughout the project by adding, removing, and changing some of these decisions.
g. Create management plans for the baselines
At this point, you have set your cost, schedule, and scope baselines.
Like I said earlier, it’s normal for changes to occur during the project. So, you need to create steps the team can use to manage variances in the project plan.
This usually includes a review and approval process before baselines can be modified. There should be different approval levels for different types of changes.
Even when team members request a change, not all requests will result in changes. The already laid-down process will ensure that each request is properly considered to determine the impact such a change will make to the project.
This is to ensure that things run smoothly and prevents any one person from making changes to your plan.
h. Develop the staffing plan
This is for everyone who will be involved in making the project a success.
By now, you already know who is doing what, and you know how long each task will take. The details make it easy to create your staffing plan.
The staffing plan is more like a chart that shows the period of time each team or team member will be involved in the project, including when each person comes into and leaves the project.
This is similar to most management charts, but it doesn’t show estimates, start and finish dates of the projects, tasks to be done, etc.
Your staffing plan should indicate the person and the length of time he or she is expected to stay on the project. This will give your team members a better idea of how to schedule their workload, especially if they are responsible for other duties or projects during that time.
i. Create a project quality plan
Creating a project quality plan ensures that the project’s end product meets the customer’s specifications and is also something that your sponsors and key business experts want to use.
The essence of project quality is to prevent errors, instead of eliminating errors after the project and the end product has been produced.
It also recognizes the fact that quality is a management responsibility, and it needs to be done throughout the project, not just at the end.
To create a project quality plan, you need to set the acceptance criteria, standards, and metrics that will be used throughout the period.
The project quality plan serves as the guideline for all quality reviews done during the project.
j. Analyze project risks
A project risk is an event that is not certain to happen, but will affect the outcome of the project significantly if it occurs.
You need to analyze the probability that specific events will occur and how they might impact the project if they do occur. This will help determine which events have the highest risks.
Risk management does not stop at accessing the risks, but it extends to developing risk management plans and communicating to the team how they should respond to these high-risk events if they do occur.
A good way to create a risk management plan is to make a simple list that outlines:
- The title of the risk
- The details of the risk and why it exists within the project
- How the risk can be avoided and, if it occurs, how it can be managed or solved
- Extra notes that will be important for your team or stakeholders to understand
Analyzing risks is not a one-time thing. It is a conversation that has to continue throughout the project until it is completed.
k. Create a communication plan
While analyzing project risks, it is also important that you create a communication plan because communication can make or break your project.
This plan indicates the method of communicating about various aspects of the project, such as decisions, problem resolutions, routines, etc.
Your communication plan becomes more valuable when your team is quite large, if you have team members who regularly work remotely, or if some stakeholders of the project work outside the organization.
You should indicate:
- Who needs access to which reports, how often they’ll be sent, how each report will be sent, and the format reports will be received in, including any special apps/readers needed to view them.
- Where the information about the project will be stored and who will be able to access it.
- What issues are escalated, how they will be, and when.
Not only should your communication plan set expectations on how you will communicate as a team, make sure you include dates, status reports, check-ins, and other important meetings.
l. Create a Gantt Chart
A Gantt Chart is a visual timeline that makes it easier for you to plan out your task. This makes it possible for you to properly visualize your project timeline.
m. Get back to the team
This is when you hold another meeting just like the kickoff meeting, but this time it is to inform the necessary parties of the plan that has been created and keep them updated with what is required of them.
In this meeting, you:
- Review the plan and get it approved
- Begin the process for making necessary changes to the content of the plan
- Take the next steps to begin the project
In addition to these tips, I have included a video from Philip VanDusen, a design and brand expert, that explains how you can create a plan for your project. Watch and enjoy!
Once you are done with creating and getting your plan approved, then it is time to put the plan into action and start getting some results.
But how do you go about that? That’s what I’ll explain next.
Procedure Three: Project Launch and Execution
It is time to stop testing the waters and dive in deep!
You have already created a comprehensive plan, so it should be easy to begin tasks smoothly. The first thing to do is assign different tasks to different members of the team.
You will hold a meeting, but this time, you involve only functional members of the project. In this meeting, you distribute the necessary resources, timeline, responsibilities, tasks, and any other information important to the project.
When you explain the entire process to your team members, make the information easy to digest. You can create a visual representation of various steps within each process in the project. This helps them understand what is expected of them at a glance.
Then, work begins.
It is important that you already have some sort of progress tracking system. You need to be able to quantify the progress of your team members at every point in the project.
At the point of execution, you, as the project manager, are responsible for:
- Budget management
- Timeline management
- Change management (modification of the project plan)
- Risk management
- Resource planning
- Quality management
- Project schedule management
- Communications and facilitation
- Internal deliverable reviews, etc.
Also, the tasks needed to be completed in this phase include:
- Develop the team for the project
- Assign resources needed for the project
- Execute project management plans
- Manage and direct project execution (This is usually handled by the project manager and it includes the responsibilities we listed above.)
- Set up tracking systems for the project
- Hold status meetings
- Update the project schedule
- Modify project plans when necessary
Agreed, this can be a lot of work. You are pretty much in charge of managing every aspect of the project. But you can get people to assist with each part. Also, to avoid being overwhelmed, stick to the plan.
Just as you created a plan at the planning stage, you also have to create some documents as the project progresses. You need to create progress status reports, change logs, and stakeholder communication (presents work done to stakeholders).
When your project has begun, your work doesn’t stop—you have to stay on top of everything relating to the project until it is completed. This is to make sure the project runs smoothly.
How do you do that?
Procedure Four: Project Performance and Control
As the project progresses from start to completion, you need to measure and compare the status of the project compared to the initial plan. This is what this procedure entails.
