Project management has been a critical practice since ancient times. For thousands of years, its evolution has referred to the technological growth of society. So what is project management, and what are its main objectives?
Project Management Institute (PMI) considers this practice as “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” It means to understand and define criteria and goals and achieve them with limited resources.
Among the examples of project management are
- software development
- building construction
- business expansion
In simple words, project management helps
a) assure the right direction of your projects
b) understand how to manage team, budget, time, and direct effort in the right place
Ancient Project Management: When Did It Start First?
Project management dates back to the ancient period. Today, archeologists still argue about the approaches Pharaohs applied to build massive and gigantic pyramids. But there is one undeniable truth: such a process requires the appropriate management of all involved tasks.
Fancy fact: ancient records confirm that constructing Giza pyramids included a kind of project management practice. All four sides had relevant managers who were responsible for completing the work.
Among other well-known examples are the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome or the Great Pantheon. There is a need to mention the Great Wall of China that was built in 208BC.
Recap: ancient project management was built on advanced, strong leadership. Those skills are still valid and required for either project or product managers. The distributional workload structures, project management books, and even the relevant term appeared much later in the 1950s.
How Has Project Management Evolved During the 20th Century?
Modern project management roots in the 20th century. After that, it has developed by leaps and bounds. Let's check up on some critical points in its timeline history.
- 1920. A scheduling diagram, aka Gantt Chart, was introduced by Henry Gantt. And, in 1931, the Hoover Dam project relied on this chart.
- 1957. A Critical Path Method (CPM) was invented by Dupont Corporation. The primary purpose was to predict the projects’ duration.
- 1958. A Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) was established. Its fundamental goal was analyzing and understanding the tasks required to complete projects successfully.
- 1962. The US Department of Defense invented the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Generally, it served as a hierarchical tree structure that involved all deliverables necessary for completing a project. WBS remains among the most widely used tools for efficient product management.
- 1986. Scrum, perhaps the most popular agile development model, appeared. It holds its top place as the most efficient project management style for software development.
- 1989. Earned Value Management (EVM) was released. This technique is used to find variances and differences that exist between planned and performed work.
- 1997. Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt introduced Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM). It relied on his previous theory of constraints (TOC). The CCPM helps maintain the resources and figure out both the start and end times of numerous tasks.
Among the later developments that have provided project management with more value are:
- The Agile Manifesto in 2001
- The Total Cost Management (TCM) framework in 2006
- New editions of PMBOK
Ultimately, further milestones, along with new tools and techniques, keep on emerging, making project management history continuous.
What Is a Project Management Timeline?
To put it simply, it is a schedule for the whole project. The project management timeline breaks the project into small tasks and milestones along with assigned due dates. The benefit: you and the team see when separate tasks will be delivered and milestones reached.
Why Is a Project Timeline Critical?
A proper project timeline provides your team with an action plan, increases accountability, and helps oversee potential issues. Also, project management timelines:
A project manager and the team can
- get a context around the individual tasks
- know how tasks are interdependent and impact the project
- identify the potential roadblocks before the start
- manage resources (i.e., equipment, budget, time, etc.) more efficiently and allocate them across the project faster
- make complex projects manageable and tasks doable without being overwhelmed
- track the progress, spot inconsistencies and bottlenecks for making quick fixes to the schedule
What Are the Five Phases of a Project?
There are five essential phases of a project to understand the standard life cycle.
1. Project initiation
Each project starts with initiating the idea and documenting all related information, a rough plan and task list, and required resources. Here's included a detailed first meeting with stakeholders, team members, and other critical parties. Be sure to determine plans, goals, timeline, resources, and budget.
2. Project planning
The success of all projects relies on how teams conduct the initial planning. This phase requires putting all efforts, resources, and time together. That ensures the review of all steps of the project plan. In turn, this plan helps schedule and run the project appropriately. To increase the efficiency of your project planning, apply the following practices:
- Identify a project
- Define the objectives and goals
- Determine necessary tasks
- Build a team
- Create a timeline
- Receive feedback and provide adjustments
3. Project execution
Once the project plan is done, you need to launch and execute it. Project execution is the most critical step of the project life cycle. During this phase, you work on showing the results and deliverables and pass them along to stakeholders. That's the longest phase where project managers should pay attention to:
- Managing individuals and teams
- Following the project plan
- Communicating information to stakeholders and the team
4. Project performance and control
Keeping the project on track due to predefined plans is an incredibly challenging task. Unfortunately, planning does not mean that you will complete the project on time. In many cases, it may require revising, reviewing, and monitoring the project. Here is a list of tips to follow in this phase:
- Review project regularly
- Maintain constant communication
- Be flexible
- Provide guidance and directions
- Ensure efficient time management
5. Closing the project
Project closing is often considered the most crucial stage of the entire project management process. It requires your team to tie up loose ends and evaluate success. As a project manager, you close out contracts and provide project turnover.
