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The different aspects of project management

by Technologia
March 15, 2021
The different aspects of project management

How to do a good project management?

In a nutshell, it is about delivering a project on time, on budget and on target.

However, this is not necessarily what is important! It is more important to know if the final customers (internal or external) are happy or if the ROI is there. Because if the answer is no, then it doesn't matter if the project was delivered on time and on budget: it's a loss. And to avoid this and focus on expectations and benefits, schedule and budget become adjustable data.

How do you combine one with the other? With :

  • A good understanding of standards, methodologies and tools
  • A good vision of the main steps of project management
  • By knowing which method is adapted to which project
  • By developing your soft skills

Standards, methodologies and tools

By standards we mean what must be done, regardless of the project (e.g. pmbok is a standard).

The methodology is how it is done. They will differ according to the sector of activity or the environment, but we generally find the traditional one, in cascades, the agile one, in multiple iterations and the hybrid one, which will search in one and the other. Some companies use both methods together.

Tools: these are very much linked to the chosen method. You can use the great classics such as MS Excel, MS Project, Prima Vera, Jira, but we are seeing the emergence of cloud-based tools that are easy to use and deploy. Especially if the project is big, an Excel sheet will not be enough.

The main stages of project management

Initiation - the project charter: where we define why we are launching a project, what are the business objectives, the constraints to take into account, who are the actors involved...

The kick-off meeting is the moment when we give an overview of the project to the stakeholders: who is who, who does what, the project framework, the objectives, the schedule of deliverables, the possible issues and ways to anticipate them, the follow-up rules, encourage exchanges... everything to promote the ownership of the project by the team.

Planning: once the requirements have been identified, the scope of the project must be defined (what is to be produced, how it is to be done, what resources are required, how it is reflected in the budget, what quality standards are expected, what is the risk management, what is the communication plan associated with the project, etc.) in order to set up the project plan

Execution: tracking and controlling the deliverables, where do we stand? While using (or developing) one's soft skills to motivate the team, keep it productive, provide good leadership, etc.

Closure: to have archives, reproduce successes and avoid making the same mistakes.

Which method for which project?

The so-called "traditional" method has the longest history, but agile is gaining more ground every day. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Hence the emergence of hybrid approaches to get the best of both worlds. This is never a guarantee of success, as there are many factors that can impact a project.

Traditional method

This method is also known as the cascade method, because it is sequential and the completion of one step conditions the implementation of the next. In this case :

  • the recovery of the requirements
  • their analysis
  • the design
  • the implementation
  • validation

It is particularly adapted to complex projects, or those with stakeholders with specific and immutable constraints, or that have their own deliverables, etc. Another characteristic of traditional management is that all requirements are equal and the optimal path to deliver them is sought.

The difficulty therefore lies in two aspects of the project:

Capturing requirements, which are sometimes poorly defined and can impact the project plan and the final outcome.
The equality of requirements can be unfavorable in case of premature closure of a project, if the most important ones have not been addressed.

To overcome these issues, agility was born. It allows to adapt to each iteration.

Agile Method

It is distinguished by the prioritization of requirements and by treating first those that bring the most value to the customer. In doing so, agility solves the first issue of the traditional method. It solves the second one, related to requirements, by proceeding by iterations: in other words, regular deliverables that leave room for adjustments.

This method is particularly adapted when it comes to internal development or continuous improvement. Agility favors productivity, modifications, flexibility of the backlog... we manage as we go along, so responsiveness is strong and deliverables are numerous.

This method has its own challenges: with lots of small deliverables, the project never seems to have a definitive end and the flexibility of the iterations can encourage you to revise the backlog priorities too often... and thus make the deadlines last and the budget explode. It is also less adapted when it comes to delivering a heavy project on a specific date.

The skills needed by any good project manager

Managing a project is not everything, it is above all necessary to manage the people who are affected by the project. That's why having a few soft skills can make all the difference between a harmonious and productive work climate and one that is tense and has trouble delivering.

Having influence, especially in matrix organizations is a real asset, when some of the players have other constraints/imperatives/bosses. Know how to negotiate, both with the team and with the stakeholders. Understand how the team works to maintain its productivity. Be able to manage conflicts. Identify motivational factors. Communicate easily at all levels, both verbally and non-verbally.

And the list could go on and on...

Project management and change management

Clients don't just want a deliverable, they want results, in terms of ROI and customer satisfaction. Therefore, it is also necessary to anticipate the post-project period. Are there things I should know as a project manager (or PM)? Are people resisting change? Are they preparing or resisting?

Change management is sort of like post-project anticipatory intelligence, so as to bring out the potential issues, to develop a response strategy and turn the situation around (turn grumpy people into ambassadors, not waiting for the project to be over before involving them).

It is a job in itself and becoming a change agent is a separate profile, which will work hand in hand with the project manager and/or the project office.

In conclusion

The purpose of a project is generally either to solve a problem or to take advantage of a new opportunity. This is true regardless of the sector of activity: manufacturing, marketing, business development... all have managers who must solve problems or take advantage of opportunities. So it's not just for I.T. (even though I.T. is a big fan).

To successfully complete the project requires both know-how and interpersonal skills. Clearly, the ideal PM must master the method adapted to his project, while having real human skills, because before managing a project, one manages individuals. This is why the success of a project depends on the motivation of those who are going to work on it or be impacted by its implementation, and therefore on a good change management strategy to anticipate resistance and encourage support.

To go further, see our training courses in :

Project Management

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