This might require lesser effort from the project manager, but it is usually the most stressful section of the entire project, depending on how smoothly the project progresses. It is also the longest in the project management process because this is where the bulk of the work is.
As a project manager, you need to regularly talk to everyone (at least the managers of the various teams) involved in the project and ensure that the project is running without a glitch. To accurately measure the performance of the project, you need the help of KPIs (key performance indicators).
KPIs help you track your project’s progress. Though KPIs vary with different projects, they usually have these four aspects:
- Project objectives: These help to measure if a project is still on schedule and on budget, according to the objectives initially planned out by the stakeholders.
- Project performance: This monitors the changes that occur during the project. This tracks the amount and types of issues that occur and how quickly they are dealt with. Some of these issues can be caused by unforeseen hurdles and scope changes.
- Quality deliverables: This examines project quality; that is, if tasks are being completed at the right level of quality. This entails you review all deliverables before they are sent out.
- Effort and cost tracking: This checks out if project teams are meeting the expected deadlines and staying within the budget. This helps to predict if the project will meet the completion date based on current performance.
As a project manager, you need to keep your eyes on all of the following:
a. Project goals
You should fully embrace the project goals and use them to make important decisions about the project’s design, functionality, and any new requests that pop up.
It’s okay if you stray from the initial goals a bit. Just make sure that communication lines between you and the stakeholders are open. And if you are bringing new ideas to the table, ensure there is enough time to rework them as needed.
b. Quality of deliverables
It is your job as the project manager to review all deliverables before they are finally sent out or presented for review by the customers or stakeholders.
You should first review the deliverables as a team and then personally as the project manager.
c. Team performance
Even though you are not typically responsible for the management of people, as the project manager, you have to look out for your project whose success is greatly hinged on the team that is working on it.
You should address situations where someone is slacking in their duties or is unable to meet deadlines. However, ensure that you find the right avenue to address the problem. Also, be emphatic when you are handling performance issues among your team members.
Apart from these, you are also responsible for:
- Budget management
- Resource planning
- Risk management
- Quality management
- Resource planning
- Timeline management
- Communications and facilitation of the project
- Meeting management
If everything is going on as planned, all the manager has to do is keep on checking up on each team periodically. But if a problem arises, or if teams do not meet the deadlines, the project manager has to reassign resources and schedules in order to salvage the situation.
All these continue throughout the project until the project is completed.
Procedure Five: Project Closure
This procedure becomes necessary when your team has completed the project.
Here are the things to do at the end of each project:
a. Evaluate the project
The first thing you need to do at the closing stage is to evaluate the project. You can hold a meeting where you do this evaluation, putting into consideration what you did and did not do well. The goals set for the project will be compared with the actual outcome of the project. You need to access the quality, accuracy, and speed at which the outcome was achieved.
Was it completed ahead of schedule, within or below the budget, etc.? These are some of the questions you need to answer here.
You also need to evaluate the process leading to the outcome. You access the problems that arose during the project and how they were handled. This should include analyzing the things that occurred during the project and why they happened.
Take into account lessons learned for similar projects in the future. They will help build stronger processes and more successful teams in subsequent projects.
b. Create a project closure report
You need to create a project closure report including every detail that will be useful to your organization.
In your report, you should include:
- The name of the project
- The stated goals of the project
- The date the project began
- The stated deadline compared to the date of delivery
- The stated budget compared to the budget that was used
- The team members involved in the project
- The stakeholders involved in the project
- Issues encountered during the project
- Project wins
- General comments about the project
Then perform a final project budget and send a report of the whole project and how it was carried out to the stakeholders.
c. Congratulate your team members
After all the evaluation is done, congratulate those who were involved in the project!
Reward your team for working hard. You can take them out for a hangout or give them a bonus to encourage them to put in their best in the next project. This makes them feel appreciated and forms a stronger connection to your company.
Even if you do not have the money to do these, a high-five or a nice message to the team members goes a long way in boosting their morale.
d. Reflect on the project
It is not enough to simply compile all these pieces of information. Reflect on your wins and your losses. Do not just dive into the next project just yet. Make sure you learn your lessons so you can make your subsequent projects better
After you have done all of these, then you can move on to the next project or get back to business as usual. Make sure to collect all project documents and deliverables and put them safely in a single place.
The Bottom Line About the Project Management Process
As you can see, project management can be an easy process when you know the right procedures and the right steps within each procedure, especially when and how to take them. No project is complete without the five procedures of the project management process.
No matter what the project is or whichever industry it is carried out in, you always need to initiate the project, plan it out, launch and execute it, track its performance, and when the project is completed, close it out.
The good thing about following these procedures is that they reflect positively on your outcomes. Your team delivers quality outcomes and before the deadline, and stakeholders and clients are happy and keep coming back. At the end of the day, there is a huge return on investment.
Within the office, it fosters productivity and builds a healthy relationship within workers in an organization. As an individual, it increases your level of productivity as you go through your daily activities.
There is more good news: You can structure your management process to make it even easier.
The Easiest Way to Structure Your Project Management Process
Once your project kicks off, there will be a lot of progress measurement and tracking. And truthfully, it can be quite overwhelming.
So how can you track these things without putting yourself under so much stress? The answer is quite simple: SweetProcess.
With SweetProcess, you can manage every single step within the project management process in one place. At every step in the process, you are guided on the next step to take, and you can track your project’s progress from initiation to completion.
With your SweetProcess project management software, you can now carry out your projects effectively and with so much ease.
To make things further easier for you, I have created a checklist of the project management procedures and the steps to take within each procedure.
The best part is each procedure is linked to SweetProcess and can be uploaded into your SweetProcess account with just one click. You can start managing your processes immediately.
This will serve as a quick guide as you go through your project, reminding you of important steps to take.
You can download the checklist by clicking the link below.