It’s well understood that any type of project will benefit from standard project management tools and techniques. Whether that project involves a single, co-located team or is a highly complex undertaking involving a range of teams in different disciplines. But for those new to the field or hoping to start developing a career as a project manager just where would you start?
Project management involves the planning of a range of tasks required to deliver an end=product such as a piece of software, a building or a bridge. Some end-products are less tangible like a new business process but for all project the tasks required need to be managed to deliver a successful outcome; that means monitoring and controlling the tasks and the associated budget, in particular managing any risks that could prevent a successful outcome.
A project can be initiated in any type of organisation, and indeed, any type of business area or department, for example, IT, Operations, Logistics, Finance, Legal, Product Development, Marketing etc.
The best way to start a career in project management is to attend a specialist PM training course. For example, one of the best introductory courses if you have never used formal project management techniques before is the APM Project Fundamentals Course. This will give you a good basic understanding of project methods and tools and start you on the road to developing the PM skills and behaviours you will require. You will also gain an internationally recognised professional qualification along with highly practical skills to use in the real working environment and from which to kick start your career as a project manager. Take a look at this video overview of the distance learning APM Project Fundamentals Course:
So what exactly do you need to know to manage a project effectively? Listed below are the fundamental stages of managing any project; each of these may contain many sub-stages, particularly for more complex projects:
- Defining the business case so you can demonstrate a genuine need and predicted benefits from completing the project.
- Establishing the scope so everyone involved understands what work is, and is not, included in the project. This is typically documented in a Business Requirements Document which, depending on the organisation and size and complexity of a project, may be the responsibility of the project manager or of a specialist business analyst.
- Drawing up a plan for project delivery including details about the various tasks required to complete the project, the people, costs and equipment involved, time estimates, dependencies, milestones and the overall timescales. In complex projects several tasks will be performed in parallel to maximise the available time. This is likely to involve learning about project management techniques such as Critical Path Analysis and Gantt Charts.
- Identifying and managing risks in order to minimise the effect of any risks occurring.
- Monitoring and tracking project progress to be able to provide accurate status reports to the stakeholders i.e. those with a vested interest in the project.
- Controlling changes to schedule and documented tasks to avoid time and cost over-runs. Notifying stakeholders of project progress at regular intervals and gaining their approval for any changes that significantly effect the timescale, costs or features of the end-product.
In order to stat to work effectively as a project manager you also need to be familiar with the terminology and language typically used in a project management environment. Training courses such as the APM Project Fundamentals Course will also help you personally understand how project management can enhance your effectiveness in your organisation and how to articulate that to your superiors.