Project management — benefits, methods, and more
Every project is different, but each one has a beginning, an end, and a team that needs to deliver the work on time — at or below budget — while meeting stakeholder expectations.
Making that happen is project management. And, when done well, it drives collaboration, ensures an efficient project, and delivers measurable outcomes.
This guide will discuss everything needed to launch or optimize your business’s project management.
- What is project management?
- The importance of project management
- The core components of project management
- Five phases of project management
- Types of project management
- Tips for building a strong project management team
- Additional project management tips and examples
What is project management?
Project management (PM) is a process or framework for leading a team through the successful completion of a project, on time and within budget. A project is any set of related tasks, deliverables, and activities that collectively accomplish a single goal. Project roles include a project manager, team members, internal and external stakeholders, and clients. Most project managers use specialized PM software to help visualize timelines, organize tasks, align teams, and report on progress.
The importance of project management
Project management strategies and practices are used in blue collar environments such as construction as well as office settings for operations or marketing projects.
According to a report by Wellingtone, 89% of organizations have at least one project management office. It’s easy to understand why — 40% of respondents said they mostly or always deliver the full benefits of their projects.
Project management helps produce great results
tofor your internal teams, clients, and projects. Here are a few ways it helps:
- Efficiency. Project management helps teams stay on track. By making sure projects are running smoothly, teams can focus their efforts on the product instead of the process.
- Improved growth and development. Managing a project while also working on it can be difficult. Project management gives teams space to concentrate on their work and tackle new challenges. This improves the employee experience, helps staff grow their skills and career, and ultimately reduces employee churn.
- Higher output. Project management frees up resources by allowing teams to concentrate on their work rather than the logistics of the project. Teams can then use that time to produce more work.
- Better deliverables. Delivering projects on time and on budget makes for happy clients. And when your team is free to do their best work, clients get the best possible products.
- Simplified communication. Good project management keeps communication lines clear by routing everything through one person. The project manager becomes the liaison between internal teams and external stakeholders.
- Increased flexibility. Good planning helps you anticipate issues and deal with problems. Project management can account for expected and unexpected changes to keep the project running as smoothly as possible.
- Stronger organization. Outlining your project’s timelines, milestones, and budget mitigates scope creep and keeps teams and projects on track.
The core components of project management
Different aspects of a project need to be managed to ensure effective coordination and control over resources, timelines, stakeholders, risks, and deliverables. Although there is no universal list of project management components, there are a few that are crucial to focus on.
Scope managementbreaks the project down into milestones, tasks, and subtasks to create an actionable plan the team can use to complete the project on time and within budget. A work breakdown structure (WBS) and Gantt charts are helpful for scope management.
Time managementstarts with establishing a realistic timeline and guidelines for how it will be managed. Detail the process for monitoring the timeline and making any necessary changes.
Cost managementis about setting and monitoring the project’s budget. It starts as the project is being scoped and planned, and it accounts for all of the needed resources, including people, time, facilities, and any finances.
Quality managementis the project manager’s main responsibility while work is being done. The manager oversees all activities to ensure the project will meet client expectations while hitting internal budget and timeline goals.
Resource managementis the process of optimizing every resource at the manager’s disposal for the project. No amount of planning will ensure that nothing goes wrong during development, so the project manager is always ready to shift resources as needed.
Communication managementhelps keep everyone from team members to stakeholders aligned throughout the project. It requires establishing clear lines of communication, clarifying misunderstandings, and providing written documentation of what was discussed in meetings.
Risk management identifies possible challenges, how likely they are, and what the project manager will do if risks arise. Planning for possible difficulties removes pressure and empowers managers to make the best possible decision.
Procurement management encompasses planning, sourcing, and managing the procurement of goods and services required for the project, including contract negotiation and supplier management.
The five phases of project management
With those key components in mind, let’s turn to the project lifecycle itself. W hether it’s a two-week development sprint or a six-month rebrand, every project goes through the same lifecycle. That lifecycle creates a five-step process for strategic managers — initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing.
Project initiation is when the project manager captures the project vision, documents clear goals, and secures approvals from stakeholders. There are two common outputs during initiation — the project charter and the stakeholder register.
- The project charter details the project's purpose, objectives, stakeholders, risks, resources, and dependencies.
- A stakeholder register documents who is impacted by the project, their level of influence on the project, and how the project manager will communicate with them.
The project manager will also communicate with internal teams to scope their capabilities and organize all the details to show how they will lead the team to their goal.
Project execution is when the manager finally gets to set all the careful planning into motion. It’s exciting to see the roadmap move forward, but it’s crucial for the project manager to guide this phase carefully.
During project execution, the manager needs to think about team development, stakeholder engagement, quality management, and ongoing communication. This is also when resources and budget get allocated.
Monitoring and controlling
By the monitoring and controlling stage, the team should be well equipped with the resources and vision they need to complete the work. This is where the careful planning and execution begin to pay off, as work is completed and milestones are achieved.
