Project Management Guide

Project Management Guide

Project Management Guide
 Project Management Guide

  • Project Management Guide– Everything you need to know to help you manage projects is in this guide. Learn about project management roles and practices, including a detailed breakdown of the project management life cycle and what you need to do in each phase. Learn about the different methodologies for managing projects, like Waterfall, Agile and Lean, and learn how to use project management tools to help you succeed. This is your reference guide to all things PM.
  • Types of Work Requiring Project Management
  • So what work today requires project management? It’s easiest to answer that question if we first look at the difference between project work and operations management (which you’ll also hear referred to as business-as-usualwork).
  • Operations management is what runs the business. Project management is what changes the business.
  • Projects have a clearly defined start, middle and end. They are a discrete piece of work designed to deliver a particular objective. Once that objective is achieved, the project is disbanded and the team working on it go on to do other things

Project Management Roles

The main roles on a project are: 
  • Project sponsor:This is the person accountable for the outcome. They are often the senior manager who has come up with the idea for the project and their team will get the benefit. For example, the sales director would sponsor a project to introduce a new online sales tool. Ultimately, they represent the customer of the project.     
  • Project manager:This is the person responsible for leading the team and organizing the work. In more formal, structured organizations and on larger, more complex projects, the project manager is usually certified. In more informal organizations, the project manager does not require formal training or certification and are often referred to as “accidental project managers.”     
  • Supplier:Someone is doing the work, and that might be an internal supplier such as a development team or an external contractor. The supplier is represented on the project team by their main point of contact who might be their technical expert, an account manager or a project manager.     
  • Team Member:This is a person tasked with completing a part of the project.     
  • Stakeholder:This is a person or a group who has a vested interested or “stake” in the project. It might be an internal group or agency within an organization or it might be the public at large for a public works project. The project manager usually works to communicate the project to the stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project and seeks feedback on project deliverables and performance while managing their expectations, as well.     
  • Clients:This is a group or a person for whom the project or a key component of the project is delivered
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Project Management in Practice

The major processes that keep the tasks moving along and describe the tried-and-tested methodologies that you can use to guide your projects to success. 

The Project Management Life Cycle

Because projects have a start, a middle and an end, making them different from operations management, they all go through a series of phases. These phases are:
  • Initiation:This is the starting phase of your project. You develop the idea and put together the Project Charter, a document that sets out exactly what the project is going to deliver and how you are going to get there.     
  • This stage of the project culminates in a project Kickoff meeting, where you bring together the team, stakeholders and relevant other parties to define the project goals, schedule and processes like how to communicate and chain of communication.     
  • Planning:The next phase is where you plan the work by breaking it down into smaller chunks and estimating how long they will each take. The output from this is your project plan, often visualized as a Gantt chart, which represents the order of tasks and how they are interdependent. This gives you a roadmap for the work until the project reaches its conclusion.     
  • Executing:This is where the bulk of the work happens. Now that you have a plan, you can execute that plan. Along the way you’ll monitor and control the work to make sure that you stay on track in terms of budget, schedule and quality performance. You’ll also work to identify and mitigate risks, deal with problems and incorporate any changes. The bulk of the work of a project manager happens in this phase and a lot of the project management processes we’ll discuss below help you here.     
  • Closing:Project work needs to be closed down carefully to make the most of what was achieved and ensure that anything useful that was learned is passed on to teams who will benefit. In this phase you’ll get user acceptance for the work that was completed, finish off any final paperwork and reports and hand any deliverables over to a different team, such as operations management team.

Project Management Processes 

Processes underpin the life cycle and help you move the work through the life cycle until the objective is completed.  
The project management processes that you’ll see come up time and time again are: 
  • Risk management:The risk management process helps you identify what might happen to throw your project off track and then define a response so you’ve got contingency plans in place. This is usually done on larger projects, rather than smaller. Although even for small teams, a short sync up with the team to help identify potential problems in the plan would be useful to guard against the unexpected and have plans of action in case it does.     
  • Issue management:An issue is a problem that has happened (different to a risk, because that hasn’t happened yet). Issue management is how you deal with problems when they turn up on your project and it’s worth working out what this is going to look like for you because something is bound to go wrong. The process will cover who needs to be notified, how you make decisions about what to do next, and who has the authority to take action.     
  • Change management:Every project has changes. Sometimes that’s because the objective wasn’t defined particularly well at the outset. Or because the business strategy has changed and the project needs to be updated accordingly. The change process helps you incorporate these into your project plan with the least hassle possible.     
  • Procurement management:Many projects involve working with suppliers and there is normally a process around how you engage and contract with them so that everyone knows what to expect and what you are getting for your money.     
  • Communications:Yes, communication is a process! You have to identify who needs to get which message when and which method of communication is most appropriate. A communications plan will help you do this.
Pro Tip: If you do nothing else on your project, make sure you develop a communication plan and actually communicate! This is the fastest and most efficient way to stay on top of your project performance..

