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Project Management: What It Is and Its Five Stages

Managing a project is not an easy task. A project manager must be able to think through the details of a project well, starting from handling changing client requests, managing a predetermined budget, to delivering products according to the agreed deadline.

An experienced project manager will break the project management flow into several phases to manage this. This way, project details will be more organized, and project managers can take a series of logical steps when managing them.

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What is Project Management?

Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve certain project objectives according to agreed criteria or parameters. Good project management must utilize the team and available resources to complete the project with a predetermined time limit, cost, and scope.

Please note that the project management objectives will be determined by the clients or stakeholders in a company. Meanwhile, the project manager will be responsible for planning the allocation of resources, tasks, etc., so that the final results can meet the needs or requirements desired by the stakeholders. 

In making the plan, the project manager will pay attention to the concept of Triple Constraints. The concept explains that project quality is limited by three main aspects, which are: scope, schedule/time, and cost/budget.

Project Management Methodologies

Based on the type of business industry, objectives, and stakeholder needs, the project manager will also manage five stages of project management with the project management methodology to achieve maximum results. Some of the popular methodologies that are often used are:

Agile

This methodology is often used in project management for software development. When using Agile, the team will work in sprints, in which the sequence of work is incremental (a process that develops little by little) and iterative (repeated). 

Waterfall

The waterfall is sequential linear project management. This methodology consists of several phases. In this methodology, the next phase cannot be started if the previous phase has not been completed.

Scrum

Scrum is also widely used for software development projects. This methodology uses short sprints to manage projects. Scrum is suitable for teams of no more than 10 people.

5 Stages of Project Management

Based on the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the project management cycle includes five phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and project closure. The project manager will use the project management methodology to manage these five stages to achieve maximum results. The following are the five stages of project management. 

1. Project Initiation

The first stage of project management is the initiation phase, where you have to prove that the project has value and is feasible to run. This stage will usually begin with creating a business case document containing an explanation of project needs and an estimate of potential financial benefits. 

To create the document, the project manager will collect various information, including project benefits, disadvantages, costs, and risks. Thus, the project can be assessed whether it is feasible to run within a reasonable and normal time and cost.

If the project gets the "green light," then the project manager needs to create a project charter or Project Initiation Document (PID) outlining the project objectives and requirements. The document must also contain information on business and stakeholder needs, as well as a business case.

2. Project Planning

After the project is approved for execution, the second stage of project management is project planning. This phase can be said to be the key to successful project management and focuses on developing a roadmap for all team members to follow.

Project planning can be started by determining the business goals to be achieved. One popular method often used to determine business goals is the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. This method can help you determine your business goals to fit the 5 criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound). Thus, you can make goals specific and possible to achieve.

The scope, cost, available resources, and project schedule will be determined at this stage. In addition, the roles and responsibilities of each team member will also be clearly defined so that everyone involved will know their respective responsibilities.

At this stage, the project manager will prepare several documents to ensure the project continues to run well according to the plan, such as:

  • Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS): a diagram that breaks down the project scope into sections for the team to manage.
  • Gantt Chart: a chart that provides a visual view of a task's schedule over time.
  • Scope Statement: a document that defines business requirements, project benefits, objectives, measurable end results, and other key points.

3. Project Execution

The next stage of project management is project execution, where the products managed in the project will be developed and completed. During this stage, the project manager will reallocate the resources needed to keep the team working.

Some people believe that this stage is the core of the project because a lot of activities and work are done during the execution stage. Some of them include carrying out project management plans, assigning tasks to be carried out, updating project schedules, changing project plans as needed, managing available budgets, and many more.

Broadly speaking, several things need to be done at this execution stage, including:

  • Task management
  • Schedule management
  • Cost or budget management
  • Quality management

In addition, at this stage, good communication with stakeholders is an important part that needs to be done. Therefore, the team will hold regular meetings with stakeholders to avoid misunderstandings and better adjust the work process to get the results as expected.

4. Project Monitoring

Project monitoring refers to monitoring project progress and performance to ensure that all activities that occur are in line with the project management plan that has been made. With this monitoring process, when a deviation occurs, you can immediately find out and fix it.

A project manager will usually use Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to see if the project is progressing as planned.

Project managers will usually monitor several aspects to measure ongoing project performance, such as:

  • Project scope
  • Budget distribution
  • Project schedule and deadline
  • The quality of the developed product, and so on.

Broadly speaking, the main purpose of this stage is to control and ensure that the ongoing project does not go off track or plan.  

5. Project Closure

The last stage of project management is project closure. At this stage, the final results will be presented to the client or stakeholders. Once the product or final result is approved, the product will be released, and the project manager will review and complete the required documents. Project managers can archive project documentation for further use, for example, in other projects or other needs.

To end the project, the project manager needs to get confirmation from all parties, be it stakeholders, clients, or even the team. This way, there are no more last-minute change requests. The project manager will also officially release the resources used in working on the project, be it team members, external contractors, or others.

After the contract expires, the project manager and team can conduct a Post-Mortem to evaluate what went well and identify failures in the project's implementation. This is necessary so that the team can make improvements for other projects in the future.

Conclusion

Professional project managers must have a good understanding and ability to manage the above stages of project management. In addition, the project manager must also be skilled in motivating the team, planning and monitoring the project's progress, and have good communication skills with stakeholders. With this capability, the managed project can run well and provide a successful end result.

Harby Jay | Author

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