But project management continues to vigilantly watch dates, spending, performance, and quality while the team checks off tasks. Project management software is especially helpful at this stage, because it can highlight upcoming due dates or budgets that have run over.
Good project management requires thoughtful and thorough project closing. It’s not enough to mark final tasks complete and move onto the next project. Closing a project might include:
- Officially delivering the project to stakeholders or the C-suite.
- A sunset or post-mortem meeting with the team to discuss successes and challenges.
- Archiving files related to the project so they’re not in the way during the next project.
- Celebrating and disbanding the team.
Types of project management
There are several methodologies within project management that create frameworks and offer guidelines for how to carry out different aspects of project management.
This is a linear approach to project management that breaks a project down into sequential phases. Each phase of a Waterfall project completes before the next begins, so the visualization of the project looks like a cascading waterfall.
This structure makes it easy to catch errors early and it locks down the scope of the project, avoiding scope creep and the delays that come with it.
Agile project management began with development teams, but the principles and practices are increasingly being used by business teams across the organization. Agile also breaks projects into smaller tasks, but these are completed in short iterations throughout the project life cycle. The rising popularity of Agile project management has created different subcategories, such as Scrum and Kanban.
Agile is popular because it makes efficient use of resources and helps teams stay flexible to challenges or changing client requirements.
This project management method has been adapted from Japanese lean manufacturing processes, Lean methodology focuses primarily on efficiency. It practices work on a cycle of continuous improvement to eliminate wasted resources — including intangibles like time and effort — and optimize productivity. Many of the principles of Lean are often used in conjunction with Agile methodologies.
Successful Lean management reduces overhead, improves teamwork and collaboration, enhances the employee experience, and drives greater ROI.
Kanban originated in lean manufacturing but has been widely adopted across various industries. It emphasizes visualizing and optimizing workflows to improve efficiency and productivity. In Kanban, work is represented as cards or “kanban” on a visual board, with columns representing different stages of the workflow.
The method focuses on limiting work in progress (WIP) to reduce bottlenecks and enhance flow. Continuous improvement is a fundamental principle, with teams regularly analyzing and refining their processes. Kanban promotes transparency, collaboration, and flexibility, making it a popular choice for teams seeking a lightweight and adaptable project management approach.
Scrum is an Agile project management method that emphasizes iterative and incremental development. It revolves around self-organizing, cross-functional teams that work in short iterations called “sprints.” At the start of each sprint, a prioritized backlog of user stories and tasks is created, and the team commits to completing a subset of those items. Daily stand-up meetings are conducted to facilitate communication and address any obstacles or dependencies.
The product owner is responsible for representing the stakeholders and maintaining the product backlog, while the scrum master facilitates the team's adherence to scrum principles. The method promotes adaptability, transparency, and collaboration, with regular reviews and retrospectives to continuously improve the product and the team's processes.
Six sigma project management was adopted from manufacturing for the purpose of continuous improvement. It uses statistical modeling to reduce errors in repeated processes.
Six sigma is often confused with Lean, which focuses on eliminating waste while six sigma focuses on reducing errors. The two work so well together that many companies have adopted a combined process known as Lean six sigma.
The Critical Path method is a management strategy for scheduling a project. The process calls for identifying every task, determining the time it will take to complete each, and outlining dependencies. Independent tasks can be overlapped, but the longest chain of dependent tasks becomes the “critical path” and determines much of the timeline.
The Critical Path method is ideal for planning project timelines because it helps identify potential bottlenecks, schedule efficient use of resources, generate a realistic timeline, and more.
Tips for building a strong project management team
Having a strong management team is crucial for project success, as it provides guidance, direction, and oversight.
To build a project team with good communication, you’ll need to focus on a few key points:
- Planned or regular meetings
- The level of formality in meetings
- Whether meetings will be held in person, virtually, or both
- How the team will share and collaborate on documents
- Where documents will be stored and how versions will be controlled
- Workflows for decisions and approval
With your communications in place, you’ll be set to build the team. Here are key steps to take:
- Recruit talent across departments. This brings diverse perspectives, expertise, and knowledge to the team, enabling a more holistic approach to problem-solving and decision-making.
- Choose a project manager wisely and define responsibilities accurately. Your project manager plays a critical role in driving project success and ensuring effective leadership, communication, coordination, and accountability throughout the project lifecycle.
- Set an “all hands on deck” expectation. You’ll foster a collaborative and engaged environment where all team members actively contribute their skills and efforts towards project success, leading to increased efficiency, productivity, and a shared sense of ownership.
Manage projects and deliver measurable results
Project management is a unique discipline that can be valuable to any organization. When projects are planned well and managed closely, your team works more efficiently, and clients get better products.
When you’re ready to improve project management at your organization, the first step is to find a project manager. There might be an existing team member who naturally steps up to lead project teams or who has many of the required skills. If not, it might be time to consider hiring.
A good project manager will need the best software — and that’s where Adobe Workfront comes in. With centralized intake, visibility into work in progress, templates, and automated workflows that standardize best practices, you can boost capacity and deliver great work at scale.