Project Management Methodologies

To save you reinventing the wheel, over the years people have come up with some tried-and-tested ways of getting project work done. Here are some common approaches to project management: 

The waterfall model is a linear approach to delivering work. You come up with the requirements, put the design together, build the solution, test and implement it and then move it into a maintenance stage. Good for: projects where the requirements are clear or little change is expected along the way. Avoid when: you don’t really know how you are going to get to the end result and the requirements aren’t clear.

Agile is often used in software projects but it’s becoming more common on other types of projects, like marketing. It involves iterative working in short bursts called “sprints.” The work is time-boxed and the team get as much done as they realistically can before moving to the next set of requirements.  Good for: projects where you want to incorporate quick wins and build iteratively. 
Avoid when: you work in a traditional environment and the change to agile methods hasn’t yet been completed or even understood Project Management Tools We no longer live in the same world as Henry Gantt, where project schedules were produced meticulously by hand. We can all be grateful that project management tools have evolved dramatically since then.  Today, there are a wide range of project management tools, both online and mobile, available to help you manage your projects.

Key Features of Project Management Software
  • Gantt Chart:The online version has come a long way from legos on peg board. Today’s Gantt charts are interactive and collaborative. Look for a tool where you can link tasks together, so that if one task’s date changes, all downstream tasks will adjust as well. Also, be sure to find a tool where the team can add files and notes to the task lines themselves, so all relevant project updates are associated with specific tasks. The best systems then alert the team leader or other team members via email or text when a change has been made in the system.     
  • Dashboard:A dashboard can be easy or complex to make. Essentially a dashboard is a compilation of project data points such as budget, task status, team workload and overall plan status. Look for a tool with a real-time dashboard that is auto-populating data whenever a team member updates a task. That way you know the dashboard is up-to-date. You don’t want a tool where you have to manually assemble a bunch of disparate reports and then compile them in yet another program to “create” a dashboard. A dashboard should be a live, instantaneous snapshot of up-to-date project data.     
  • Tasks:Most project management tools have the ability for team members to see their tasks and only their tasks. They can then see their upcoming tasks, update tasks as they complete them, and send notes to the team leader as needed.     
  • Project Calendar:Many project management systems offer a calendar view, for an easy-to-read look at the project. You can then export the calendar to another calendar, like Google Calendar, and keep your project data with your personal calendar, as well.     
  • Workload:The team availability and schedule can be viewed in many project management systems through the Workload section. It enables a team leader to assess whether a particular person is over or under-allocated, and how to adjust their workload for more balance. Look for a tool where you can interact with the team’s schedule, view vacation and non-working days, and adjust availability of individuals.     
  • Timesheets:Not every project management system has integrated timesheets, nor does every type of project require timesheets. Industries that typically do benefit from integrated timesheet and project management systems are: construction, manufacturing, IT and marketing. It can be helpful for anyone in a client-services type organization to have integrated timesheets, so you can monitor the overall project cost and time with the hourly cost of work per employee.     
  • Collaboration:Features like document sharing, chat and commenting embedded in project management tools help teams work together effectively. Whether your team has a lot of remote workers or external clients, or is mostly in-house, using collaboration tools can drastically cut down on email time and helps keep vital project communication with the project. This can be especially helpful when doing project post-mortems or when simply searching for essential project files and conversations on a larger project.     
  • Mobile:Many project management applications offer a mobile app as part of their suite of features. Feature sets can vary, but it’s important to consider whether your team can really benefit by truly adopting the mobile app. Mobile apps are usually lighter-weight versions of the online tool, but they offer ease-of-use to travelling team members or people out in the field to update tasks, add relevant files or photos to a task, and keep other team members updated wherever they are.     
  • Security:Different organizations require different levels of security for their projects and applications. Some still require a dedicated server installation, even though most online project management applications are highly secure. Some require particular security certifications for industry compliance. Check with your organization’s particular requirements and be sure to review the project management application’s security offerings to make sure you are a good fit.     
  • Integrations:There are countless tools your team is using, from their personal email and calendars to other systems in the organizations like CRM or ERM applications. Each team has particular requirements for integration with other applications, and project managers can help enforce protocols for individual’s integrating with their personal tools. Project management applications often have an API where custom integrations can be developed against, or 3rd party applications , that make integrations more easy to implement.     
  • Gantt Chart Guide :Gantt charts can intimidate some people. We help take the mystery out of the Gantt. Learn the history of Gantt charts as well as how they have evolved to help you plan your project better. Explore all the features of a Gantt chart in an online project, such as breaking down each column’s purpose and explaining what milestone’s and dependencies are, to name a few. Then, you learn how to actually use those Gantt features to plan your projects and manage your team.

