Project management is about delivering an outcome or solution in a planned way. Although there are various frameworks and methods to achieve this, most projects go through a similar series of steps to achieve their desired results. Depending on the techniques that are used, these steps may be approached in different ways, but, generally speaking, there is a common set of things that need to take place for a project to be delivered effectively. In this article, we’ll explore what those steps are.
· Review and testing
We’ll look at each of these in more detail below.
· This is the first stage of a project and involves understanding the need for the project, this could include:
· Initial discussions and approval to start a project.
· Documenting early requirements.
· Beginning business analysis.
· Speaking with the area that wants the project delivered.
· Understanding the main roles and responsibilities of the areas involved.
· Finding out who the main stakeholders are.
· Following on from ‘concept,’ the definition stage aims to provide more detail to allow a project to be started, including the scope, cost, timescale and expected quality of the project.
· Understanding and documenting business needs in detail.
· Providing information and getting agreement on the high-level scope, budget and timescales of the project.
· Establishing the expectations of the business on what the project will deliver (quality).
Once the project is defined, detailed planning can take place. This includes:
· Planning out the activities, actions and tasks that need to take place to deliver the project.
· Understanding the people and resources that will be needed.
· Scheduling the main targets and milestones for the project.
· Ensuring that all of the necessary steps and people are in place.
Following planning, a project then moves into the design stage:
· Designing the overall approach of the project.
· Defining and creating early deliverables, solutions or prototypes.
After design is completed, the project can start carrying out the necessary actions to move the project forward:
· Understanding the tasks that need to be agreed with various different areas.
· Allocating tasks to the necessary individuals, teams and groups.
· Successfully completing tasks and actions.
· Tracking activity to ensure that tasks are completed to the right time, quality, cost and scope.
Review and Testing
Once there are solutions, prototypes or other outcomes in place, they need to be reviewed and tested:
· Reviewing the outputs of the project and other deliverables.
· Testing the outcomes to make sure that they are fit-for-purpose and function as expected.
· Checking that the deliverables meet business requirements and standards.
Following testing, the solution or outcome can be introduced into the business. This step is also known as ‘implementation’:
· Completing the main objectives of the project.
· Releasing the solution into the business.
· Checking that everything functions as it should.
· Minimizing any negative impacts.
The activities of the project are now largely complete and the responsibility for the solution or outcome needs to be handed over:
· Transfer of any necessary outcomes or deliverables to the business team.
· Providing training and support where needed.
The project has now delivered what it set out to do, and all that remains is to close the project down:
· Final agreement from the business that the project can be closed down.
· Reviewing what took place in the project.
· Creating a ‘lessons-learned’ document on what went well, what could have been done better and improvements that can be made to project management as a result.
Activities that take place throughout the project
There are also a number of activities that happen continuously throughout the lifecycle of a project; these include:
· Communications – Keeping all relevant parties up to date on how the project is progressing. This typically includes the project team itself, customers, stakeholders and any other areas impacted by the project.
· Risk and issue management – Managing and mitigating risks, issues and dependencies, dealing with difficulties and ensuring that the project runs smoothly.
· Tracking and reporting – Producing and distributing reports on project progress to all interested parties.
Other points about project management steps
There are a couple of other areas that can affect how projects are managed and the steps that are followed:
· Framework and methodology used – Depending on the framework that a particular project follows, some of these steps may be expanded, reduced or eliminated altogether. For example, an agile project will go through all of these steps rapidly, many times, often combining steps together.
· Leaving steps out – Sometimes, stakeholders and a project team will agree to leave out certain steps. This is mainly the case with simple projects that have little business impact.
Following these steps within the right project framework is a good way to ensure that projects are delivered on time, on budget, on scope and to business requirements. Combine this with a competent project manager and the likelihood of a project being successful is much more certain.