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“Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” This is how PMI (Project Management Institute) defines project management. Although there are a variety of project management tools marketed as project management solutions that can help with project management tasks, they don’t replace the need for understanding basic project management practices and principles. 

Fundamental Principles of Project Management

Each project is unique in terms of its objectives, constraints, and project team, but all projects have certain elements in common. These general project management principles are based on those common elements and can be applied as guidelines for any project. 

1. Set Meaningful Project Objectives

Knowing the project’s purpose is one of the key requirements for project management success. Setting well-defined, unambiguous objectives before the project begins will help ensure the project can be completed. These expectations will set expectations for project stakeholders and team members, so make sure they satisfy the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely).

2. Define Project Deliverables

A project deliverable is any outcome of a project, such as a product or support for a service. It may be an external deliverable produced for a client or customer of the project or an internal deliverable that the customer never sees. A completed deliverable shows that the project is on the right course. A project isn’t complete until all deliverables are complete.

3. Set Up Team Roles

Confusion about who’s doing what on a project can lead to dissatisfaction and conflict among team members, as well as a loss of productivity and duplication of effort. As the team leader, it’s up to the project manager to avoid confusion by making sure each team member understands their role in the project and receives assignments that best use their knowledge and skills.

4. Lay the Groundwork for Project Execution

The project manager has several project initiation tasks to complete before project execution begins. These may include identifying project stakeholders and soliciting their input, creating a business case for the project, and completing feasibility studies and prototyping. When the project initiation phase is complete, the project manager typically holds a project kickoff meeting to share the project plan and officially begin the project execution phase.

5. Pick a Project Management Solution 

Many project management tasks can be automated with management software tools. Although digital project management solutions don’t guarantee success, an effective project manager will leverage them to plan, organize and manage the project. According to PMI, organizations that don’t take advantage of current project management solutions experience an 18% project failure rate. 

6. Crunch the Numbers

Time and money are the two most significant limitations for most projects. The project manager is responsible for identifying and tracking project costs as well as developing an achievable schedule and sticking to it. Many project management solutions offer budget and scheduling tools to support these number-intensive project activities.

7. Post Project Milestones

Milestones are like signposts that help everyone on the team focus on the road ahead. Placed on the schedule during the planning phase, they serve as checkpoints for the project’s process. Meeting a milestone lets everyone know that things are progressing on schedule as expected. A missed milestone alerts that the project budget or schedule may need adjustment.

8. Open Communication Channels

PMI reports that poor communication is the primary cause of 29% of project failures. A successful project manager decides on the best communication technology (i.e., email, messaging, video chat) and makes it available to team members. The manager also must create guidelines for project communication and impress on team members the importance of participation.

9. Track Project Progress

Once project execution is underway, the project manager must monitor its progress. If the organization doesn’t have KPIs for measuring project progress, the project manager should establish some. They can be related to the project budget, schedule, deliverables, or other indicators.

10. Keep Commitment High

No project manager works alone. It’s critically important for the entire team to remain committed and enthusiastic about the project. Some of the ways a project manager can contribute to team morale include involving everyone in project decisions as much as possible, acknowledging everyone’s contribution, and being open to team members’ concerns and suggestions.

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