What are projects, what is project management, what is agile project management? Here you get a condensed overview of the most important contents, topics, methods, and terms of project management. Get an overview of the relevant standards, the main institutions, and where you can find out more in just a few minutes.

Successfully manage your first project

Managing the first project independently is a great challenge. On the one hand, you should concentrate on the essentials, on the other hand, you should choose the most pragmatic approach possible. In your first project, focus on planning first. Planning is the basis for getting the project up and running successfully and keeping it on track. Clear rules help here. In the end, it is important to complete the project properly, which is often forgotten in the hectic of everyday life. You can get a good overview of the most important tasks for your first project in the series of articles Successfully mastering the first project.

Content

What is a project?

A project is a one-time business process that is approved by the management on the basis of a business case, managed by a temporary organizational unit, delivers a specified unique outcome, to a customer within agreed cost and time baselines.

The following table provides a few common definitions

Project Definitions
Name Definition
DIN ISO 21500:2016 Leitlinien Projektmanagement “A project consists of a unique group of processes that include goal-oriented, coordinated and controlled operations with start and completion dates. In order to achieve the project objectives, it is necessary to provide delivery objects that meet specific requirements.” (interpreted from German)
DIN 69901-5:2009: Projektmanagement – Projektmanagementsysteme – Teil 5: Begriffe “Undertaking that is essentially characterized by the uniqueness of the conditions in their entirety” (interpreted from German)
PMBOK® 6 Project Management Body of Knowledge “A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”
Individual Competence Baseline 4 “A project is a unique, temporary, multidisciplinary and organized endeavor to realise agreed deliverables within predefined requirements and constraints.”
PRINCE2 6th edition “A temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case.”

What is project management?

Project management is the planning, implementing, monitoring, control, and completion of a project. Project management plans describe how these activities are actually to be carried out. A project management plan typically consists of:

  • Process descriptions
  • Areas of knowledge
  • Role descriptions
  • Methods
  • Tools and templates
  • Other management systems or references to the management systems to be used (e.g. quality management system)

What is agile project management?

Agile project management is often used as a generic term for various process models in software development such as Scrum or Extreme Programming. It is increasingly being understood as a term for a new way of thinking in project management as a contrast to planning-oriented, traditional project management.

The adjective “agile” expresses that management and control of projects and processes are very dynamic and flexible to be able to implement change requests, especially concerning the scope of services, quickly.

The Agile Manifesto published in 2001 is regarded as a reference for agile project management.

Project management methods for your first project

Successfully manage the first project

Managing the first project independently is a great challenge. On the one hand, you should concentrate on the essentials, on the other hand, you should choose the most pragmatic approach possible. In your first project, focus on planning first. Planning is the basis for getting the project up and running successfully and keeping it on track. Clear rules help. In the end, it is important to complete the project properly, which is often forgotten in the hectic of everyday life.

To cope with their tasks, project managers use tried and tested methods. Since project management is a cross-sectional task, numerous methods from various disciplines are used in projects, e.g. risk management or quality management.

But many methods are specific to project management, such as earned value analysis.

Methods structured according to tasks:

  • Analyze and develop ideas,
  • Plan and estimate,
  • Monitor and control,
  • Lead people and teams,
  • Present and moderate,
  • Report and document,
  • Develop strategies.

Subject areas in project management

As a cross-sectional task, project management encompasses a wide range of topics. Depending on the type of project and industry, the following topics will have different priorities in a project.

Initiation and project start

A project does not formally begin until the client has placed the project order with the project manager, but the stakeholders of a project set the course for the subsequent implementation in advance of the project. In addition to the client and project manager, the main decision-makers include program management, project portfolio management, corporate management, and the financiers of a project.

A precise definition of goals is one of the most important steps in project initiation. Realistic planning is only possible with a clearly defined project goal. The definition of goals can include the development of a business case, the preparation of a specification sheet, and the design of the project order. A brainstorming for all project participants may also make sense, e.g. in the form of a kick-off meeting.

During the initiation and start of a project, at least the project planning takes place. A risk analysis is also strongly recommended.

Planning

In addition to monitoring and control, the planning of a project is one of the three core tasks of the project manager. The project plan is the decisive reference with which all actual values (e.g. costs incurred) are compared.

Among others, the project planning includes:

  • Planning the scope of services,
  • scheduling,
  • cost planning,
  • planning the financing,
  • resource planning,

All plans are highly interdependent and need to be coordinated.

Monitoring and controlling

A project without controlling is like driving a car by ear – the crash is inevitable. To keep the project on track, the project manager has to keep a constant eye on the target and actual data. Monitoring and control, therefore, links all project management processes during project implementation.

The plan / actual comparison is a method of project controlling in which the planned values ​​are compared with the current actual values ​​at the time of reporting.

Adherence to deadlines, progress in terms of content, and adherence to costs are to be checked permanently. This is not about employee control or bean-counting. The trick is to collect meaningful data to be able to initiate appropriate corrective measures in the event of deviations from the plan. This includes monitoring the progress of the project and comparing it with the project planning. Reports and other project texts must therefore be written in such a way that those responsible for the project can identify deviations as early as possible to be able to develop and take control measures.

Performance evaluation, the creation of forecasts, and the decision on control measures are the main activities of the project manager, for which several specific project management methods are available, such as the earned value analysis.

The management task of a project manager is to implement the monitoring and control of a project with the project team. For this, he needs appropriate soft skills, such as communication skills.

Project completion

The main task of project completion is for the project manager to obtain acceptance of the project results from the client. Besides, he must also dissolve the project team, create a recalculation, and secure empirical values.

Furthermore, he must prepare a final project report and review all project documents, e.g. snag-lists, and close them so that they are available for a later revision.