What Is Project Management & What Are Its Main Objectives?
It’s the question every business has been buzzing about since a few execs first got together and said, “Hey, Let’s get something done.”
What is project management and what are its main objectives? In this article, we'll try to answer this main question and sub-question. Many project management concepts and components will be elucidated for you as well.
Finally, we’ll say a little something about the software, what these PM tools can do, and if you truly need project management solutions of the digital variety.
What is project management? Our definition
So you’d like a clear yet thorough project management definition, right? Well, here it goes.
Firstly, a project can be defined as an endeavor to complete a set of tasks that taken together achieve a unified set of project goals. Since projects have project initiations and projected endings, they are limited in time. In other words, a project is a transient endeavor.
But to go beyond what a project is in order to talk about project management meaning, we need to explain the ‘management’ part of this important business process.
Project management talks about how project teams are formed, with all the project team members involved given a series of tasks as part of a larger project plan.
Additionally, the project plan lays out what type of project is being done, and this project management plan will also state what kind of project management methodologies the team members will use.
Project management plans should be clear about the entire project lifecycle, including what are the project requirements, what the project scope is, and what kind of project management tools will be implemented. Setting a project schedule with timelines and milestones is another crucial aspect of project management.
Ultimately, good project management planning is a combination of day-to-day task and project execution done individually or with teamwork, guided by clear project objectives, and aimed at project success.
Project management guide: the project management basics you need to know
In this section, we’ll go over the basics of project management. Now that you have a working definition of PM and its various terms, we feel ready to lead you further along this highly detailed project management guidelines article.
Some of the questions in our PM guide will be as follows: What exactly is a project in project management? What is the purpose or aim of project management? What are the various components that make up project management? What are some project management concepts?
And finally, we’ll add a bit of text regarding software used for managing projects.
Other aspects we will touch on are some of the more popular types of project management, as well as discuss the Project Management Institute, or PMI, as it’s sometimes called.
What is a project in project management?
This might sound like an obvious question, but there are no questions unworthy of a little bit of explication. So here we go.
What exactly is a project, especially one that is going to be part of a project management process?
In project management a project is a goal to complete something. This something to be completed is sometimes called a deliverable. Deliverables can be a new product, app or digital tool, which is the most common use case for PM for software development.
A project typically has deliverables intended for a client or customer, although they can also be for a company or business’s internal use.
Other forms of deliverables can be online content, like blog pieces or video tutorials, or even the construction of a material good like a new manufactured commodity.
Finally, a project can be a personal series of tasks, for example, to improve your health or status, learn a new skill, quit a bad habit, or make a life change.
A project typically has several tasks. Some of these tasks are categorized as being what are called dependencies. Task dependencies refer to tasks that depend on one another to be completed, and often in a sequential order.
For example, you cannot begin doing the layout of a magazine article before the text and art have been approved and locked down.
Projects also typically have team members working together. To keep this organized, specific team members are assigned specific tasks based on their project management skills or expertise or mere availability.
Projects often also assign project management roles to team members, and sometimes, these roles can be certified by the PMI, as for example with being a Project Management Professional or PMP. PMPs are usually only involved in large-scale projects with bigger companies.
Smaller companies can still assign project management roles without needing project management certification.
Stakeholders can also sometimes be given a role in a project management business case. These are less often for real-time monitoring and tracking project progress but rather for being able to check up on milestones and scheduling.
What is the purpose of project management?
After you’ve read the above section, you may feel you’ve already grasped the essence of what project management is. But we have to go deeper and look at the management side of PM.
One of the first things we need to talk about when we talk about project management is resource procurement. PM is one form of resource management. It helps teams plan everything they need to complete a successful project right at the project initiation.
This includes time, money, materials, labor power, space, etc. One of the purposes of PM is therefore quality resource management.
The next purpose when we talk about project management is how it is a useful system to handle risk management. When embarking on a new project, there are always risks in terms of mistakes, bad planning, unexpected developments, inadequate resources, absent team members, etc.
The more project planning goes into project execution, the more a team can be ready for these problems and mitigate as many risks as possible.
What are the components of project management?
