The Ultimate Guide to Successful Project Management

Laura Baciu

Project management is the coordination of all the processes and activities done to achieve a goal inside an organization within a given timeframe.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

Introduction to Project Management

Project management represents the coordination of all the processes and activities done to achieve a goal inside an organization.

Businesses do use the project management techniques mentioned in this article a lot. From developing a product to enhance the brand awareness of the company.

We will discover the most important aspects of project management with the help of the following references:

Attributes of a Project

The most common attributes of a project are:

1. The goal of a Project

What does the company want to achieve by finishing the project? 

Examples of goals: 

  • renovate the main store in 12 months,
  • release a new version of a software in 16 months,
  • achieve over 50k followers on a social media channel in 6 months,
  • close an important deal with a new supplier in 4 months. 

2. Scope of a Project

What are the big elements that the company wants to implement with a project? 

Examples of a project scope: 

  • assure diversity of channels for communication with the customers and online followers,
  • switch to renewable energy sources in the main factory of the company,
  • strengthen the relationship with an important supplier,
  • acquire more international partners for the company,
  • promote the use of new technologies. 

3. Duration of a Project

What is the timeframe for achieving the goal of the project?

Small projects can have a timeframe of 3 to 8 weeks, with smaller goals that can be achieved faster. 

Bigger projects can have a timeframe of 12 months up to 5 years or even beyond. This depends on the final goal and the stakeholders involved.

4. Work Breakdown Structure of a Project

The work breakdown structure of the project is a tool that provides an image of the entire workflow

Such a structure reflects the deliverables of a project, its sub-deliverables, activities, and tasks. 

The work breakdown structure helps create a logical workflow and assure that the project management goal is met.

work breakdown structure
Source: Creately

5. Key Milestones

The key milestones are the most important elements that need to be achieved during the project.

An example of a key milestone: 

  • On March 1st, 2022, the company will finish the technical documentation for the opening of a new store. 

6. Deliverables

The deliverables are the elements achieved during a specific timeframe inside the project. Usually, a deliverable is an asset obtained/produced after a set of activities. 

Example of deliverables: 

  • the new website of the company,
  • the furniture for a new restaurant. 

7. Sub-deliverables

The sub-deliverables are small elements achieved during a specific timeframe of the project. A sub-deliverable is part of a deliverable.

Examples of sub-deliverables: 

  • the contact page of the new website of the company,
  • the dining tables that are part of the new furniture for a restaurant. 

8. Activities

Activities are scheduled portions of work during a project. They are vital for understanding the work that needs to be done by the members of the project team. A successful project management means identifying the activities and making sure they are performed.

For example for a sub deliverable such as the first draft of the new partnership of the company we can have the following activities: 

  • search templates for a partnership deal,
  • find a suitable template,
  • introduce the information about the company and the future partner,
  • add highlights that promote the company,
  • add the possible benefits for the new partner,
  • review the draft,
  • approval of the draft. 

9. Tasks

Tasks are units of work with a goal that needs to be accomplished within a specific timeframe. 

Examples of tasks: 

  • select a suitable template for the new partnership draft,
  • edit the template according to the characteristics of the company,
  • review the draft,
  • make final edits on the draft,
  • approval of the draft for the new partnership. 

10. Resources

Resources are the physical and non-physical assets that a company can use during a project. 

11. Constraints

Constraints are the physical and non-physical elements that affect the course of the project negatively.

The company needs to learn how to deal with these elements and successfully finish the project within the given timeframe.

Example of constraints: 

  • fixed budget for the project,
  • lack of highly skilled workers,
  • lack of time,
  • sudden legislative changes etc. 

12. Planned Value of a Project

The planned value of the project represents the costs planned to be spent on each activity stated in the work breakdown structure. 

13. Cost of a Project.

The cost of the project represents the sum of all direct and indirect costs for all the planned and unplanned activities done in the project. 

14. Earned Value of a Project

Earned value of the project represents the budget associated with the authorized work that has been completed to achieve the goal of the project. 

15. Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the entities that provide the funds for accomplishing the project. 

For every big project, big stakeholders have important decisions to make in the evolution of the project.

Examples of stakeholders: 

  • the company management board,
  • a major shareholder of the company,
  • a bank,
  • local authorities,
  • hedge funds,
  • international organizations etc. 

The Basic Workflow of a Project 

The common basic workflow of a project and phases of project management are represented as follows: 

1. Initiating Phase 

  1. Goal statement.
    Describes the goal that needs to be achieved after finishing the project. Describes the desired state that the company wants to achieve through the project. 
  2. Scope of the project.
    Represents the big elements that the company wants to achieve within the project besides the overall goal of the project. 
  3. Role of the project for the company.
    Describes how the project will help the company in the short-term or the long term. 
  4. Stakeholders of the company.
    Analyze the interests, motivation, and expectations of each stakeholder of the project. 
  5. Team working on the project.
    State who is the project manager and the team that will take care of the project as a whole. Sometimes, freelancers or contributors are required. 
  6. Relationship between the goal, the schedule, and the resources. Describes the relationship between: 
    • the final goal of the project
    • the timeframe given to finish the project
    • available resources necessary to finish the project. 
  7. Kick-off of the project. 

