Your complete guide to successful project management

When your company decides to do a project it needs to invest human and financial resources to reach the goal.That’s why you need the organizing, planning, coordinating and managing skills of a dedicated team and, of course, someone to lead you.

So that you know how this activity is carried out, we present you a guide with which you can learn about the subject and, if you are interested, investigate more so that you become a project manager that leads companies to achieve their objectives.

What Is Project Management?

Project management is the process of planning and guiding the implementation of a project, from its inception to its conclusion. By using an efficient methodology, the project managers will be able to optimize production processes, make the best use of available resources and find the best work routes. Its purpose will be that these work routes are productive so that the goals and objectives set at the beginning are met. And for project management to work it is necessary to follow some key steps that will allow work to flow in the most efficient way. We share them with you so that you know them.

The 5 essential phases of project management

We will mention five phases that we consider essential, but we think that the one below is the most important, so we have listed it as stage 0:

1. Analysis of the feasibility of the project

Thanks to this first step you will be able to understand the scope, challenges and the possibility of carrying out a project. This is when you must analyze the times, human capital and the cost that are needed to achieve the proposed objective. Other aspects should also be considered, such as the type of tool that will be used for monitoring (for example, software), the scope that you want to have with the project and, of course, how feasible it is to meet deadlines, take advantage of financing and present a good result.

The importance of this stage is that you could determine the viability of the project. If after the analysis you realize that you do not find a positive balance of all the elements to consider for the project, then you should not do it as it is. Not only because it would be risky, but because it could result in failure for the company, a waste of time and money.

2. Project Planning

Once feasibility is confirmed, it is time to begin project planning . At this point, each and every one of the tasks that must be carried out throughout the project must be defined, who will carry them out, how many teams will be needed, what will be their schedules to comply with the phases and the results that will be delivered.

At the same time, there must be a specific description of the financial resources that will be invested, indicating in a transparent way how they will be managed and who will be in charge of doing it. Once a plan has been agreed upon by all those involved in your strategy, it must be converted into a document that is available to teams and collaborators so that they can consult it. The more at hand they have the information, the easier it will be for everyone to understand their role and meet the objectives.

3. Execution of the project

All planning begins at this stage. Tasks are tracked as they are completed, and obstacles encountered, how they were overcome, and goals achieved are recorded.

At the same time, it is important to maintain a suitable work environment , in which teams are developed with the necessary tools, with a management that understands their needs and provides good guidance.

4. Project performance and control

Team managers and the project managers will share progress impressions of the work done in real time, as it is carried out. Thanks to the monitoring carried out in the previous stage, it will be possible to check if the objectives are met as planned and if it is necessary to make modifications.

Thanks to the data collected, it is possible to manage the follow-up of the planned tasks, the management of deliverables, generation of incidents and reports that show the evolution of the project that will be delivered to directors.

5. Project Closure

The final stage is in which not only is the project flagged, but it is checked whether the management was correct and the opportunities from which we can learn for the next.

The important thing is that all the necessary material is available to analyze the results and learn from the mistakes: which decisions were not favorable, where more resources were invested than necessary and if the initial expectations were as realistic as the culmination of the project shows .

Remember that it is very valuable to have a backup of the project for future reference.

Do you know what kind of manager you want to be? Although each person is a world, we will mention some that will help you understand what you could be.

Types of project managers that exist

3 types of managers according to the project

  1. Information technology project managers

Whoever has this position is in charge of the coordination, planning and delegation of responsibilities in those projects that must meet the information technology goals of a company. For example, those related to hardware installation, data management, system upgrades, and software development.

As technology advances constantly, the IT project managers will be aware of the changes and updates that are needed in a company, and will coordinate his team so as not to be left behind.

  1. Technical project managers

Unlike the type we just mentioned, this type of manager can handle an entire project or just the technical part of one. You have the skills to oversee a technology-related initiative, but not necessarily exclusively. It brings a more technical point of view to the accomplishment of tasks, achievement of goals and fulfillment of times. 

  1. Digital project manager

The type of projects in which this manager is involved lives on the internet. It is in charge from the conception to the execution, going through the budget and resources in general. They typically get involved in social media, video games, advertising, mobile apps, content development, and websites. Your job ends when you ensure that the product can be smoothly transmitted, viewed, or used online.

Types of managers according to their personality

On the other hand, the Harvard Business Review mentions four others, which it classifies according to the type of growth opportunities they seek and their communication logic. They don’t have to do with something technical, but rather with your personality.

