The basic building blocks of every project ever devised in the history of business can be boiled down to a few basic steps. Yes, just five steps make up the whole of project management. Yet, at the same time, it’s a difficult discipline to get right. Most managers spend years trying to master it.
In fact, at least one organization, Simplilearn, created an entire training program around project management and related skills. That’s how crucial it is. So, before you jump into your next project or decide on a new career path, here’s what you’re getting yourself into.
Before a project gets off the ground, it has to be named and defined at a broad level. During the project initiation phase, sponsors and other shareholders research the project to make sure it’s viable. If it is, a project is considered. If it’s not, then the project is scrapped.
This is an important phase, because it helps everyone involved determine what the risks of a project are, the costs, and the potential benefits or payouts. It’s not always clear what the impact of a project will be before money is laid on the table. Often, once a quantitative analysis is done, a firm decision can be made.
Project planning is where the management team firms up the cost of the project. This is also where the project development team determines the scope of the project, the quality of it, the time involved in developing and distributing it, the risks, the resources involved in funding it, and even milestones to track progress.
This is a crucially important phase because it’s what determines the feasibility of a project and how to measure its success. Even when the project initiation is completed, it’s not always clear how much the project will cost over the long-term. The planning phase helps determine that.
Risk management planning is also completed at this time, and that helps manage the risk involved with a new project that’s virtually untested in the marketplace.
The execution phase of a project is where the rubber meets the road. This is essentially where all of the planning is set into motion. A lot of project management tasks are developed during this phase, and the project is monitored throughout its life.
Milestones are checked periodically to make sure the project is on-schedule. Project management updates, status reports, and human resources development and performance reports are also generated to confirm efficacy of tasks and the overall project.
Project Monitoring and Control
Project monitoring and control is the phase that deals mostly with the measuring and control of the project performance. Scope verification is done to control and check for “scope creep” – a phenomenon where the scope of a project can be unintentionally enlarged due to cost overruns or expansion of the project as a result of ancillary factors arising during the execution phase.
During this phase, it’s particularly important for a project manager to keep tabs on the project and make sure that there are processes and protocols in place to move the project back on track or restrict its scope if it seems obvious that the budget will be overrun or that the project is moving in the wrong direction.
Without this phase, a company can easily get sidetracked, customers can become backlogged, deadlines missed, and projects lost. Many businesses struggle with this phase, since it’s easy for a project to expand beyond its original scope – especially when the customer makes further demands on a project plan after the execution has started.
Project closure is probably the most important part of the project, aside from actual execution. This is where completion happens, is verified, and delivery takes place, if applicable.
Reward and recognition happens during this phase also. Team members who have been exceptional in their performance are given praise, and the customer is allowed to see the final project.
This may also be where final payment is accepted, the account is closed out, the invoice is paid, or where credit is extended to the customer for final payment.
When a project is moved off the books, an important accounting measure takes place, especially for tax purposes. Businesses often account for projects on an accrual basis, since the contract promises payment for the project, even when the cash is not in the company’s bank account.
With credit transactions, where a loan is used to pay for the project, the business finally gets to reconcile this on the books, accept payment, and officially announce the project as completed.
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