What Is the Most Popular Project Management Tool?
Technology helps manage every aspect of project running, which makes life easier. But how to choose among the numerous product management tools out there? Check out a quick overview of the market and user-appreciated project management platforms.
Companies using Agile Software Development mostly use Jira Software. The platform is flexible enough so you can use either Kanban or custom scrum boards. Many users take advantage of real-time reporting, tracking, and resolving bugs. Besides, Atlassian marketplace offers a vast choice of extensions to improve and tailor Jira Software to specific product management needs.
Trello is a good option for small-sized teams looking for simple product management software. It depends on Kanban boards and cards. Inside your workspaces, you can tailor several boards and columns for each board. Although Trello looks simple, you can add power-ups to advance its capabilities, such as time tracking, reports, or automations.
Asana improves your experience with different dashboards and enhances your product management. It offers a toolbox of features that facilitate every aspect of project management to any team. The integration with third-party tools like Google Drive, GitHub, Dropbox, and others enhances and advances your workflows.
Wrike is a cloud-based product management tool. Among the features, you can find editing, creating, and viewing documents directly from the user’s email ID. As free project management software, Wrike is the best option for small teams. And it supports integration with Google Apps, Excel, and other business platforms.
Basecamp allows grouping tasks into projects. That way the platform enhances team collaboration and communication. Thanks to features like message boards, to-do lists, and scheduling, Basecamp contains nearly everything your team needs.
With GitHub, your team will track bugs, enhancements, and other requests. Also, project management helps prioritize tasks and communicate with the team and stakeholders. One of the key benefits is enhanced software team management. The project manager organizes and coordinates initiatives using project tables, boards, or tasks lists.
Another project management tool worth your attention is GitLab. The platform is efficient in creating projects to host the codebase. You can track issues, plan work, and collaborate on code. Also, GitLab promotes building and testing continuously and using built-in CI/CD to deploy the product. At the same time, projects are available publicly, internally, and privately.
Teamwork offers major project tracking abilities users need along with intuitive UI. The platform supports milestones setting, task management, conversation boxes, file storage, and visualizations, including Gantt Chart. Finally, Teamwork provides integration with the most popular business tools.
What Are the Five Project Management Techniques to Note
When considering the various project management approaches, define the aspects of each. That will help you choose the most appropriate tool.
Being a versatile project management technique, Scrum covers transparency, flexibility, and regular team communication. Team members play different roles, which allows guiding the project from initiation to closing.
Sprint is a core of Scrum workflow. That's biweekly planning of tasks and goals. Once your sprint is set with functions, you can't change or switch them. That's the critical point of this approach - the team has tasks and goals to reach.
Compared to Scrum, the Waterfall is more rigid in organizing the project’s phases. It applies a linear model for breaking down your project into parts to complete sequentially. The stages are visual and distinct; it is usually represented as water trickling downwards. Gantt charts serve as an essential part of the Waterfall approach.
Lean focuses on minimizing the waste you experience during the project development. Thus, you can use the exact amount of resources required for getting something done. That way, you follow a “leaner” approach to managing teams, projects, customers, and other operations. At the heart of the Lean technique is Kanban.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
CPM serves as an extension of the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) approach. It refers to an algorithm used to schedule project activities. Also, CPM corresponds to the most extended sequence regarding crucial project activities that you must complete on time. Calculating the critical path helps determine the project’s total duration, milestones, or deadlines.
Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
The key benefit of PERT is identifying the time you need to finish tasks. This technique helps schedule, coordinate, and delegate tasks, as well as estimate budget. To define realistic estimates, you should create PERT charts. Those flowcharts represent the activity sequences within your project. For instance, chart nodes refer to events involving one or more tasks when arrows represent their sequence.
The origins of project management take centuries but keep evolving, especially these days. Digital transformation impacts this business aspect too. It changes, upgrades, and innovates. Nevertheless, companies have to take many business and market aspects, technologies and hire talents who can adopt and work efficiently with the offered tools and resources.
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