So what does project management entail on an everyday operational level? There are many ways to break down the various project management components, which we’ll get into here.
Note that it’s important to see the distinction here between components and concepts. The latter will be discussed in the next section.
Here are some explanations of the main components of project management, presented along with practical examples:
Project planning with example use cases
As discussed above, project planning is one of the first and core components of project management. This is how a team gets to see the entire project scope from project initiation on through the complete project.
The initial planning of work, tasks, roles and resources can take some time to do properly, but it will save your team time in the long run.
Some examples of project planning:
Roles and permissions
Phases and iterations
Short-term versus long-term milestones and goals
Project collaboration and communication with example use cases
Once the project managers and team leaders have hacked out a solid project plan, it’s pretty necessary to encourage good team communication and collaboration. Everyone needs to know their roles and tasks, as well as who to confer with when they have a problem or need help going forward.
Regular project update meetings or great communication software is a big part of this PM component.
Some examples of project collaboration and communication:
Daily meetings or stand-up meetings
Risk analysis with example use cases
Project management planning is mostly about figuring things out in advance so that you minimize the unknowns as you march forward to project competition.
Of course, in real life, things don’t always work out as planned. This is why risk management is a component of project management, giving your team enough slack or options to roll with the punches so that the entire project does not get derailed from one little setback.
Some examples of PM risk management:
Proposing, testing and implementing risk mitigation
Problem solving with example use cases
At many phases of the project, you and your team might be faced with a fresh series of challenges and problems. This is different from risk management where you have backup plans for known issues.
Problem solving as part of PM is how teams deal with unexpected issues. Great project management does not lock in everybody’s set of tasks and responsibilities so as to completely hamstring the project when things take a turn toward the unplanned.
Some examples of PM problem solving:
Testing and feedback
Quality control with example use cases
As above, project management is a wonderful way to make sure the quality of everything you produce is up to the standards as laid out in the initial project plan.
This is especially so during various phases of the project, where each iteration of the product or program can be tried and tested. Sometimes, depending on the project, these iterations can become deliverables for your outside stakeholders to review themselves.
Some examples of PM quality control:
Trial and error
Change management with example use cases
Change management is one of the lesser-sung heroes of PM. You never know where a change might come from and at one point in the project, though they often come from outside stakeholders which means the team has very little recourse to argue about changes.
The ability to remain agile, lean and adaptive to changes is something that is inscribed right into the heart of the most thorough PM methodologies. This component helps replan timeframes, roles, resources and other components without disrupting the entire project flow.
Some examples of PM change management:
New timeframes and deadlines
Project management concepts
For some who are less well versed in the wide world of PM, many of the theories and concepts of project management are difficult to understand.
Sometimes, it just seems like a lot of industry-specific terms and jargon. But knowing outright the concepts and their meanings can help your team streamline project management and especially the teamwork required to pull it off like pros.
Here are some project management concept definitions:
Project charters with example use cases
A project charter can go by many other names, including project scope, project mission, project statement, project mission statement, project definition or project essence.
Basically, it’s a clear and specific enunciation of the project’s goals and objectives and the main methods and tools the team will use to achieve them.
Not only does this lay everything out for your clients if they are stakeholders or project sponsors, but it also provides better internal work processes between individuals, teams and departments. One can also use project charter templates, more on these below.
Here’s a hypothetical example of a project charter: Create a marketing campaign to increase brand awareness by 25% over social media with a small copy and design team with a budget of $5,000 over two months. Use A/B testing and iterate every two weeks.
Project phases and iterations with example use cases
Not all projects are a straight pipeline from kickoff day to the end-of-project party. One of the most common ways of planning projects is by breaking them up into big phases.
The idea behind phase-based planning is to accommodate heavy dependencies between stages of the project. This is for situations when it would be impossible for any individual or team member to keep progressing before every other department has caught up.
In some ways, this is quite the contrary to more agile project management methods, though there can be some areas where they can overlap as well. Additionally, when a project plan calls for regular iterations, it’s always good to use phases to complete an iteration, test it, and plan what the next iteration requires.
