Project management is an essential part of any business as projects can have high value, high cost, and tangible benefits. If a project is poorly managed by inexperienced managers, it can result in a huge waste of resources which could impact the business in many ways. So it’s essential that projects are undertaken by trained, designated project managers.
Project management is the management, control, and reporting of the processes and product(s) that comprise a specific piece of work; all to an agreed time, quality and cost.
Effective and successful project management requires a specific set of skills, knowledge, and behaviours; which are learnt and developed via a combination of training and experience.
What is a project manager?
Before a project starts the project manager first needs to ask a few key questions to get an understanding of the project’s requirements:
- What: the aims, objectives, and products of the project
- Why: the benefits of the project – and the risks if the project didn’t proceed
- How: methods and sources of materials, products etc
- Who: stakeholders, managers, support and suppliers
- When: timescales for achieving milestones and ultimate completion
With this information; the project manager can begin to plan the most efficient use of resources to achieve the project’s goals.
The 5Ps of project management
There is a wide range of models and tactics to manage a project, however as a basis the project manager will use the 5Ps to manage the project.
- Products: what is being produced by the project
- Plans: ensuring the schedule matches the deadlines, milestones
- People: who will be doing what, when and how – stakeholders, suppliers and team
- Processes: communication, governance and quality controls
- Problems: risks and issues that have, and can arise
The key to successful project management is using the 5Ps; which ensure the delivery of a project timely through use of specific communication. A successful project manager will be able to pull together all the 5Ps through effective, timely and specific communication; pitched at the right level and using the most appropriate channels.
Effective project management can be facilitated by application of an agreed methodology; be they internally developed and bespoke to the organisation, or proprietary methodologies tailored to the project scope, organisation and as agreed prior to project initiation. A project methodology will provide a project manager and stakeholders with a framework of processes, a lexicon of defined terminology and a shared vision of how the project is to be managed, including roles and responsibilities.
However, this is all strongly tied to effective communication. If communication isn’t transparent, timely and targeted; there is a real danger of having an incohesive team; working in silos: without guidance, controls and involvement.
What makes a good project manager?
A project manager can be permanently assigned to a project department, or drafted in to manage a specific project – either from within an organisation or via a consultancy service. The ideal choice for a project manager is someone who is:
- Ready: an individual the business can free up to undertake a specific project; be they part of a project management team or an individual with a vested interest in the project who can be freed of their daily work
- Willing: someone who has expressed an interest in the project and may have requested professional development in the field of project management
- Able: a strong communicator with the requisite level of diplomacy, drive and development
However, to succeed, a project manager will need to possess or develop the skills and knowledge and behaviours required of a project manager.
It cannot be stressed enough that there is a great difference between a figurehead with the title project manager and a well-rounded and fully developed project manager; displaying all the necessary traits to successfully deliver.
When does a project manager get involved?
A designated project manager should be involved in the project once the initial business case for the project has been generated; that they may seamlessly take control, employ their project management knowledge, skills and behaviours from the inception. As a seasoned project manager, there is nothing worse than being co-opted into an initiated project, part way through and with little in the way of controls, plans, or people in place.
To summarise a project manager
The traits of a good project manager are more than just being organised. It’s a mixture of the following:
- Good understanding of project requirements: Without the requisite detail; the project team will not have the full picture and shared goals to plan and manage the project effectively
- Effective planning: proper planning prevents poor performance. This must be facilitated by everyone involved with the plan and through their roles in the project
- Good communication: A good project manager will provide timely, transparent and targeted communication; to keep all parties informed and involved
- People management – including negotiation and delegation: The role of the project manager is to effectively delegate tasks, check completion and chase for the required response – often from senior management and customers not normally within the project manager’s direct sphere of influence.
Our project management apprenticeships are a great solution for employers looking to find a budding project manager or upskill a current employee.