  1. Prophet

Look for opportunities in difficult areas, outside the strategic boundaries that already exist. So he gathers a team that follows him in his new project that they trust, despite not having statistical bases or case studies to ensure success. Since it is quite risky, you may occasionally play the role of a “false prophet” when the error in your calculations is discovered. But if it succeeds … it transcends.

  1. Player

Unlike the prophet, the player moves within the limits of strategy, that is, following the rules, but with no way of predicting the success of the project. He will look for teams that also like gambling in his career.

  1. Expert

This guy goes outside the strategic limits, but has cases that support that the changes he proposes will be successful. Your teams need to listen to your knowledge; after all, he is the expert, even if that is the most difficult task: convincing others that a paradigm shift is necessary.

  1. Executor

Finally, this is the one who plays it safe, within the rules of the game. You recognize opportunities that will be success stories well supported by other examples and statistics, and you will not risk your job by deviating from existing strategies.

The functions of the project manager

The person who occupies the position of the director of a project is the one who makes sure that everyone in their teams knows their roles and fulfills the tasks. He understands what the different processes of the project consist of, so he knows the tools that must be available to collaborators and is capable of solving problems that arise.

This is what is mainly expected of a project manager:

  • Define the strategy before starting the project: planning, tasks and budget.
  • Get the approval of the budget or the necessary investors and sponsors.
  • Define the indicators and objectives.
  • Define priorities.
  • Manage teams.
  • Solve problems.
  • Monitor tasks and goals achieved.
  • Make adjustments to resources or operations to avoid wasting time and money.
  • Serve as contact between the teams and the client or company directors.
  • Carry out a performance evaluation at all levels, to check if all the objectives were met in a timely manner.
  • Make a list of learnings and opportunities found throughout the project.

Now that we have drawn you an overview of the key stages of project management and how you can be a manager, we want to share with you some types of management that exist. Many methodologies have been created over time and surely one of these will adapt to the goals you hope to achieve.

The main project management methodologies

Scrum

This project management model was born in the 80s of the last century. It was named by Ikujiro Nonaka and Takeuchi when they analyzed how some companies at the time, such as Canon and Fuji, developed their new products. Scrum is an advance in training used by rugby players and now it is a way to organize teams that must work fast in software development, mainly. It is known as the Scrum framework .

Tasks are organized in short periods, from a week to a month, so that deliveries are more agile. Before each task assignment, the specifications are delivered and from time to time the teams meet in meetings in which doubts are shared to clarify processes.

Read

This methodology is based on the idea of doing more with less . Although it arose in Toyota, its use has been extended to different sectors, as it has been a good option for those who do not want to waste resources by including customer assessment in the project process.

Gantt

Created in the early 1900s, the Gantt chart shows that good ideas stand the test of time. It was conceived by Henry Laurence Gantt and consists of a visual support that allows organizing activities in bars to have at a glance which tasks are carried out on certain dates, who is responsible and the relationship between them for proper monitoring.  

Get inspired to create your own Gantt charts with this selection of examples.

Agile

Agile is one of the best known methodologies . It is more of a way to carry out project management than a tool, as are other software, so it can be applied to different industries. It focuses on promoting healthy and agile teamwork that leaves behind the use of paperwork, is open to change and also involves the client in decision-making. This methodology is also known for having a succinct statement of 12 principles .

Waterfall

Also known as the “waterfall model”, it is the most traditional and is based on the five essential phases in project management that we already mentioned. Those of this methodology are: idea engineering, system design, implementation, test and validation, and maintenance.

Kanban

This model was also born in Toyota in 1940, and is one of the easiest to use, since it was born as a simple dashboard (although there is already software to use it), in which tasks are identified by color codes and that can be moved along throughout the indicated stages. That way everyone knows how the project is progressing and who is in charge.

Six sigma

It was created to minimize errors and  is based on statistical models  to avoid and eliminate them in a short time. It was started at Motorola in the 1980s, and relies on numbers to make processes as efficient and productive as possible, thus avoiding product errors.

Extreme programming

It emerged in the late nineties of the twentieth century and consists of a technique with a short life cycle, focused on the client and whose objective is to improve the quality of a product. The central idea is that a product can be created that meets only what the customer asks for, but is so simple in its solutions that it is also possible to modify it in case future adjustments are requested.

