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First steps in project management

November 6, 2023
Claude Palmarini
First steps in project management

Project management plays an essential role in achieving the strategic objectives that lead to business success:

Projects generate benefits and organizational improvement. Projects create value for the organization.

An organization's survival may depend on the efficient management of projects and resources.

Organizations need to innovate, and innovation comes through projects.

Project management involves :

  • Choosing the development approach best suited to the project, taking into account the organizational reality and the importance of the project.
  • Implementing continuous improvements
  • Adapt!

It's about ensuring value creation by involving stakeholders, respecting constraints, taking into account opportunities and aligning with business strategies.

Whether you're new to project management or looking to deepen your knowledge of the subject, you'll find here the essential elements of a good PM, such as key phases, PM roles and responsibilities, and the most appropriate tools and techniques.

Give yourself the means to achieve your objectives and ensure the success of your projects within your company.

1/ What is project management?

Project management is about organizing, planning, coordinating and controlling the various phases of a project, from ideation to completion.

Projects can vary in size, complexity and scope: from setting up an IT infrastructure, to developing software, to building a bridge, to creating a product and bringing it to market. Whatever their nature or field, project management provides an appropriate, rigorous structure and approach to ensure value creation.

How project management helps organizations

First and foremost, it optimizes the use of available resources. By having a clear vision of the objectives to be achieved and the applicable constraints. Secondly, project management fosters collaboration and communication between stakeholders, by clarifying everyone's roles and responsibilities. A project that runs smoothly is one where people communicate to help each other.

Finally, project management increases the chances of achieving strategic objectives, by identifying and mitigating potential risks. It provides visibility on project progress, enabling rapid identification of opportunities.

By increasing their knowledge and appropriating approaches specific to their needs, companies can improve their efficiency, strengthen their collaboration and increase their chances of success in a competitive and constantly evolving environment.

2/ What are the main stages in project management?

The essential stages of the project management process include: defining objectives, planning, executing, controlling and closing the project. Each of these is critical to a project's success.

a) Defining project objectives

This first step involves clearly defining the project's objectives. This may seem obvious, but all too often projects get off to a premature start with insufficiently defined objectives. This is the best way to derail a project. It's important to identify expected results, specific deliverables and success criteria.

b) Project planning

Planning means identifying and organizing the necessary activities, resources and deadlines. The detailed project plan includes a schedule, task breakdown, cost estimates and resource allocation.

c) Project execution

Once the plan has been drawn up, it's time to implement the planned activities, coordinate teams and allocate resources. Effective communication and close collaboration between all those involved (closely or remotely) in the project in question are essential to ensure that tasks are carried out according to plan.

d) Project control

Throughout the duration of the project, monitoring (of costs, deadlines, quality, risks) must be carried out, to validate progress against objectives and the initial plan. Project management tools such as dashboards, progress reviews and risk management techniques are used to assess project performance and take corrective action where necessary. This stage gives the project manager an almost real-time view of the ratio of consumed vs. estimated resources.

e) Project closure

When all project activities have been completed, it's time to close the project. This involves finalizing deliverables, making an overall assessment of the project and documenting lessons learned. It's important to celebrate successes and recognize the team's contributions. Proper closure also ensures that all contractual obligations are fulfilled.

3/ What are the different roles and responsibilities in a project?

There are several clearly identified profiles in project management. It's important to clearly define their different roles and responsibilities. While their scope of action must remain quite distinct, they remain complementary parts of a common goal.

a) The project manager :

Also known as the project manager, project manager or project leader, the project manager is responsible for the overall management of the project. Together with the customer/sponsor, he/she draws up the project charter, defines the objectives, and, with his/her project team, plans, monitors and reports on progress. In addition to respecting constraints, the project manager is instrumental in the decision-making process, problem-solving and team motivation. (See also What skills does a project manager need?)

b) The project team

The project team is made up of members who are responsible for project activities specific to their area of expertise. They work in collaboration with the project manager to achieve the set objectives. Project team responsibilities include carrying out assigned tasks within established constraints,

The project team is responsible and autonomous in its area of expertise, and contributes directly to the success of the project through their understanding and commitment.

c) Stakeholders

These are the people (or groups of people) directly or indirectly affected by the project, or who have an interest in its success. They include customers, end-users, suppliers, internal departments, etc. Once properly identified, stakeholders can facilitate project implementation by using their influence at the right moment, responding quickly to questions or when clarification is required.

d) The sponsor

The sponsor provides financial and strategic support for the project. The sponsor ensures the availability of resources, by defining the project's strategic objectives, providing guidance and facilitating communication with key players. The sponsor ensures the overall alignment of the project and intervenes when important decisions are made. His support is commensurate with his involvement. Ideally, he or she is involved throughout the project cycle, helping to mobilize stakeholders where necessary.

