Project management is everywhere. It exists in our personal and professional lives and is a vehicle for change and progress. From wedding planning to space exploration, project management is the building block between opportunity and accomplishment.
In this ultimate guide, we’ve left nothing out as you embark on your project management journey in 2024. From our project definition to the phases of a project life cycle, you’ll harness the skills and know-how to drive transformative success.
A project is a series of carefully planned tasks and actions carried out by either an individual or collaboratively by a group. These activities often make up a specific phase of a project and require research and knowledge, tools and techniques, and specific skill sets.
But that’s not all. The project journey should also clearly define end goals and milestones. Helping project stakeholders to understand whether they are making progress or simply running backward!
There you have it! Our official project definition. Hopefully, this gives you the basis of what to expect from this guide. But what about another project definition? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a project is defined by the following:
“A piece of planned work or an activity that is finished over a period of time and intended to achieve a particular purpose.”
What is project management?
Project management is the art of planning, executing, and analyzing the workload of an individual or team in pursuit of a predefined goal. It’s as simple as that! But digging a little deeper, we see that project management involves several qualities:
• Resource allocation
• Task management
• Risk mitigation
• Benefit realization
• Time management
• Effective communication
The list goes on, but these are the must-haves for robust project management. They feed into the project life cycle and support the likelihood of reaching the results you set out to achieve.
What’s more, the various methodologies, techniques, and tools that have been founded over time, make project management a successful business endeavour, whether your business is an SME or a global organization.
Now that we understand what a project is, and how it fits into a wider strategy, what really makes project management important in 2024? Let’s find out!
Why is project management important?
Project management is important because it helps you streamline tasks and team efficiency, minimize disruption and risk, and maximize your return on investment; Instead of going in circles, hitting roadblocks, and never truly reaching your goals.
But it doesn’t just strengthen your business operations, it can play a pivotal role in why customers choose you! Think about it… project management supports a higher quality of work, and therefore, improved service to your customers.
And when your customers are happy, so too is your bottom line! It’s obvious now, that the positive impact project management can have across your entire business is the real answer.
From workload and workforce to your customers, project management can be a serious tool for transformative results. Still not convinced? We hardly scratched the surface of why project management is important.
• Optimize your resource management
• Empower employees to do their best work
• Build a culture of continuous improvement
• Foster open and effective communication
• Manage healthier workloads for better wellbeing
• Facilitate workload transparency and trust
• Ensure quality assurance across the board
• Be prepared to pivot and adapt as a team
As you can see, there’s vast importance to both you and your business to start taking project management seriously! But where should you start? Let’s dive into the project life cycle and the various stages that form a project.
Project Life Cycle Phases
There are four stages that make up the project life cycle. The initiation phase, the planning phase, the execution phase, and project closure. Each of these project life cycle phases has a crucial role to play and supports minimal confusion and disruption from start to finish. Let’s find out more about how they all work.
Project Initiation Phase
Starting in the correct order, the initiation phase is all about defining your case for a new project. Determining project feasibility, and purpose, and weighing up things beforehand. The aim here is to put everything into perspective, from scope to budget to resource requirements.
Because without answering these essential details, an idea cannot flourish into a project at all. This also gives your proposal a much stronger chance of being approved for the planning phase.
Questions to think about during the project initiation phase:
• Who are your key stakeholders for this project?
• What are the desired goals and outcomes of this project?
• Who will be responsible for managing this project?
• What is the budget and timeline of this project?
• What are some of the risks your team might face?
These questions should set your project charter in motion and help you create a solid business case to present to key decision-makers. Now let’s look at the next phase of the project life cycle, planning.
Top tip: Try this free project charter template from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to get your project life cycle started!
The Planning Phase
Now let’s dive into the planning phase of the project life cycle. If you’ve made it this far, it’s likely your idea has resonated with senior teams — well done!
It’s now time to create a detailed plan including accurate timescales, budget allocations, stakeholder responsibilities, risk assessments, roadmaps, and more. Essentially, the planning phase of the project life cycle is to set your ideas in motion.
You are not just estimating what it takes to make your project a success but crunching the numbers to make it happen! This plan of action will become your team’s hymn sheet — something for everyone to work from.