2. Planning Phase 

  1. Communication plan. Describes:
    • the communication flows between the stakeholders. 
    • what project information will be delivered to stakeholders 
    • how the project manager will communicate with the team members 
    • where the information will be stored. 
  2. Changes plan. Describes how the changes within the project will be tracked, reviewed, and approved by the project manager. 
  3. Work breakdown structure. The work breakdown structure contains the deliverables, the sub-deliverables, the activities, and the tasks of the project. 
  4. Risk management plan. Describes what are the major risks of the project. There are not only financial risks that matter but also:
    • human resources risks (lack of employees to finish the project)
    • organizational risks (difficulties in the decision-making process)
    • market risks (big fluctuations on the market that might affect or even stop the project).

The team that handles the project must collect information on the major risks, rank those risks and propose possible solutions. Usually, there are 4 ways to deal with risks:

  • mitigation (mitigating the negative effects of the risks),
  • transfer (transferring the risk from the company to another stakeholder that will hold the responsibility to solve them),
  • avoidance (making sure that some risks are avoided by preparing in advance),
  • acceptance (some risks are inevitable, the company needs to accept them and learn to live with them throughout the project). 

3. Executing Phase 

  1. Start the work on the first deliverables of the project. 
  2. Hold team meetings.
    Participate in team meetings, both offline and online to find out what activities go well and what activities don’t.
  3. Coordination of the work breakdown structure and the tasks of each team member. 
  4. Monitor the progress of the project.
    What deliverables, sub-deliverables, activities, and tasks are critical to the success of the project and if they were achieved/done. Monitoring how every team member solves the tasks with the available resources. Monitoring if someone needs help/assistance throughout their tasks. 
  5. Review and deal with risks.
    Tracking all the risks that might affect the activities and tasks of the project. Proposing countermeasures to tackle these risks in one way or another. 
  6. Give project status updates.
    Give updates on the progress of the project. The project manager and the team members can give daily, weekly or monthly updates depending on the project timeframe. 
    Each update should contain the following items: 
    • highlights of that particular period
    • downsides of that particular period
    • key decisions taken
    • number of deliverables and sub-deliverables delivered
    • potential risks
    • help needed (when it’s the case)
    • next steps. 

There are 3 types of common project reports: 

  • status reports (where the project stands at a specific point in time),
  • progress reports (what the team has accomplished during a given period),
  • forecasts (predicting future status and progress based on past data and information and trends). 

4. Releasing Phase 

  1. Finish the project by obtaining/producing the last deliverables and sub deliverables of the project. 
  2. Finish the planned and unplanned activities of the project and that revolve around the project.
  3. Achieve the final goal of the project.
  4. Formal release approval of the project by the company and the stakeholders involved. 
  5. Measure project performance and progression in accordance to the project plan.
  6. Scope verification and control to check and monitor for scope creep.
  7. Change of control to track and manage changes to project requirements.

5. Closing Phase 

  1. Formally evaluate the project and the lessons learned during the project. 
  2. Recognize the work done by the company and by all the stakeholders involved in the project. 
  3. Celebration of the project completion.
    It boosts the team morale and celebrates the achievements of the team. 
  4. Project summary.
    Creating the summary of the project with the highlights of the project. 
  5. Archive the project documentation.
    Collect and store in accessible formats the documentation of the current project, so that it can be used in the future for other projects. 
5 phases of project management
Source: Project Managment

Project Tasks 

Tasks are the fundamental parts of the work breakdown structure and the project as a whole. Tasks are units of work with a goal that needs to be accomplished within a specific timeframe. 

Project management means delivering these tasks.

Planning the tasks is often a difficult job for the companies and the project managers. There are some rules when planning the project tasks.

Project Tasks Planning Rules

  • Create a logical and clear relationship between all the tasks of the project. This means that first, we have to write down a draft of the work breakdown structure [PMI]. Second, we have to see what tasks influence the completion of the project the most. 
    Example: when creating a new website: 
    • the first task would be to choose the team members that will handle the development,
    • the second task would be to select the programming language to build the website. 
  • Prioritize the tasks. This means that we have to prioritize the deliverables that we want to finish first. For each deliverable, there are some tasks to do. 
    The tasks for high-priority deliverables will become high-priority tasks. The high-priority tasks need to be done smoothly to ensure that the project goes well. 
  • Description of the tasks. This means that for each task inside the project we need to have a short description of what the task represents. 
    This description will help the team members to solve the task in a relatively easy manner. 
  • Delegate the tasks. Each team member will usually take care of the tasks that are related to their field of expertise. 
    This means that we have to build a team of people with different expertise to assure that we have solutions for all the phases of the project. 
    We should also match the passion of each team member with a package of tasks. In this way, they can complete the tasks in time and with dedication. 
  • Schedule the tasks. To have the big picture of the tasks we need to make the schedule of tasks. 
    For each phase of the project, we need to pay more attention to the high-priority tasks.

