Project Management Basics: Definition, Stages and Importance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 27, 2022 | Published January 29, 2021

Updated July 27, 2022

Published January 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project management is the process of coordinating a business’s activities. Learning the basics of this framework can aid you in developing products, providing services and fulfilling client expectations. Regardless of the project's scope, proper management is likely to maximize the chance of success.

In this article, we discuss project management basics, including the definition of this approach, its stages and its importance to organizations.

What is a project?

A project is a planned sequence of tasks with the purpose of reaching a specific outcome. Projects are generally very diverse in size and nature, ranging from simple and straightforward to multilayered and complex. A manager or executive typically coordinates them, fulfilling the role of project manager. This professional’s goal is to understand project targets, deadlines and budgets. They manage all aspects of project execution to deliver products or services on time and according to predetermined standards.

Related: Project Health: Definition and Key Metrics To Track

What is project management?

Project management is the practice of applying processes, skills, tools and techniques to complete tasks and reach a goal. It involves coordinating activities through various phases, from initiation to completion. It also involves making sure deliverables comply with client standards and deadlines.

Related: 8 Project Management Ideas To Build Your Portfolio

What are the 5 stages of project management?

Most projects have five distinct phases:

  1. Initiation: Team members outline the main elements of a project, including goals, scope, limitations, stakeholders, and risks.

  2. Planning: A manager defines every step in a project from beginning to end.

  3. Execution: Managers and team members progress through a project, completing tasks and working toward objectives.

  4. Monitoring: Project leaders track metrics to ensure success and resolve any issues that arise.

  5. Completion: Project teams finalize deliverables and review the results of the project.

Related: Guide To Project Initiation

Why is project management important?

Some of the benefits of effective project management are:

  • It allows for a detailed analysis of business operational efficiency.

  • It helps employees to complete projects on time and within budget.

  • It makes it easy to solve project issues right away.

  • It ensures the efficient use of labor, funds and other resources.

  • It enables team members, managers and stakeholders to collaborate effectively.

  • It involves the identification and mitigation of potential risks.

Related: Highlighting Project Manager Skills on a Resume

What does a project manager do?

Project managers are responsible for planning, organizing and managing business schemes. They monitor every process involved in the project constantly to adhere to the schedule, scope and budget.

Some of a project manager's main responsibilities are:

  • Building a realistic plan that involves all aspects of the project's execution

  • Assembling a team of professionals who are specialized in performing various actions that are crucial for the project

  • Assigning specific tasks to the staff, providing clear instructions for how to perform these tasks and setting deadlines for each activity

  • Managing task completion and resolving any issues that may arise along the way

  • Complying with budgets, allocating resources and reporting budgetary needs to company executives

  • Making sure that realistic deadlines are set for every phase of the project and the project in its entirety

  • Maintaining effective communication with the project's clients and other stakeholders

  • Documenting every part of the project process, including key performance indicators

  • Delivering the project's results to its beneficiaries and instructing them on how to sustain those results

Related: Technical Project Manager Interview Questions(And Answers)

What are project management tools?

The tools that project managers use greatly depend on the nature and scope of the project. Here are some common tools you could use:

  • Collaboration tools such as email and project management software enable those involved in the project to receive and assign tasks, review comments, organize schedules and approve future actions.

  • Planning and scheduling tools help the project manager delegate work and keep track of all outstanding tasks and deadlines.

  • Evaluation tools track the productivity and performance of everyone involved and compare activities to the required standards.

  • Documentation storage tools ensure easy access to all files related to the project.

Read more: The 24 Best Free Project Management Software Tools for 2022

What are the challenges of project management?

While the specific challenges that every project faces are generally related to its particularities, certain common constraints apply to most projects. The three main challenges of every project are:

  • Cost: Managers keep the project within the allocated budget.

  • Time: Teams complete projects before a deadline.

  • Scope: The project has certain features and functions, in accordance with the stakeholders' initial wishes.

These three main constraints are usually interconnected, meaning that if you alter one, the other two change, too. For example, reducing a project's budget can also reduce its scope. Similarly, reducing the allocated time for a project may involve spending more money to complete it on time.

Related: What Is Scope in Project Management?

What are the primary project management methods?

One of the most popular project management methods is the waterfall method. In this system, team members plan and implement a project in a highly structured manner, following a defined sequence of events. Each phase starts only after the team has completed the previous phase. In contrast, the agile method is a cyclic, non-linear methodology. In this system, team members divide projects into smaller cycles or sprints. This approach is inherently iterative and responsive, as employees improve processes and integrate client feedback continuously. 

Related: What Is Agile Project Management? Values, Principles and Steps

What are project management areas?

Effective project management typically involves mastering these 10 knowledge areas:

  • Integration management: This is the practice of assembling the different tasks and processes involved in completing a project to produce a coherent outcome.

  • Scope management: Scope management refers to clearly defining the project's scope and making sure everyone involved is fully aware of it and what they can do to fulfill it.

  • Time management: The project manager keeps everyone aware of small and major deadlines. They also resolve issues quickly to adhere to the timeline.

  • Cost management: Project managers seek to allocate resources effectively. They also evaluate expenses and find ways to reduce costs.

  • Quality management: Quality management refers to meeting the stakeholders' quality expectations while keeping the project within the agreed scope, budget and timeline.

  • Human resource management: Most projects involve teams of people. Human resources professionals are responsible for supporting the well-being of these employees.

  • Communications management: Leaders are in charge of updating the project's stakeholders on developments before and during the project's execution.

  • Risk management: Project teams identify and mitigate risks to ensure project success.

  • Procurement management: If the project involves hiring external contractors or vendors, leaders coordinate these support staff members with the rest of the team.

  • Stakeholder management: Project managers identify and manage everyone with a stake in the project.

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