Questions to think about during the project planning phase:
• What are the specific goals and when should we reach them?
• What is our budget approximately for this project?
• Who can lead this project from start to finish?
• What other resources does this project require?
• What documentation is needed throughout the project?
• How will our stakeholders communicate throughout the project?
As you can see, there’s clearly some crossover between the initiation phase and the planning stage. Ultimately, the planning phase is a point in the project life cycle for turning your questions from the initiation phase into tangible answers.
Project execution is where the magic happens! It’s the point in your project life cycle where ideas are put into action, resources are allocated, and your plan materializes.
If you’ve reached this step, it’s because your initial idea has the opportunity to drive real business value. You’ve convinced your superiors, and your team has got behind your project to chase the goals you’ve set.
The project execution phase is best directed with tools like Workflows, Gantt Charts, and other task management tools. These things can make the difference between great project management and poor project management.
Questions to think about during the project execution phase:
• Are the team actioning tasks according to the project timeline?
• Does the quality of our work meet the demands of the project?
• Are risks being mitigated effectively?
• How does team morale currently look during the project?
• Are we documenting progress and lessons learned?
• What resource constraints do we currently face?
• Are we meeting the expectations of our stakeholders?
This list is by no means exhaustive, and there’s much more to consider as the project life cycle evolves. However, it should give you some inclination as to what project managers must think about at this stage.
The project closure phase is pretty self-explanatory. It occurs at the end of the project life cycle when deliverables have been reviewed, project admin completed, and your team can prepare for the next project.
At this stage in the project life cycle, organizations often conduct a “lessons learned document”, detailing everything they can improve for their next project. After all, if we never learn from our setbacks and failures, how can we build momentum with future projects?
All-in-all, the project closure phase gives teams two things to work with; what went right, and what can be improved. Plus, without this part of the project life cycle, projects may fade into the background as new commitments take center stage.
Questions to think about during the project closure phase:
• Have we actioned all duties and actions as part of this project?
• Did the project reach completion on time?
• Do we have a finalized “lessons learned” document?
• Are our stakeholders aware of the project closure?
• Do we have any outstanding financial obligations?
• Do we have any outstanding legal obligations?
• Have we surveyed our team on morale and motivation?
• Do we require a handover plan for ongoing maintenance?
Now that we’ve covered the four key project life cycle phases, let’s turn our attention to project management methods you should know about. Because if you really want to go from zero to project management hero, these techniques are a must!
3 Project Management methods
There are many project management methods, all with their own qualities, characteristics, and more. Whilst project management methods deserve their own guide, we’ve done our best to summarize three of the most popular methodologies you may come across!
Waterfall Project Management
Often used in software development, the Waterfall method joins this list of project management methods as a linear approach. Typically, projects are broken down into a sequence of phases, where the results of the previous phase determine the next phase.
The Waterfall project management method is regarded as a well-structured and sound approach. For this reason, it’s an appealing option for many projects, big and small. The following make up the sequential phases of the Waterfall method:
Agile Project Management
The agile approach sits in this list of project management methods as a modern strategy. One that supports empowering teamwide collaboration. It also offers a higher level of flexibility, allowing teams to break projects into manageable chunks.
In short, projects that are open to change, and need the breathing space to pivot are a great match for the agile project management method. Here is the common sequential process of the agile method:
Kanban Project Management
Next up in our project management methods is the Kanban approach. This one works a little differently from Waterfall and Agile. It emphasizes visualization, with a focus on optimizing the work process.
The Kanban approach utilizes columns and tiles in modern-day tools and helps Teams create a sustainable flow of work, better prioritization, and more. Here’s how a typical Kanban setup might look:
- In Progress
3 Trends in project management
Now let’s explore the trends in project management, and what you, as a project manager should expect from 2024. From AI’s integration with the PM world to automation, there’s a lot to take from these trends in project management.
AI and project management
First up, AI. Artificial intelligence seems to be the buzzword across many industries at this moment in time, and project management is no different. As we continue to adopt AI in our everyday lives, we see it playing a pivotal role in the project management space in 2024.
