What is Project Management?
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
This term gets thrown around a lot, but did you know there is a precise meaning to project management? Click here learn what project management is so you can bring value at your next meeting!
In today’s professional world, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of jargon you hear. While many of these words may be thrown around with little intent, one term you are sure to come across is project management. While this may seem like another corporate buzzword, this is actually a rich academic field with astounding results. The Project Management Institute defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. This is distinguishable from many tasks that are continual and ongoing—business as usual—as a project has a definitive point of completion. It follows that project management is the application of skills, knowledge, and techniques to complete a given project.
The Project Management Institute defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.
The goal of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints. These constraints are scope, time, quality, and budget. Meeting the expectations of a client while juggling these constraints can be a difficult task; the science behind project management came about to address these issues.
The need for project management originated within the United State government while working on the Manhattan Project. Due to the complex nature of this project and the innumerable outcomes constraining the project, some of the most crucial project management techniques were implemented. Not only was this a huge undertaking, it also set a path forward for project management to impact both the private and public sectors.
The traditional model of project management is split up into five distinct phases: initiation, planning and design, executing/implementation, monitoring and controlling, and completion/closing. The initiation process determines the nature and scope of the project. This step is crucial in project management, as if it is done incorrectly the entire team will be off-track. Initiation bundles information that’s acquired in the beginning of any new projects. It often contains several working points, such as project goals, scope, business case, constraints, risks, summary, etc.
Not only was this a huge undertaking, it also set a path forward for project management to impact both the private and public sectors.
The second phase of project management is planning. Project planning includes the use of schedules, accounting mainly for time constraints while also accounting for the appropriate level of detail. The purpose is determining appropriate methodologies, and organizing the progress within the project environment. A project will likely fail without an adequate planning stage.
The next step is executing the project plan. This phase puts the prior phases into action, ensuring all deliverables are met. Execution often takes the most amount of time and energy in any given project. Additionally, this phase requires the most amount of flexibility and management. A good project manager must adapt to the implementation and change planning accordingly.
The monitoring and controlling process is where the project manager ensures the work is being done on time and in at a sufficient quality. This is also where the project manager reconciles the budget and makes any necessary adjustments to the project plan. Monitoring and controlling work is a process where comparing actual and planned performances are important to complete a project and is regularly performed throughout the life of the project.
The ultimate step is the closing phase where the project is formally accepted and/or a hard deadline has passed. The important aspects of this phase are the administrative duties of recording the work that was completed and documenting all learned lessons. Also included in this phase is a post-implementation review where the project team as a whole discusses the experiences and lessons to apply to future projects.
Project management is a robust science that is used in industries and sectors across the globe. This field has created myriad jobs, helping spawn some of the most influential and innovative ideas of the last century. While this article just scratches the surface of what project management is, its an important introductory so that anyone can have a working understanding of how to be more effective in the professional world.