PRINCE2

Its full name is Projects in Controlled Environments. It was created in the UK and is product focused. It can be used in projects of any size and industry, since this method separates the management levels so that they can work on different projects. The methodology has a list of seven principles that must be met for the project to be considered PRINCE2.

PERT

PERT stands for Project Review and Evaluation Technique. It was created in 1957 by the United States Department of Defense, in the middle of the Cold War. Its purpose is to use a statistical model to analyze the time it will take to complete the tasks of a process, since its intention is to know exactly the duration of a project. Helps to prioritize tasks and create schedules to keep up with them.

Adaptive Project Framework

The principle of this methodology is to forget about the linear model of project management, the disadvantage of which is that it is not always as flexible as situations demand. The flexible project framework, as it is known in Spanish, allows you to manage changes as they occur, since not all the necessary elements can be defined at the beginning of any project.

It is the turn to talk about the most important thing: the creation of a plan for the management of a project. Read the following tips to make yours as efficient, executable and realistic as possible.

How to create a project management plan?

The customer is likely to be the most interested in the project plan. And it is perfectly understood, because it is important to know how your resources will be managed and how long it will take you to have the desired product. However, those of us who have worked in the management of a project know that a plan is not a guarantee of anything: there are always unforeseen events and we learn to live with them and solve them.

Either way, this does not mean that the plan has to be forgotten or not taken into account. Rather, you have to think of one that allows flexibility, in case of surprises, and that at the same time is transparent in the most delicate: the distribution of tasks, money and the achievement of objectives.

1. It usually starts

Take a look at the entire project process from above and translate it into an outline. Do not focus just yet on indicating who will do what, but you must first divide the processes into large puzzle pieces, so that you have an overview of how it will unfold.

2. Plan what you know

Based on the information you have already gathered and the certainties you have in hand, make a timeline of what may happen in the development of the project : when certain materials arrive, how long does a certain supplier take, how much does it cost to rent equipment, etc. If you do not have all the information, do not commit to that part and allow your team to have a little uncertainty for those tasks that you are not sure of.

3. Share the plan with your team

This is a good way to build a project with your feet on the ground. If those involved in its construction can tell you what is feasible and in what way, it will be easier to land the goals and objectives that you will present to the client. Ask your teams for an effort, but don’t give unrealistic expectations either.

4. Graph the entire process in detail

If you could already discussed it with your team, it is time to break it down to describe each task and its different activities; who will be in charge of complying with them and who will supervise; how long it will take to do them (gives the opportunity to make room for the unforeseen, don’t forget), etc.

5. Share the plan with the client

When you’ve established what your team can do, tell the customer what to expect. Sure it will ask you for adjustments, however you already have a base on which to start, and you know how far you can go without asking for miracles from anyone. Remember that you must be very clear with your capabilities, costs and times . Ambiguities can be your enemy in case they need to be adjusted.

6. Share the final plan and objectives with those involved

Communication is key in the development of a project, so make sure everyone has access to it. But don’t just share it in a document and voila: create a dashboard where it is possible to see the progress day by day. The more complex a project is, the more it helps to have a visual reference that shows how everything is evolving.

7. Be a little pessimistic: think about plan B or C

It’s important to be a little ahead of what can go wrong, from bad weather to losing a supplier. Have second and third options on hand in case your “number one” cannot meet their commitments. Forewarned project manager is worth two.

8. Use a tool that allows you to communicate with your teams

Having timely communication can be the difference between success and disaster. It is not about opening another WhatsApp chat, but about getting a tool that helps to record updates, share files, send messages or alerts and also check for completed tasks. Slack, Basecamp, Trello are some of the options that offer a solution for teams.

Check out our complete list of project management tools so you can choose the one that suits you best.

9. Don’t let your guard down

When it comes to the processes of a project it is important that the supervision does not relax. It is not about monitoring your teams with a hint of distrust, but that everyone is present for the rest: everyone will have their tasks, but in the end they form a single team. It is important to be available if you need to make adjustments , completely modify a stage or simply find the correct file.

10. Make sure you cover what’s important

No matter what happens, your plan must answer the following to be complete:

  • Goals and indicators 
  • Teams and their tasks
  • Financial and work resources
  • Objectives and deliverables of each stage of the process
  • Itemized schedule and schedule
  • Communication plan (periodicity of monitoring meetings, updates for the client, etc.)

Before finishing, we will talk about some standards that serve for the correct management and supervision of projects, with standards endorsed around the world to ensure quality and safety.