Two approaches to project management you should know
Project management is key to delivering successful results and gaining a competitive edge. Hence, it is a sought after skill in many different industries. However, delivering upon a specific set of objectives within a tight deadline satisfying every stakeholder along the way is certainly not a walk in the park. So in this post, I will give you two concrete approaches to actually managing a project.
What is project management?
As a starting point, a project can be defined as a temporary endeavor with a unique goal. The two keywords in this definition are temporary (it has a beginning and end time and therefore a defined scope and resources) and unique (in the sense that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a single goal).
In its most basic form, project management works with:
What you aim to achieve
How you plan to achieve it
How much time you have
The costs of creating the solution
Core elements of the Project Management Process
Furthermore, a project can be broken into a number of deliverables, which are the products or services we need to create in order to meet the project goal. Additionally, we need to define potential constraints. These are elements that limit our project, e.g. time, legal -, budget - or resource requirements. Finally, we can map out the various milestones that are sequences in which the project must be executed.
Besides these elements, the project management process often consists of 5 different phases. These are great to establish but keep in mind that they are in no way fixed once the project itself starts rolling and stakeholders start changing things. The phases are:
Initiation: Starting off, you define the project scope and set up expectations
Planning: You create a plan with schedules, tasks, resources and the budget
Execution: This is when you start implementing the project plan
Monitoring: Making sure the execution is in line with the project plan
Closure: Reaching the project goal and compiling necessary documents
So now you have a better idea of what a project is and what stages are typically a part of managing a project. Let’s move on to the two most common approaches in project management: The Waterfall Method and the Agile Methodology.
This methodology is a linear process – just like the water in a waterfall. It is a sequential, rigid design process, where every step is dependent on the prior. And it is completed as a single project.
This approach is very common in software development, so let’s run through it with the development of a website in mind.
You start off by defining the requirements of the website: What should it be able to? What don’t we want? Which underlying functions are must-haves etc. When you have gathered all the necessary requirements from the client – truly understanding their needs – you move on to brainstorming on the design, basically asking yourself: How can we design a solution that meets the client’s needs?
When you have settled on the specific design, you move on to implementation – and in our example, this is when developers initiate their process and begin to code the different functions of the website.
When the site if fully developed, a verification process commences, as the client reviews the solution – making sure it meets the agreed requirements. This approach gives you a lot of autonomy in the development process, as the client is not as involved throughout your work with the solution.
Finally, maintenance is important to keep up with relevant developments in the software.
The agile approach is way more fluent, flexible, and incremental compared to the waterfall approach. Think of it as a collection of many different projects with various feedback loops throughout the process.
In this methodology, you are in closer dialogue with the client and start out your initial planning by defining what the project goal is, what specific requirements the client wants and what it takes to meet those needs. This is pretty much the same.
Then – and this is where agile is different – you instantly develop and implement live content that can be seen and engaged with. This gives your team (as well as the client) and idea of what the final product will look like and an opportunity to give feedback and adjust the solution. In doing initial testing, you will be able to find bugs and other elements that do not live up to the client’s expectations.
After that, you often put more hours into development – fixing the identified issues from testing and adjusting accordingly to the feedback – and implement it to the site. In the final phase, the client is heavily involved in testing all possible functions in order to approve the site for release. If not, you work with incorporating changes until the website is ready for publishing.
Finally, I want to mention a few software options to consider, if you are looking for a tool that can help you become a better project manager. A few of the popular ones include:
Monday.com - Great overall tool that is very visual and easy to use
Trello - Flexible, free tool that allows you to organize projects via dashboards
Jira - Especially popular amongst agile software teams
Office timeline - Great for making impressive timelines in PowerPoint
Basecamp - An all-in-one solution that works well for remote work
Zoho - A complete CRM solution for growing businesses
I think the above mentioned are great solutions, but if you want to investigate the solutions out there, consider the following:
Task management: Can team members engage with the steps of the project? Can you closely monitor it?
Team collaboration: Can team members communicate or do you have to use email?
Learning materials: Can you share knowledge easily? Can it help to develop you further?
Document management: Can you do them directly or do you need to use MS Word?
Mobile: Can the software be updated on the go?
Here are the main points:
A project is a temporary endeavor with a unique goal, and we work with defining what is to be achieved as well as the planning, resources, and costs to achieve it
We must make sure to define both deliverables, constraints and appropriate milestones throughout the process
A project often consists of 5 different phases, which can be broken down into two common approaches of working: The waterfall and the Agile methodology
Choose a project management software that meets your needs, is easy to use and integrates with your current software set-up
I hope you found this brief introduction to the field of project management useful.