project-management-guide

What is Project Management and How to Become a Successful PM

Do you like to keep things in order? Are you prompt with your e-mail responses? Are you great at maintaining trackers? If you answered yes to all of the above, you have the potential for a career in project management! Needless to say, project management roles are very challenging. But, the good news is that they are also becoming equally rewarding. About 89% organizations now have at least one project management office (PMO), and 50% have more than one. This goes to show that project management is considered a valuable skill within organizations. 

If you want to become an effective project manager, you need the skills, the right attitude, relevant experience, and/or certifications. Before we get into possible career paths for project management, let’s explore what project management is.

What is Project Management?

Project management involves the planning and organization of a company’s resources to move a specific task, event, or duty towards completion. It can involve a one-time project or an ongoing activity, and resources managed include personnel, finances, technology, and intellectual property.

Source: Investopedia

In other words, it is a role that requires you to handle both people and processes as well as everything in between. However, no definition can actually do justice to the vast number of functions in a project manager’s role. Starting from following up on work to troubleshooting technical issues, a project manager has to wear many hats. Which explains why project management roles are highly valued across industries. 

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What Are the 5 Stages of Project Management?

Project management is a process. And minor differences notwithstanding, this process can be categorized into five broad stages:

1. Project Initiation

A project never begins on its own. It has to be initiated and before that happens, the pros and cons of the project have to be thoroughly analyzed. In this phase, the project’s relevance or what is called its ‘business case’ is reviewed, discussed, and altered. 

2. Project Planning

Once a project is initiated, the work involved has to be planned. At the planning stage, the project is studied in terms of scope and broken up into phases so that it can lead to the target. In this stage, the work is distributed, the cadence of reporting is decided, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are set for the project. 

3. Project Executing

After the brief for the plan is approved, the project is set in motion. This is when resource and work allocation happens. At this stage, the team is expected to start hitting periodic milestones. 

4. Project Monitoring and Controlling

While the project is being executed, there needs to be a handle on the quality of the work that is being done. Thus, the phase of monitoring and controlling runs in tandem with the execution of the project. Also, projects usually involve several people across teams and external stakeholders as well. Thus, communication is key to the smooth running of the project. This phase opens up such channels of communication with a reporting structure and scrum meetings that allow everyone to share updates on a common forum. 

5. Project Closing

The closure of a project happens when the work you set out to do is done and the target is achieved. At the closing stage, there is an analysis of whether the project was successful or not, were the goals met, and was it profitable for the organization to undertake this project. Performance of individuals is also analyzed at stage.

What Does the Role of a Project Manager Involve?

what does a business analyst doNow that we have looked at the process of project management in detail, where does the project manager fit in? Imagine a scenario where the team members in a project are all moving parts of a machine that have specific functions. In this case, the project manager is the lever that coordinates all these moving parts so that the machine can run smoothly.

The role of a project manager is unique because you will spot its absence more than you notice its presence. It is not hard to tell if a project is being mismanaged but if a project manager does the job efficiently, it is business as usual. 

Naturally, the skills needed for a project manager to be effective are a fine mix of hard and soft skills. If we were to breakdown this complicated role of a project manager into functions, here’s what it would look like:

1. Setting of Cadence and Goals

Goal setting is an essential part of being a project manager as it gives the team a direction to work towards. Also, a project manager is expected to set the cadence of meetings, reporting, and troubleshooting within the team. 

Skills Needed: Strategy and time management

2. Communication and Reporting

Project managers are also expected to facilitate communication within the team and in between different teams working on the same project. They essentially act as a bridge between different people in the team as well as the team and the higher management. 

Skills Needed: People management and good communication

3. Cost Control and Budgeting

All projects have a projected cost and allocated budget. It is the responsibility of project managers to ensure that the cost of the project does not overshoot the budget. In case it seems like the projected cost is unrealistic, the project manager has to flag it to higher-ups. 

Skills Needed: Financial management

4. Resource and Task Allocation

Nothing is ever set in stone during the progress of a project. Resources and tasks may have to be shuffled in order to get the best results. It falls on the project managers to allocate work and resources in an optimum way to achieve goals.

Skills Needed: Strategy and Leadership

5. Team Building and Hiring (if necessary)

A team is so much more than a group of individuals working together. The vibe within a team is very important for everyone to be the version of themselves when they come to work. And this ‘vibe’ comes top-down from the project managers who can inspire loyalty and motivate people to work together instead of against each other. Also, the project manager might need to hire new resources or replace resources that have left the organization. For this, he/she needs a good understanding of what the team needs and which of the candidates is a best fit for the team. 

Skills Needed: People management and leadership 

6. Reporting Progress to Stakeholders

It is not enough to manage a project successfully; you must also make a case for your team with the top management. Project managers often find themselves responsible for reporting the progress or successes/failures of the project to all stakeholders in the organization and even outside. In short, they are the face of the team and stand for its credibility. 

Skills Needed: Communication and executive presence

How to Become a Project Manager?

The path to becoming a project manager can be unique to every individual. However, two of these paths are well-trodden and hence, we will discuss these in more detail below.

1. Growing on the Job

The fast path is to learn on the job and grow within the company(ies) to become a project manager. This path relies heavily on seniority in terms of number of years of experience and also proving yourself as a good leader in the organization.

2. Continuous Learning

The second path is the path of professional learning that allows you to acquire the skills you need to become a project manager. As a manager or leader, you can never stop learning. You can explore online courses for project management on Emeritus. But over and above these courses, leadership is a commitment to lifelong learning. 

Looking for more information on how to become a project manager? Our ultimate 2022 guide will have all of the answers you’re looking for.

By Anwesha Barari

For content collaborations and feedback, write to us at content@emeritus.org

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