In order to manage a project effectively the work that needs to be done to deliver the final end product or outcome needs to be broken down into a series of clearly defined tasks. Those tasks then need to be scheduled in the correct order taking into account any dependencies between them and any requirements for specialist skills or equipment. The tasks need to be assigned to individuals, groups or departments then tracked and monitored to final completion. That sounds fairly simple when put in those terms but the very fact that project management is a profession requiring training and professional qualifications suggest that the practise of project management is not quite so straightforward in reality.

The reason that real-life project management is not straightforward is because there are usually many interacting factors that can disrupt a simple schedule. Tasks can take longer than expected, new technology on which the project was dependent fails to work in the way it was anticipated; resources initially assigned to the project are diverted elsewhere within the organisation as priorities change (whether that’s people or money). Put simply, real-life rarely goes to plan. That in some way explains why a project manager needs to undertake training right from the very start of their career on courses such as the APM Project Fundamentals Course right through to the highest levels of accreditation such as the APM Registered Project Professional (APM RPP), all the while ensuring they undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to keep up with current best practises.

 

What exactly is involved in managing a project?

How does a project manager break down the work into tasks, how are estimates produced for how long each task take? Are there dependencies between tasks that affect when they can be done or when they need to be completed? Are any specialist skills or equipment needed? Is there fixed deadline to take into account? These are all questions a project manager has to find the answers to.

Project Management Techniques

Once a project manager has undertaken fundamental project management training and has a good grasp of the PM techniques required to effectively manage a project then that job can be made easier by the use of one of the wide range of software packages and apps available. However, a project manager must understand the basic techniques first in order to get the most benefit from these tools. The tools are not a substitute for good PM skills, behaviours, attitudes and experience.

Some of the most common project planning techniques that all project managers will employ at some stage in their career include Brainstorming, Cause and Effect Diagrams, Gantt Charts and Critical Path Analysis.

Brainstorming is a powerful method for performing business analysis and clarifying business requirements. It can also be used to identify inter-dependencies between project tasks, reveal ways to improve efficiency or make cost savings, and even help to identify potential risks.

Gantt charts are simple in one sense and yet a powerful tool to help visualise the schedule, progress, resource allocation and interdependencies. They can also help to highlight potential bottle necks in the schedule.