A Beginner's Guide to the Project Management Process – The Motley Fool

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by Nicholas Morpus | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 – First published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
Project management is about planning, execution, and reevaluation. It’s a cyclical process that rewards those who make informed decisions on the fly, and with the right plan, any project can succeed. All it takes is understanding the project management steps from start to finish.
I’ve put together a detailed five-step blueprint for executing the project management process, complete with tips and suggestions. You can expand on the steps here, or repeat them as many times as is necessary, but the core structure should always remain the same.
This is one of the project management basics every professional should know before executing any new assignment. Follow these steps and tips to ensure a successful project delivery every time.
This is the kickoff phase of the project life cycle where you establish a business need or receive a new request from a client. You first need to analyze this new business need or client request in order to determine feasibility and value.
Otherwise, you’ll spend your time executing a project that wastes your time, wastes your money, or damages your reputation when the project isn’t delivered as promised.
What initiation and conception looks like:
The initiation phase is the best opportunity you’ll have during the entire project to reconsider your commitment without costing your business any major time or resources, so be thorough in your evaluation.
Fantastic! You’ve decided your project is feasible and beneficial to you and your stakeholders, and now it’s time to construct a project management plan. These are the five steps for creating a thorough project plan.
What planning and ideation looks like:
Your project plan is your blueprint for success, so don’t be afraid to revisit steps in the planning process in order to ensure that you present a quality final draft to your stakeholders.
This is the project management phase we’ve all been waiting for. The execution step is the meat and potatoes of your project management process, so it’s time to put your team on the grind, avoid your anticipated pitfalls, and churn out deliverables to your stakeholders.
What project launch and execution looks like:
Flexibility is key during this phase of the project. Prepare yourself for numerous changes to the project, including new tasks and goals. As a word of caution, don’t forget to keep your stakeholders in the loop about any changes you make to the project timeline or deliverables.
Remember the KPIs (key performance indicators) I mentioned in the planning phase? This is where they’ll come in handy!
It’s time to monitor and measure the performance of your team against the goals you set during the planning phase.
A few KPIs you can track:
Congratulations! You’re finished with your project, and you’ve delivered what you promised to the project stakeholders. However, before you get too excited, there are a few last steps you need to take.
What closure and presentation looks like:
That’s it! You’ve completed the project management process, and if everything went according to your plan, with your tasks and deliverables completed on time, you have every reason to celebrate!
Sometimes we need a little extra help to complete a project. I’ve put together three key tips that’ll help you complete the steps above and make it through the project management process unscathed.
You can manage a project, or you can manage a project efficiently. Project management software helps you organize your tasks, manage deadlines, improve team communication, and track your project resources all in one centralized system.
Spend more time with your team and facilitating the success of your project rather than dealing with mundane details with the use of a quality project management tool.
Pro tip: Don’t go it alone when selecting a project management software. Enlist our help at The Ascent to help you make a decision about which tool is right for you and your team with our project management software reviews, comparisons, and rankings.
Communication between you and your team can make or break a project. Project management software can help turn your team communication from good to great, but it can’t fix any foundational issues.
Open the dialogue early on, and make honest communication a key pillar of working on your team. Otherwise, you’ll soon find your team missing more deadlines than making them.
Pro tip: Weekly or bi-weekly meetings are the perfect opportunity to encourage communication between teammates, especially if they are coming to you with deadline or quality-control issues. Use these failings to highlight the importance of team communication.
Sometimes plans change, and you have to take on new tasks in order to meet the needs of your stakeholders. This means it’s important to keep an eye on the scope of your project in order to avoid scope creep.
If you aren’t careful, these new tasks can blow your project well beyond the buffer zones you’ve scheduled into your deadlines.
Pro tip: This is where communication with stakeholders is critical. If scope creep is unavoidable, make sure you always alert your stakeholders if it turns out these new tasks will eat into your scheduling buffers. Never keep your stakeholders in the dark if it looks like you’re going to fall behind on deadlines.
There are circumstances when software is required, and other times, you can pass on it.
You have everything you need: a project, a team, and a plan. All you need now is a quality tool to help you execute your project efficiently.
Here are four instances when project management software will benefit you and your team.
Project management software isn’t for everybody. In most cases, it is a fantastic tool to help improve the efficiency of your project management process, but it isn’t a foundational fix-all.
Here are a few instances when you might reconsider using project management software.
Now that you have a roadmap for the project management process, we at The Ascent can help you select the right software for your team.
I’ve reviewed some of the most popular project management software platforms currently on the market, including:
Whether you’re new to project management software or you’re operating on years of experience, our reviews on The Ascent will help you make the right choice for you and your team.
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Nicholas Morpus is the product management software expert for The Ascent, with experience working in the B2B space.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
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