Understanding project management processes (book excerpt)

Applies to
Microsoft Office Project 2003
Book cover This article was excerpted from Microsoft® Office Project 2003 Inside Out by Teresa S. Stover. Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book. View other articles written by Teresa Stover.

In this article

Project management processes

Planning the project

Executing the project

Controlling the project

Closing the project

Project management processes

It might seem daunting when you realize that, as a project manager you are responsible for such a tremendous balancing act. However, this responsibility can be broken down into four manageable processes.

They include:

  1. Initiating and planning the project:
    • Examine the big picture.
    • Identify the project's milestones, deliverables, and tasks.
    • Develop and refine the project schedule.
    • Identify skills, equipment, and materials needed.
  2. Executing the project:
    • Have assigned resources execute the project.
    • Save a baseline plan for comparison.
    • Track progress on tasks.
  3. Controlling the project:
    • Analyze project information.
    • Communicate and report.
  4. Closing the project:
    • Identify lessons learned.
    • Create a project template.

Planning the project

You are ready to begin the planning process after an authoritative stakeholder has decided to implement a project with you as the project manager. The outcome of this planning process will be a workable project plan and a team ready to start working the project. When you start planning the project, do the following:

  • Look at the big picture     Before you get too far into the nuts and bolts of planning, you need a comprehensive vision of where you are going with your project. You shape this vision by first identifying the project goals and objectives. This practice helps you set the scope of the project. You learn the expectations, limitations, and assumptions for this project, and they all go into the mix. You also identify possible risks and contingency plans for the project.
  • Identify the project's milestones, deliverables, and tasks     Subdivide the project into its component tasks and then organize and sequence the tasks to accurately reflect the project scope.
  • Develop and refine the project schedule     To turn the task list into a workable project schedule, specify task durations and relate tasks to each other. You can create task dependencies, that is, a model of how the start of one task depends on the completion of another task, for example. If you have any specific dates for deliverables, you can enter them as deadlines, or if really necessary, task constraints. At that point, Microsoft Project can start to calculate a realistic schedule for tasks in particular and the project as a whole. With this plan, you can accurately forecast the scope, schedule, and budget for the project. You can also determine which resources are needed, how many, and at what time.
  • Identify skills, equipment, and materials needed     After the tasks are identified, you can determine the skills, equipment, and materials needed to carry out the work for those tasks. You obtain the needed resources and assign them to the appropriate tasks. You can now calculate when the project can be completed and how much it will cost. If it looks like you're exceeding the allowable deadline or budget, you can make the necessary adjustments.

Find links to more information about project planning in the See Also section, which is visible when you are connected to the Internet.

Executing the project

The second project management process is execution. At this point, you have your project plan in hand. The tasks are scheduled and the resources are assigned. Everyone's at the starting gate waiting for you to say "Go!"

You give the word, and the project moves from planning to the execution and controlling process. In the course of executing the project, you perform the following:

  • Save a baseline plan for comparison     To get good tracking information, keep a copy of certain project plan information on hand so you can compare your plan to actual progress as the project moves along.
  • Monitor the resources as they carry out their assigned tasks     As the project manager, you keep an eye on their progress in completing their tasks.
  • Track task progress     You can track progress in terms of percent complete, how long a task takes from beginning to end, or how many hours a resource spends on a task. As you gather this information, you can see whether tasks and milestones will finish on time. You can also gather information about costs of resources, tasks, and the project as a whole.

Find links to more information about tracking project progress in the See Also section, which is visible when you are connected to the Internet.

Controlling the project

While your project team is executing the tasks, you are making sure that the project stays within the prescribed deadline and budget while maintaining the scope outlined in the project goals. In project management, this process is referred to as "controlling the project." In the controlling process, you monitor all task activities, compare the plan to actual progress, and make adjustments as needed. To control the project, you do the following:

  • Analyze project information     Analyze the information you are gathering and use this analysis to solve problems and make decisions. Often, you need to decide how to recover a slipped schedule or a budget overrun. Sometimes, you are in the happy position of deciding what to do with extra time or money.

    Find links to more information about analyzing project information in the See Also section, which is visible when you are connected to the Internet.
  • Communicate and report     Throughout the execution of the project, you will be in constant communication with your team members and other stakeholders. You need to keep upper management, customers, and other stakeholders informed of any potential problems, new decisions, and your overall progress.

    Find links to more information about communicating and reporting project information in the See Also section, which is visible when you are connected to the Internet.

Closing the project

In the final process of the project, you have successfully fulfilled the goals of the project and it is now complete. Before you move on to the next project, it is a good idea to capture the knowledge you gained from this one. When closing the project, you do the following:

  • Identify lessons learned     Work with your project team and conduct a postmortem meeting to learn what went well and what could be improved.
  • Create a project template     Save the project plan along with tasks, duration metrics, task relationships, resource skills, and the like, so the next time you or someone else manages a similar project, your wheel will not need to be reinvented.

Find links to more information about closing your projects in the See Also section, which is visible when you are connected to the Internet.


About the author     Award-winning author Teresa Stover has written 11 computer books and countless user manuals, tutorials, and online help systems. She is a project management expert who's served as a consultant to the Microsoft Project team since Version 4. Teresa is the author of Microsoft® Project Version 2002 Inside Out and manages her own technical and business writing consultancy.


 
 
Applies to:
Project 2003