Why is Project Management Important?

Back to Basics Series

I have been conducting PMP training workshops for about 15 years. I usually start my training sessions by asking participants to introduce themselves and state their expectations of the training program. This typically results in about 15-20% of students saying that their expectation is to learn project management.

I usually have to explain that although the PMP exam is based on project management, the primary focus of PMP training workshops is to help participants to crack the PMP exam—not necessarily learn project management. Sitting for the PMP exam will give one an understanding of the various project management processes, tools, and techniques, but there’s not much covered which applies these theories and methodologies to real life projects. Furthermore, you won’t learn about best project management practices.

If you are just testing the waters, look at my recent back to basics article series. These topics will upgrade your knowledge about the fundamentals of project management. If you want to really learn project management and understand its nuances; however, MPUG membership is the way to go! Sign up for MPUG’s annual membership (going on Sale in September!), which will allow you access to some of the best extensive training material and learning videos.

That said, I have written this article specifically to address two key questions. Let’s explore what project management is and why it is important.

What is Project Management?

What a loaded question! Here are a few definitions of project management:

  1. The art and science of managing a project from initiation to closing, in order to deliver a successful product or start a service.
  2. An approach used to manage work within constraints of time, cost, quality, resources, and risk to meet agreed upon performance targets.
  3. The combination of systems, techniques, and people required to complete a project within established goals of time, budget, and quality.

In my opinion, the best definition of project management comes from the PMBOK Guide:

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.

As per the definition, project management is the “application of knowledge, skill, tools, and techniques….to meet project requirements.” There are two important keywords here “application of…” and “project requirements.”

In my interpretation, project management basically means that project managers have to use their expertise to meet the project requirements, and that leads us to another question. What kind of expertise does a project manager need and what are project requirements?

Areas of Expertise

Much of the knowledge and many of the tools and techniques for managing projects are unique to project management, such as critical path analysis and earned value management.

However, only the application of knowledge and skills related to project management processes is not enough to manage projects effectively. Project managers need to understand and use their knowledge and skills from at least five areas of expertise to effectively manage projects. These areas are:

  1. Project management: this knowledge area describes what is unique to the field of project management. It includes knowledge about the five process groups, and ten knowledge areas, and overlaps with four management disciplines (keep reading).
  2. Application expertise: Many projects are similar to each other because of the same domain or application area (i.e., construction projects and software projects). Such projects have common elements of knowledge significant for such, but of which may not be required for other types of projects.
  3. Understanding of the project environment: Almost all projects are initiated, planned, and implemented in a specific economic, social, and environmental context. This has intended and unintended positive and/or negative impacts. The project team should be aware of and consider the impact of social, cultural international, political, and physical environmental contexts.
  4. General management: This area includes knowledge and skills related to staffing, organizing, financial management, accounting, procurement, sales and marketing, logistics, supply chain, and information technology.
  5. Interpersonal skills: This area is related to effective communication, influencing, leadership, negotiation, conflict management, motivating team members, and problem-solving.

Project Requirements

Requirements are a group of tasks or conditions that must be completed to finish the project successfully. They are documented after understanding the needs and expectations of various stakeholders.

A project stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization who participates in project activities or is interested in the outcome or may affect or be affected by the outcome of a project.

Project requirements could be related to all of the following:

  1. Business issues and opportunities
  2. Product features
  3. Quality, testing, and validation
  4. Transition and handover
  5. Warranty and support

To paraphrase the definition of project management, we can say that project management is the application of five types of knowledge and skills in order to accomplish the requirements and satisfy the stakeholders.

Managing a project includes, but is not limited to, all of the following activities:

  1. Identifying requirements
  2. Establishing clear and achievable objectives
  3. Balancing the competing demands for quality, scope, time and cost.
  4. Initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing the project.
  5. Satisfying the concerns and expectations of the different stakeholders.

You can look at my article on role of a project manager to checkout a comprehensive list of activities that are done while managing projects.

Why is Project Management Important?

Irrespective of the nature, size, or complexity of a project, all projects need careful planning, organization, implementation, and monitoring. Without such, projects can either fail or become challenged.

In order to deliver successful projects, one needs to implement various project management processes and follow best practices.

Here is a list of top benefits of implementing best practices of project management:

  1. Strategic alignment with organizational goals
  2. Consistent and speedy decisions
  3. Improvement in customer satisfaction
  4. Realistic estimation and planning
  5. Effective resource allocation
  6. Higher productivity and improved resource utilization
  7. Increase in employee motivation and morale
  8. Improved quality of end product
  9. Saves time for implementation
  10. Reduces overall cost
  11. Facilitates proactive risk management

Conclusion

Every project is unique and inherently risky. Without proper project management, things can become chaotic. A successful implementation of a project management processes can bring about structure and order.

By following the best practices of project management, you can get clarity on objectives, improve an implementation plan, reduce risk, and deliver a quality product on time and within budget. You can improve overall customer satisfaction, motivate team members, and make stakeholders happy.

I want to know that you think: which of the above definitions best describes project management?

A number of people believe that project management is nothing more than common sense. Do you subscribe to their views?

Do you think that project management is important? What are some of the other benefits that can accrue by following the best practices of project management?

Leave me a comment below!

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Written by Praveen Malik
Praveen Malik, PMP, has two-plus decades of experience as a project management instructor and consultant. He regularly conducts project management workshops in India and abroad and shares his project management thinking in his blog, PM by PM.
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