This is likely to be in the form of an integration with digital tools and platforms. Some project management tools have already begun implementing their very own writing bots for project briefs.
But AI wouldn’t make our list of trends in project management simply on chatbots and writing assistants. Nope! AI and project management have entwined in other ways, from task prioritization to seamless resource allocation, and more.
While it may seem like we’re just around the corner from project management tools adopting AI, it’s already there! But it’s the boom of AI in 2024 that makes it in our list of trends in project management.
Further reading: Check out this HBR article on AI and project management for a deeper dive into what’s to come — you won’t be disappointed!
The role of automation for project managers
Moving on to the list of trends in project management, closely followed by AI, let’s look at automation. As organizations around the world leverage new and advanced tools like edison365, it’s much easier to utilize automation across projects.
Not only do tools like edison365 help teams automate certain processes, but they also offer a positive impact on team productivity, performance, and more. Projects can be messy, involving what feels like a million pieces of information and tasks.
But that overwhelming factor of project management can be squashed with robust automation. Think about it, automation means fewer human mistakes, better team engagement (goodbye to repetitive and mundane tasks!), and quicker results.
All-in-all, automation can go a long way, and with the right tools, is relatively affordable and easy to adopt! It may stand side-by-side with artificial intelligence, but automation is deserving of its own mention. Hence it makes our trends in project management for 2024.
Flexibility in project management
The world shows little sign of returning to office work. This shift towards hybrid and remote work poses a challenge for project management teams. As project management tools rise in popularity, organizations need to rethink how and where their team collaborates on tasks, allocates resources, and achieves business goals.
Our final addition to this list of trends in project management is flexibility. A brief look at the jobs available in the project management space suggests more companies are hiring far and wide. Suggesting the need for communication and collaboration tools.
Gone are the days of an individual ticking off tasks on a Gantt Chart. It’s time for teams to work together in a live environment that allows for real-time updates. That’s where flexibility in project management is destined!
We see huge demand for project management tools in 2024 — and more importantly, those that offer flexibility and customization for teams to do their very best work. Because with less face-to-face office time and more virtual brainstorming sessions, catch-ups and more, flexible tools will become the future of the PM world.
Final thoughts on project management
There you have it! That’s our ultimate guide to project management in 2024. Hopefully, this guide has given you the foundation of project management and areas you should explore next.
From key methodologies to understanding each project life cycle phase, there’s a lot to learn, and by honing in on your project management skills, you can deliver the results your business needs!
It’s a no-brainer that 2024 is a big year for project management, with a lot of exciting things to come. Whether it’s AI or an evolving career landscape, project management is all about adopting the right tools to stay ahead of the game.
Project Management FAQs
Finally, let’s look at several project management FAQs you might have. As the industry evolves, new techniques, practices, and questions arise. Below are the most common project management questions.
What does a project manager do?
A project manager is responsible for overseeing a series of tasks and actions that contribute to an overarching business goal.
For example, if a restaurant wants to refurbish the seating area for customers, a project manager would ensure everything from the planning phase to implementation is carried out successfully. This includes monitoring budgets, resource requirements, and much more.
Project managers are there to steer the ship of progress, productivity, and performance. They play a pivotal role in supporting businesses in achieving milestones and goals smoothly.
What are project management tools?
In the modern day, project management tools refer to digital applications, platforms, and software that help plan and deliver projects. Everything from a simple spreadsheet to an end-to-end suite of sophisticated features. And that’s exactly what edison365 offers to teams around the world!
But of course, there are now many different tools out there to help with everything from task management to resource allocation. It’s about identifying a need in your project management setup and sourcing the tool to fit the job.
It’s safe to say, however, that project management tools have revolutionized how teams collaborate, communicate, and achieve results.
How to become a project manager
Becoming a project manager starts with experience. You must be able to demonstrate a variety of skills, including time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, clear communication, and more.
It’s these qualities that will help you pave the way to project success, whether you’re managing small or large projects. To land your first project manager role, it’s preferred that you have experience at a managerial level, showcasing your ability to manage everything from people to products.
Making the first step can be as easy as securing an apprenticeship or internship in project management, or undertaking higher education in a relevant subject.