What Do I See on a Gantt Chart?

There are two main parts to a Gantt chart: a column that lists the project tasks on the right and a chart that shows how long each task takes on the left. Each task has a corresponding bar on the chart that runs horizontally. The bar starts on the date that the work is scheduled to start. The longer the bar, the longer the task will take. Shading on the bar indicates how complete the work is. When the bar is totally shaded, the task is finished.  The other things you’ll see on a Gantt chart are:  Milestones: These are represented by a diamond symbol. A milestone marks the end of a piece of work or phase of the project. They are often fixed dates or important dates that you need to be aware of.  
Dependencies: These are links between tasks. For example, you can’t test the software until the development is finished, so development and testing are linked. Links are shown with lines on the Gantt chart. The arrow at the end of the line shows which way the dependency goes. In other words, the arrow points to the task that comes next.  Summary tasks: A summary task is an ‘umbrella’ task that is made up of various individual tasks. It is a good way of grouping tasks together, especially as part of a project stage or phase.  You can ‘roll up’ your tasks (in other words, hide them from view) so that only the summary task is on show. This is really helpful when you have hundreds of tasks, as it lets you focus on the important ones for now. For example, you can roll up all the tasks that are completed so you don’t see them. 

Today’s date: You can display a vertical line that shows you today’s date at a glance.  
From all the information on the Gantt chart you can easily see:
  •  The start date of the project
  • What the project tasks are     
  • When each tasks starts and finishes     
  • How long each task will take     
  • How tasks group together, overlap and link with each othe
  • The finish date of the project.
And don’t forget that the columns – the right-hand section of the Gantt chart – give you even more information.

What Are the Common Gantt Chart Columns?

The most common Gantt chart columns are: 
The Gantt Chart View      
  • Task name:Unsurprisingly, this is a description of the task.     
  • Planned start date:This is the date that you aim to start working on the task.     
  • Planned duration:This is a single number that reflects how many days there are between the planned start date and the planned finish date. It’s based on working days, so if a task is planned to take a week it will reflect 5 (working) days.     
  • Planned effort:How many hours of work the task will take within the duration. Think about painting a wall. It might only take you an hour to paint the first coat but then you’ve got to leave it two hours to dry before the next coat. Then you paint again and leave it to dry again. That’s only two hours of actual painting (effort) but six hours in total (duration).     
  • Percent complete:A figure, mostly always based on an educated guess by the person doing the task, of how much work they have done and how much is still to do     Pro Tip:Beware of tasks that stay at 80% complete for too long. This is a sign that the task owner doesn’t really know how much work there is still to do. When you ask for updates, the percent complete should move up each time unless no work has genuinely taken place. Monitoring percent complete is a good way to get an early warning about tasks that might run late.     
  • Resource:This column tells you the name of the person, people, or resource type (e.g. Developer) who has been allocated to work on the task. At the start of the project you may only have resource type but as you go through you should be able to replace this with the names of actual team members.     
  • Dependencies:You can also show the task dependencies in number form. This is often an easier way of quickly finding out which task links where. Use the numbers in this column to track back the task dependencies – it can be faster than trying to trace a spidery line on the Gantt chart.     
  • Project Planning Guide – Project planning is a critical phase in project management, yet few people are born with the planning talent. Rather, planning takes skill and practice, and this guide offers extensive training in the art and skill of project planning. You’ll learn the elements of a good project plan, and how to use tools and templates (includes a free planning template download) to help guide your project planning effort.

What is Project Planning?

First, let’s clarify what we are talking about. Many people think of the project plan as the project schedule: The list of tasks and dates that tell you what to do when. That schedule is part of your project plan, but it’s not the only part. Project planning refers to everything you do to set up your project for success. It’s the process you go through to establish the steps required to define your project objectives, clarify the scope of what needs to be done and develop the task list to do it.  
The activities in project planning are varied because you have to work out how to achieve your goals. Every project is going to be different as the objectives will be different. Most of the work of planning is thinking about what you need to do to get everything done and putting the structure in place to make that happen. By structure, we mean the processes and governance to keep everything running smoothly. These are things like the change management process, the budgeting process, how you are going to sign off the deliverables when the time comes, what quality measures are important and things like that. Pro Tip: Remember, project managers don’t plan to fail, they simply fail to plan. You’ve got this!