Phase-based project management examples include the waterfall method. This imagines a cascading series of tasks and activities where everyone must eventually catch up to certain cliffs, pool there for feedback and further planning, and then begin to spill over into the next phase all together.
Other examples are PRINCE2, critical chain project management and the critical path method.
Agile project management with example use cases
What is an agile PM you ask? It’s less a specific project management methodology than a PM philosophy. It stresses minimal planning and being light on staff and resources so as to remain flexible to changes.
Often in agile PM one tries to minimize task dependencies as well as overall phases dependencies such as you’d have with the waterfall method. This allows individuals and teams to work quite independently of one another.
There are many great agile tools, with the Kanban board being chief among them, allowing people to grab available needed tasks when they are ready and burst through them one at a time.
Examples of agile project management are everywhere. In manufacturing, for example, it would emphasize keeping a light inventory of only what you need, freeing up expenses on warehousing, and outsourcing as much as possible, freeing up the budget from the cost of variable labor.
A project management job in the software scene, for example, benefits from agile methods particularly for bug fixing and issue tracking.
Scrum project management with example use cases
The Scrum methodology is another very common form of agile project management. It’s a great method for trying to manage products that are complex, that is, having a lot of moving parts and departments involved.
It does this by planning projects in things called sprints, which are two to four-week sets of tasks.
This gives some independence to individuals and departments but also ensures that they never stray too far, or interdepartmental diversions broaden too much.
Scrum also uses daily stand-up meetings, which are very brief meetings where each person or department quickly states 1) what they accomplished the day before, 2) what their goals are for that day, and 3) what obstacles they anticipate and how they plan to overcome them.
Examples of Scrum are mostly found in software development, anything from issue tracking to website design to app building etc. Other Scrum boards can sometimes look like slightly more detailed versions of Kanban boards, that is: backlog board, in progress board, and completed board.
Project management Gantt charts with example use cases
The almighty Gantt chart is one of the most commonly seen charts in project management, particularly when it comes to planning scheduling and deadlines. It is a horizontal bar chart.
The upwards axis normally lists tasks and milestones which stretch horizontally over the sideways axis delineating time as either a matter of quantity (number of days, weeks), or more usually, dates. Color coding for the task bars is very handy for showing other things like departments, priorities, or dependencies.
Great Gantt software can also update these charts in real-time as scheduling changes. You can also use swim lanes, which group tasks, separate them, or fuse them as the project evolves. Gantt charts are very commonly brought out in the early stages of project planning.
A Gantt chart example could involve opening up a cookie shop. From top to bottom, the chart would list things like: bake delicious cookies, bring cookies to the bank to secure loan, find a location, renovate, hire staff, do promotion.
In this case, you’d clearly see which tasks are grouped or sequentially dependent, for example, you cannot begin renovations without finding a location.
Project management templates with example use cases
Whether talking about project management or many other business process concepts, templates are a big deal. They are pre-designed assets that can be used as project management charts.
Templates often begin with simple Kanban boards, Gantt charts, budget planning and resource management. A lot of our most common work software includes free basic PM templates, like Microsoft Word or Excel. Otherwise, many CRMs have free project management templates.
Some examples of project management templates include project goals and vision boards that prioritize milestones and forecasting, a new employee onboarding template, a phase by phase waterfall project plan template, or a step by step timeline template.
One could find a task dependency template that makes visualizations of task-related groups, task order and task priority easy to comprehend at a glance. Or, finally, a program management template that lets super managers oversee the ongoing progress of many projects.
Project management workflows with example use cases
Workflows and automations are useful when managing any work process and that goes doubly so for doing project management.
These work as a series of automated steps that get taken based on triggers and actions. The main purpose is to automate away what are mostly annoying administrative mouse-clicking tasks, which is great for the team. You can set up your own workflows often using ‘when this then that’ logic.
Examples of project management workflows are plenty. You can automate notifications to everyone on the team whenever everyone finishes all their tasks as part of a single phase. You can automate things like doing budget approvals, resource planning, and even scheduling.
Another good project management workflow example could be sending our project reports to all stakeholders, or for taking attendance during meetings. Finally, there are some good uses for PM workflows when it comes to incident response.
