Project management is a term often thrown around in business, but what is it really? Sounds simple, but people often confuse the process with the project, so let's start there.
What is Project Management?
All organizations are made up of processes and projects. Processes are how you get work done on the day-to-day repetitive basis — those activities that you do to keep the organization operational. Projects are short-term efforts you do to meet the organization's strategic objectives. They are how organizations implement changes. Examples of why organizations pursue projects include improving day-to-day operational processes, such as upgrading the accounting system; getting a new product or service to market; and meeting a government compliance requirement.
A systematic approach to managing projects.
A way to generate consistent results when you undertake new initiatives.
A powerful business tool that can transform your business.
The problem in most companies is that there is no set process to do projects effectively and efficiently. From lost time to inconsistency, no process for managing projects means poor performance. Project management has the power to transform your business by building a process, tracking performance and helping you to build true best practices that work for you.
You can use project management throughout your organization to boost personal and collaborative productivity and ultimately show a significant return on investment. The key to successful project management is to build a standardized system for doing project management that embeds best practices into how you manage your projects.
Defining a Project
A project is any activity in an organization that has a distinct deliverable and a clear beginning and ending. When you follow a process to do your projects, you achieve greater performance. Project management methods are easy to learn and can be applied with simple processes, web-based templates and office automation tools.
All projects have five distinct phases:
At any point in time, organizations have more projects than they have resources to do them. During initiation, organizations have to prioritize the projects they will pursue, who will sponsor the projects and who will staff the projects.
Once an organization decides to pursue a project, the project manager and the project team develop the plans to create the final deliverables.
This is where the project team does the work to crate the final deliverables of the project. It is the largest part of most projects and it goes far better if adequate time was taken to properly plan the work of the project.
This phase is done in coordinate with execution to ensure the project is progressing as planned, to account for any changes and to make mid-course corrections to keep the project on schedule and in budget.
During this phase, the final deliverable is accepted by the customer of the project and the project team documents what they learned that can be of value on their next project.
ROI: Project Management's Impact on the Bottom Line
Project Management impacts the bottom line. In their CHAOS Report, the Standish Group conservatively estimates that 20 percent of money spent on projects is wasted because companies don't have a consistent approach to project management. Think of the value you can recapture in your organization!
Michelle LaBrosse is an expert on project management and the founder and Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning, a training organization that specializes in project management and professional development. For more information, go to www.cheetahlearning.com