Project Management All-in-One For Dummies
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Successful organizations create projects that produce desired results in established time frames with assigned resources. As a result, businesses are increasingly driven to find project managers who can excel in this type of work environment. To get started in project management, you should understand the phases of a project’s life cycle, processes involved in project management, and the basic tasks you’re expected to perform.

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The 4 phases of a project’s life cycle

A project’s life cycle is the series of phases that the project passes through as it goes from its start to its completion. A phase is a collection of logically related project activities that culminates in the completion of one or more project deliverables. Every project, whether large or small, passes through the following four project life-cycle phases:

  • Starting the project: This phase involves generating, evaluating, and framing the business need for the project and the general approach to performing it and agreeing to prepare a detailed project plan. Outputs from this phase may include approval to proceed to the next phase, documentation of the need for the project and rough estimates of time and resources to perform it (often included in a project charter), and an initial list of people who may be interested in, involved with, or affected by the project.
  • Organizing and preparing: This phase involves developing a plan that specifies the desired results; the work to do; the time, cost, and other resources required; and a plan for how to address key project risks. Outputs from this phase may include a project plan that documents the intended project results and the time, resources, and supporting processes needed to create them.
  • Carrying out the work: This phase involves establishing the project team and the project support systems, performing the planned work, and monitoring and controlling performance to ensure adherence to the current plan. Outputs from this phase may include project results, project progress reports, and other communications.
  • Closing the project: This phase involves assessing the project results, obtaining customer approvals, transitioning project team members to new assignments, closing financial accounts, and conducting a post-project evaluation. Outputs from this phase may include final, accepted, and approved project results and recommendations and suggestions for applying lessons learned from this project to similar efforts in the future.

For small projects, this entire life cycle can take just a few days. For larger projects, it can take many years! In fact, to allow for greater focus on key aspects and to make it easier to monitor and control the work, project managers often subdivide larger projects into separate phases, each of which is treated as a mini-project and passes through these four life-cycle phases. No matter how simple or complex the project is, however, these four phases are the same.

The 5 processes of project management

Project management is the process of guiding a project from its beginning through its performance to its closure. Project management includes five sets of processes:

  • Initiating processes: Clarifying the business need, defining high-level expectations and resource budgets, and beginning to identify audiences that may play a role in your project
  • Planning processes: Detailing the project scope, time frames, resources, and risks, as well as intended approaches to project communications, quality, and management of external purchases of goods and services
  • Executing processes: Establishing and managing the project team, communicating with and managing project audiences, and implementing the project plans
  • Monitoring and controlling processes: Tracking performance and taking actions necessary to help ensure project plans are successfully implemented and the desired results are achieved
  • Closing processes: Ending all project activity

These five process groups help support the project through the four phases of its life cycle. Initiating processes support the work to be done when starting the project, and planning processes support the organizing and preparing phase. Executing processes guide the project tasks performed when carrying out the work, and closing processes are used to perform the tasks that bring the project to an end.

Successfully performing these processes requires the following:

  • Information: Accurate, timely, and complete data for the planning, performance monitoring, and final assessment of the project
  • Communication: Clear, open, and timely sharing of information with appropriate individuals and groups throughout the project’s duration
  • Commitment: Team members’ personal promises to produce the agreed-upon results on time and within budget

Project manager’s jobs

Historically, the performance rules in traditional organizations were simple: Your boss made assignments; you carried them out. Questioning your assignments was a sign of insubordination or incompetence.

But these rules have changed. Today your boss may generate ideas, but you assess how to implement them. You confirm that a project meets your boss’s (and your organization’s) real need and then determine the work, schedules, and resources you require to implement it.

Handling a project any other way simply doesn’t make sense. The project manager must be involved in developing the plans because she needs the opportunity to clarify expectations and proposed approaches and then to raise any questions she may have before the project work begins.

The key to project success is being proactive. Instead of waiting for others to tell you what to do, you’re in charge of the following:

  • Seek out information because you know you need it.
  • Follow the plan because you believe it’s the best way.
  • Involve people whom you know are important for the project.
  • Identify issues and risks, analyze them, and elicit support to address them.
  • Share information with the people you know need to have it.
  • Put all important information in writing.
  • Ask questions and encourage other people to do the same.
  • Commit to your project’s success.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Jonathan L. Portny, MBA, PMP®, has more than 15 years of experience in the field of project management and is a certified Project Management Professional. His father, Stanley E. Portny, PMP®, was an internationally recognized expert in project management and the author of all previous editions of Project Management for Dummies.

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