What is Expected From the People Inside the Project? 

All the people that are inside the project need to understand their role and their tasks. They are all part of a broader project management team.

There are usually 3 categories of people with a critical role for a project: project manager, team members, and stakeholders. 

Project Manager

  • Coordinates the planning, the execution, and the release of the project.
  • Coordinates the budget of the project.
  • Provides behind-the-scenes support for the team and raises the team morale.
  • Uses soft skills to strengthen the team collaboration.
  • Ensures a smooth relationship with all the stakeholders of the project.
  • Provides challenging tasks for employees to motivate them to do their best.
  • Capitalizes on expertise, knowledge, as well as on novelty and freshness of ideas.
  • Mitigates the effects of the major risks.

Team Members

  • Complete the tasks for each phase of the project.
  • Respect the deadlines for each task.
  • Obtain the deliverables and sub-deliverables of the project.
  • Contribute with creative and innovative ideas.
  • Adapt to changes and challenges.
  • Mitigate the effects of the major risks.
  • Collect data and use it to solve various problems.
  • Seek for help when needed.
  • Ask powerful questions when needed.
  • Have a friendly attitude towards the team, the project manager, and the stakeholders.
  • Provide feedback.

Project Stakeholders

  • Cooperate with the project manager in all the phases of the project.
  • Elaborate on the requirements of the project.
  • Coordinate the budget of the project.
  • State the major expectations from the project.
  • Provide support and expertise when needed.
  • Provide feedback when needed.
  • Have a friendly attitude towards the project manager and team members. 

Agile Methodology in Project Management 

Agile project management represents a flexible method of coordinating all the processes and activities inside a company project.

This methodology is characterized by a faster and flexible response to the project challenges and market fluctuations. The agile methodology is common for projects related to software development and technologies in general.

The agile methodology is based on iterative actions: 

iterative actions of agile project management
Source: Wikipedia

Common Attributes of an Agile Project in Software Development 

The most common attributes of an agile project in software development are: 

  • The goal of the project. What does the company want to achieve by finishing the project?
  • Scope of the project. What are the big elements that the company wants to implement with a project?
  • Duration of the project. What is the timeframe for achieving the goal of the project?
  • Work breakdown structure of the project. The work breakdown structure of the project is a tool that provides an image of the entire workflow.
  • Features. A particular functionalities or services that a product provides and that are valued by the customers.
  • Product backlog. A list of features, specific activities, tasks, changes, and bug fixes that a team delivers to the final product of the project.
  • User stories. One or two sentence testimonials that provide a customer’s expectations on how they want to use the product.
  • Sprints. Phases of the project are planned by estimating the workload associated with various features of the product.
  • Reviews. Examinations are conducted regularly for improving the features of the product.
  • Tasks. Single units of work with a goal that needs to be accomplished at a specific deadline. 

There are 3 categories of labels associated with the tasks:

  • in progress (working on the current tasks),
  • to-do (tasks that need to be done soon),
  • done (finished tasks).

These can be best represented on a Kanban board.

Benefits of Using the Agile Project Management in Various Projects 

The agile method is common for technology projects. However, it can also be used for all types of projects. 

If done well, the agile project management offers a series of general benefits for all the people involved in the project: 

  1. Flexibility in dealing with the project activities and tasks. Not getting stuck when an activity needs to be reimagined or redone.
  2. Diversity of roles. The existence of specialized roles for each activity and task ensures diversity and richness inside the project.
  3. Quick reactions to changes inside the company and on the market.
  4. Product adaptability. Match supply with changing market demand. Focus on the trends and markets in each phase of the project to ensure the adaptability of the product/service.
  5. Improved forecast. The iterative activities inside the project provide insights helpful in predicting the needs of the potential customers for the product/service.
  6. Improved usability of the product/service. Concentrate on providing features of the product/service that are easy to use by the customers.
  7. Continuous innovation. 
Traditional Project Management 
Product first/Budget second 
Agile Project Management 
Budget first/Product second 
Initiating phase Envisioning phase 
Planning phase Speculating and drafting phase 
Executing phase Exploring and iteration phase 
Release phase Adapting phase 
Closing phase Closing phase (which becomes the beginning of a new envisioning phase!) 
A Comparative View on the Traditional Project Management and Agile Project Management

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