Why You Need A Project Plan

The project planning phase comes at the start of the project: It’s after the initiation phase where all you’ve really done is got approval to go ahead and put the basics in place (like appointing you as the project manager) and before the delivery phase where you actually do the work.  We plan at the beginning to save time later. A good plan means that you don’t have to worry about whether those people are going to be available on the right dates – because you’ve planned for them to be. 
You don’t have to worry about how to pay those invoices – because you’ve planned your financial process. You don’t have to worry about whether everyone agrees on what a quality outcome looks like – because you’ve already planned what quality measures you are going to use. It sets out the processes that everyone is expected to follow so it avoids a lot of headaches later. For example, if you specify that estimates are going to be worked out by subject matter experts based on their judgement and that’s approved, later no one can complain that they wanted you to use a different estimating technique. They’ve known the deal since the start. 
Planning streamlines the doing.
Project plans are also really helpful for monitoring progress. You can go back to them and check what you said you were going to do and how, comparing it to what you are actually doing. This gives you a good reality check and enables you to change course if you need to, bringing the project back on track. 

How Long Does Project Planning Take?

This is hard to answer. It’s going to take longer to plan a moon landing than building an app.  The best way to estimate how long your project planning phase will take is to look at similar projects that have happened before and see how long it took them to plan. Talk to the project manager as well, if you can, because they’ll have a view on whether that length of time was enough or not!  It’s easy to see how long other projects took if you have a project management tool that archives your old project schedules and makes the data available to everyone who needs it. You can then search for similar projects and study their schedules in detail.

The Tools for Project Planning

Project planning is all about working out what to do and how to do it, so you need to get a lot of people involved. There are several good tools and techniques for getting information from other people including:
  • Workshops     
  • One-to-one meetings or interviews     
  • Surveys or customer focus groups to gather and validate requirements.
You should also arm yourself with a lot of sticky notes. They are incredibly useful for noting down important things that should be in your project plan. You can also use them to help structure your plan by writing down the key headings and then moving them around as required until you have a flow that looks right.  Finally, you’ll need an online project management system to store your plan in. Make sure that everyone in the team can access the latest version of the project plan.

The Elements of A Project Plan

A lot of project planning is talking to your team, getting the views of the people who will be affected by the project and working out how it all hangs together. There’s a lot of chat and a lot of thinking time.  The end result of your planning phase is a document called the project plan. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) – Fifth Edition says that the project plan in made up of lots of subsidiary plans. These include:
  • A plan for managing the human resources on the team both in terms of availability and skills     
  • A plan for managing costs and the budgeting elements of the project including any procurements or supplier engagements you might have.     
  • A communications plan setting out who is going to receive messages about the project, when and in what format     
  • A plan for dealing with project risk including the processes for logging and tracking risks     
  • A quality plan that specifies the quality targets for the project.
Related Topics:

That’s a lot of documentation.

 In reality, it’s rare that you’ll produce these as individual documents. What you need is a project plan that talks about the important elements of each of these. There’s no point creating a big document that sets out exactly how your business works anyway. If you already have a structured risk management process then don’t waste time writing it all down again in your project plan.  Your project plan needs to include enough information to make sure that you know exactly what processes and procedures need to be followed and who needs to be involved.  Get your project plan approved by your stakeholders and project sponsor as well as the team themselves so there are no surprises.
The Author: Ala'a Elbeheri

                                          Ala'a Elbeheri
A versatile and highly accomplished senior certified IT risk management Advisor and Senior IT Lead Auditor with over 20 years of progressive experience in all domains of ICT.  
• Program and portfolio management, complex project management, and service delivery, and client relationship management.      
• Capable of providing invaluable information while making key strategic decisions and spearheading customer-centric projects in IT/ICT in diverse sectors.    
• Displays strong business and commercial acumen and delivers cost-effective solutions contributing to financial and operational business growth in international working environments.      
• Fluent in oral and written English, German, and Arabic with an  Professional knowledge of French.  
• Energetic and dynamic relishes challenges and demonstrates in-depth analytical and strategic ability to facilitate operational and procedural planning.  
• Fully conversant with industry standards, with a consistent track record in delivering cost-effective strategic solutions.    
• Strong people skills, with proven ability to build successful, cohesive teams and interact well with individuals across all levels of the business. Committed to promoting the ongoing development of IT skills  throughout an organization.

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