While the specifics of the project management process change with every project’s objectives, there are four key phases your project management process should routinely include: initiation, planning, execution and closure. How well you manage these four phases often determines a project’s ultimate success or failure because they enable a project team to link project goals and activities with stakeholder needs.
Following this organized approach also helps your team to work across functional boundaries, focus on customer needs and meet deadlines. It offers a framework for project managers to allocate workloads, estimate project costs and timeframes, calculate and manage risks, and establish a reliable control and monitoring system unique to each project.
- Developing the initiation plan. Put together a project initiation plan that defines the activities necessary to pull the team together, define the project scope and spell out the overall goals.
- Identifying the project team and organizing its activities. Even with a dedicated project management department, the make up of the team will vary from one project to the next.
- Laying a foundation with the client. Your knowledge of your customer’s business and its goals for this project will help to build a stronger bond as the project goes forward.
- Establishing protocol for reporting and decision-making. Spell out team communication and reporting procedures. Also, communicate how funding and billing will be handled.
- Review project resources and environment. Review the tools and other resources necessary for successful project completion. Ensure there is an
- adequate environment for success.
2. Project Planning
- Once the preliminary planning is out of the way, it’s time to plan for the project’s execution. Many of the planning steps require written documentation, which you may want to combine into a single project-planning document:
- Fine-tuning project scope, alternatives, and feasibility. By this point, you should have a clear understanding of the project’s complexity and be able to identify what problems the project will solve or what opportunities it will provide. You should also be ready to measure progress and success, and have a clearly defined end point.
- Divide the project into tasks. This is also called the work breakdown structure. It ensures easy progression between tasks.
- Developing a preliminary timeframe. This includes time estimates for each activity, as well as target start and finish dates for the project.
- Anticipating resources and preparing a resource plan. Making note of your resources and how they are to be allocated will improve your efficiency.
- Defining project standards and procedures. Your project team needs to know specifics about each deliverable, and how it is to be produced and verified by the client.
- Creating a preliminary budget. Include all planned expenses and revenues, if any, for the project.
- Developing a statement of work. This critical step lists the work to be done, concluding with the anticipated project outcome.
- Establishing a baseline project plan. Provide an estimate of the project’s tasks
- and needed resources, and use as a bridge to the execution phase.
- Recognizing and assessing risk. As project manager, you should identify all potential risks and gain an understanding of their impact.
- Developing a plan for communications. Internally and externally, with all project stakeholders.
- Executing the baseline project plan. This includes gathering and allocating resources, ensuring the project stays on schedule, and maintaining quality of deliverables.
- Observing progress. Use preferred tools for checking progress and creating status reports.
- Handling changes to the baseline project plan. As project manager, it will be your job to oversee and manage any changes.
- Keeping the project work documentation. Regardless of what software or app you use, it is the primary source of information for producing all project reports.
- Communicating the status. Just as with earlier phases, communicate regularly with all project stakeholders, internally and externally.
The final phase covers the steps necessary to bring the project to closure, including post-project steps:
- Notification of impending closure. Notify all stakeholders that the project is ready for completion. Finalize all project documentation and prepare for final project review
- Directing post-project reviews. This helps identify strengths and weaknesses, and improve the processes used to create deliverables, including final project.
- Closing the contract. The final step is to ensure that all contractual have been met for the project.