The project manager provides direction and coordination, the project team is responsible for task completion and contributes its expertise, stakeholders provide information and active support, while the sponsor supports the project financially and strategically.

4/ Some good practices in PM

In addition to the tools and working methods specific to project management, it's worth listing a few best practices to help a project run smoothly.

a) Effective communication

Clear and regular communication is essential to share relevant information with all stakeholders and encourage transparency. Important detail: communication must be adapted to different audiences (the project team doesn't need the same information as management).

b) Stakeholder management

Stakeholders need to be involved right from the start of the project, to understand their expectations and needs. Subsequently, they must continue to be solicited throughout the process, to find out and address their concerns, or to consult them when important decisions are made.

c) Problem-solving

A certain ability and willingness to tackle problems is a key skill for a project manager. Using creativity and critical thinking to identify potential problems, analyze them and find effective solutions is a real asset for a PM. To achieve this, the PM encourages team participation, promotes the search for collective solutions and implements an appropriate problem-solving process.

d) Time management

Good time management helps ensure that the project stays on schedule. Establishing a realistic timetable, planning activities taking into account dependencies and constraints, regularly monitoring progress... are all factors that impact on time management. Defining the critical path, prioritizing tasks and establishing milestones helps optimize time management and identify deviations.

e) Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring project progress and evaluating results contribute to the success of the project. Hence the importance of defining key performance indicators (KPIs), setting up appropriate monitoring tools and carrying out regular assessments to identify deviations and take corrective action if necessary. Documenting lessons learned throughout the project, and particularly during follow-ups, helps to improve practices for future projects.

5/ Predictive (traditional) or Adaptive (Agile), which project management approach?

While project management approaches have long been segmented (predictive, adaptive, hybrid), the situation is changing. The project manager is becoming more of a project leader, whose responsibility is to propose the best tools for carrying out the project and generating value for the company.

Adaptive approach

The adaptive, or Agile, approach to project management is iterative or incremental. It enables us to respond better when needs change, when the project is more complex, or even when we're moving into the unknown, or when frequent deliveries are expected. This approach requires customer involvement and commitment, as well as the ability to cope with change.

The adaptive approach uses the iron triangle of time, budget and scope. While the first two criteria are known, scope is generally more vague.

Predictive approach

The predictive or waterfall approach to project management is a linear approach based on detailed plans and forecasts drawn up in advance. It is suitable for projects where requirements are stable and well understood, and where it is possible to plan and estimate accurately. This is known as the golden triangle, and the scope is the basis for determining costs and duration, for example.

Hybrid approach

Today, many projects benefit from a hybrid approach. This uses the most appropriate tools for realizing value. We measure several criteria before making our choices, including: Team size, geographical distribution, management support, availability of know-how, complexity of the solution, etc. (See also Project management: which approach to choose).

Project management: a central role requiring multiple skills.

As projects become more complex, and the number of stakeholders increases, it becomes increasingly clear that the role of the project manager is evolving. It's easy to understand the importance PMI places on the "Skills Triangle": technical, strategic and relational. The latter are all the more important as specialists estimate that they can account for 85% of project management...

The project manager must therefore, of course, have acquired technical skills specific to project management (management, planning, etc.), but he or she must also develop critical thinking, emotional intelligence, communication and collaboration skills... to become a project leader. See also Project management: the new standards

Conclusion

Transparent communication, close collaboration between team members, proactive risk management, general flexibility to adapt to changes, and regular assessment of progress, are all ancillary factors that contribute positively to project delivery.

It is also important to note that every project is unique, and it may be necessary to adapt the project management process to suit its particularities. Flexibility and adaptability are key principles in project management, enabling us to respond to changes and unforeseen circumstances that may arise throughout the project.

Building a culture of caring and accountability, diligent and respectful, the project leader facilitates commitment by taking the time to understand stakeholders, and focuses on value creation.

They think globally. As a leader, he motivates, influences, coaches and learns.

Flexible in his approach to delivery, he builds quality into both processes and results.

A facilitator of change to achieve the envisioned future, he approaches opportunities and threats with flexibility and resilience.

To find out more :

Project management: the basics for a successful project

Contact us

To learn more about our new services or to talk to us about your skills development needs, contact Cyrielle Renard at 514-380-8237 or by email: crenard@technologia.ca.

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