PMBOK with example use cases
The Project Management Body of Knowledge, otherwise written as PMBOK, or pronounced “pimbok,” is sort of like the holy bible of project management wisdom, guides, rules, methods, standards and tips.
It’s been put together by the ever-prestigious Project Management Institute (PMI), that same beacon of better business practices which also offers project management certification (PMP, CAPM, etc.).
The knowledge contained within the PMBOK is best suited for project management methodologies like work breakdown structures (WBS), the waterfall method, and critical path method (CPM).
Some examples of PMBOK guidelines include breaking down your project first and foremost into the three general categories of 1) what plans, docs and designs you need, 2) the tools and techniques you will use, and 3) what outputs you will get from putting 1 and 2 together.
Another PMBOK example shows the five processes of linear PM, which are initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and finishing. The PMBOK also delineates knowledge areas, some of which include scope, cost, quality, resources, risks, communication and stakeholder engagement.
A note on project management software basics
The project management of a company depends on many things, and may be full of idiosyncrasies. Nevertheless, implementing a software solution is something every business should seriously consider.
Some of the best project management tools really do everything from A to Z in project lifecycles, or from project planning and kickoff to project execution and delivery.
In some cases, popular business SaaS solutions make their own versions of these tools. For example, there are Zoho Projects, Microsoft Projects, and HubSpot Projects which is part of Marketing Hub.
In other cases, there are excellent solutions which are dedicated project management apps. Some of the most popular include Atlassian’s Trello for Kanban boards and Jira for bug tracking.
Teamwork is great for collaboration and communication, while LiquidPlanner excels at planning timeframes and schedules. Wrike, Asana and Monday.com are also good options, many of which offer free trials or even free versions of their PM tools.
Finally, there are project management solutions for specific industries and verticals. For example, there is a glut of quality construction project management software these days, which you can read about on our site. Some big names there include Procore, CoConstruct, Buildertrend, eSUB, and PlanSwift.
Project management apps are obviously superior to the old pen and paper method. It’s hard to make a case for analog when you can have things like automated workflows, project templates, virtual whiteboards, shared inboxes, and/or real-time analytics and reporting.
Then there’s the ability to add notes to projects, tasks and activities and @mention teammates, as well as upload content and docs to a shared document manager. The list goes on and on.
The question of whether this kind of software is right for you is really then the wrong question. The right question is: Which is right for you?
Because there are a lot of options, a little soul-searching is important. Ask yourself, how much do you want to spend? How big is the team of people using the software? Which specific needs do you have for your project, goals, business, or industry?
Once you have that figured out, you’re ready to begin browsing and shopping for project management software that perfectly compliments your work.
What is project management and what are its main objectives? Our conclusion
That was one heck of a project management definition and explanation article, wouldn’t you agree? So next time you’re sitting around talking about project management, or project MGMT as some like to write it, just remember where you got all that great PM education from.
To say one final thing about what the main objectives of project management are, it’ll be this: Project management helps plan from the outset better ways to manage your team, money, resources and timeframes in order to execute a series of tasks and complete milestones.
PM will help you do this faster, in a more organized way, and with better capacity to respond to changes, risks and uncertainties. It will help you get through the project management life cycle more effectively and efficiently.
In short, using project management tools will save time and money. It’ll also ensure your teams and workforce are better equipped to do their jobs and crush their goals.
And all that is, as they say, good stuff.
Further project management help and information
Understanding project management is a process. Learning how project management works for your own purposes will take some time.
We hope this article has helped you on that path, but we know there’s more to learn. Here are some resources you might find helpful:
Project Management Institute: The world’s leading project management organization, with free online resources, as well as certification programs including Project Management Professional (PMP) and Agile Scrum Master.
Project Management Academy: Certification prep and skills training center with free online resources.
LinkedIn’s Project Management and Project Leadership Training: Project management training by LinkedIn (a one month free trial for paid courses).
Coursera: Project management courses: Coursera hosts a broad range of free training courses in project management.
Cornell Project Management Certificate: Ivy League school offering PDU credit-eligible courses transferable to PMP certification, with Cornell name-brand certificate.