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What is Project Management?

Learn about modern approaches to project management, and how the key to their success is the latest PLM technology.

At the heart of every successful project is impeccable project management. It serves as the guiding force that ensures objectives are met on time and within budget. Good project management brings structure, transparency, and accountability to the entire process. It facilitates clear communication, resource allocation, risk mitigation, and efficient collaboration among team members.

In today’s market, the key to staying competitive and achieving operational excellence lies in effective project management and the use of cutting-edge product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions. When these two powerful forces combine, they create a synergy that can revolutionize the way businesses operate and innovate.

Modern Approaches to Project Management

Project management (sometimes called project portfolio management, product portfolio management, or program management) helps ensure that products get developed, made, launched, and delivered on time. It's how companies manage the resources, timelines, and deliverables needed to get products done. Project management can be as simple as a task board to track activities to something as sophisticated as project portfolio optimization. Regardless of the complexity of the project (or product), collaboration across and outside the project team is critical for project management.

There are two main types of project management methodologies used depending on your industry. Agile project management has recently become more popular than traditional project management. Project management certification is becoming more common when working with faster-paced companies with more complex project and product portfolios.

Agile utilizes sprints and breaking larger projects into smaller iterative projects, allowing you to pivot priorities quickly. When it comes to manufacturing business or software development, agile gives them the ability to quickly respond to any market changes. Work is discussed with the project team in daily scrums and assigned accordingly. Gantt charts are a great project management software to track workflow across the different sprints and make it easier to revisit the project work later.

Traditional, also known as waterfall, is still useful in certain contexts. It follows the typical project management process of completely finishing one phase of the project and moving on to the next until the project lifecycle is complete. One unique piece of traditional project management is the critical path method. This takes all of the project work into account and finds the shortest path to project success based on the work breakdown structure. This methodology typically has many more dependencies than agile projects.

Phases in the Project Life Cycle

Every organization has its own way of managing projects, and each project management professional (PMP) has their own unique style or project management skills. It’s important that your project management makes sense for your business process. The Project Management Institute (PMI), the leading authority in project management, has development templates that breakdown the project life cycle into five phases for effective project management.

  • Initiating: This phase is the beginning of every project and lays the groundwork for the entire project moving forward. This phase includes the business case, where the company makes a case for the need of the project and presents it to the proper stakeholders. The largest deliverable in this phase is the project charter. The project charter includes all of the information a project manager will need to plan the project. It will also act as a source of truth throughout the project execution. It will outline the project scope and project goals for the project manager.
  • Planning: This is where the full project plan is formed. The project manager looks at the time and budget constraints and completes the scope and work breakdown structure. The resource procurement and planning are done in this phase. The PM will decide between agile and traditional methodologies in this project phase.
  • Executing: The project execution phase takes the management plan made in the previous phase and puts it into action. This is when the project team starts to produce the deliverables outlined in the project plan. The project manager works on stakeholder engagement and quality assurance of deliverables as they come through.
  • Monitoring/Controlling: This is the most important part of the project. While having a project plan is great, it’s important to make sure the project work is staying true. The project manager looks at the timelines and determines where the project team can streamline and optimize their work. Change management is a large part of this phase of the project. It’s important to go through the proper channels to update any part of the project scope or timeline.
  • Closing: This is the last phase of the project life cycle. This consists of the delivery of the project and lessons learned meetings. The project team takes a look back on the work done and identifies where it was a successful project and where it could’ve been optimized better.

Key Capabilities for Project Management

  • Portfolio management: Companies use portfolios to make better decisions on what products or projects they should be investing in. Portfolio management considers projects against criteria like strategic fit, potential revenue, required resources, and technology alignment. Companies may re-balance a portfolio periodically or when there is a significant change to their current and potential list of projects.
  • Resource management: Resource management is sometimes considered the holy grail of project management. Top-down resource allocation helps companies determine project feasibility and schedule estimates, while bottoms-up task completion provides a more granular view of the work actually accrued to a project. As dates, hours, and deliverables move around, keeping track of actual resources gets exceedingly difficult. Resource leveling is a common top-down practice for trying to figure out how to move resources to complete projects based on changing conditions.
  • Project management and project scheduling: Project managers or program managers are responsible for determining the tasks, deliverables, milestones, and activities for a project. They often create a work breakdown structure (WBS) to scope the project and assign specific resources to tasks. All of this is included from the beginning, back in the project planning phase. Getting project updates from the team is a critical element of keeping the project on track.
  • Project costing: besides time and scope, cost is the third leg of project management. Keeping track and forecasting costs through methods like Earned Value helps companies determine whether their projects will stay within budget.
  • Risk management: good project managers stay on top of potential risks, and they determine a risk mitigation strategy for anything that can jeopardize a project's time, scope, or budget.
  • Project collaboration: Teamwork and collaboration are the heart of project management. It's critical for project team members to easily understand, update, and communicate their tasks, deliverables, and activities. Integrating project data with product data is especially helpful in getting new products launched on time and within budget.

The Evolution of PLM

Product Lifecycle Management has come a long way from its origins as a tool for managing engineering data. Modern cloud-based PLM systems have transformed into comprehensive platforms that manage every aspect of a product's journey, from concept to retirement. These solutions have broken down silos, enabling cross-functional teams to collaborate seamlessly and reducing time-to-market.

The Marriage of Project Management and Cloud-Based PLM:

When good project management practices are integrated with modern cloud-based PLM, the results are extraordinary:

  1. Streamlined Workflows: Project managers can design workflows that align with the stages of the product lifecycle, ensuring tasks are executed in the right sequence and that stakeholders are informed at each step.
  2. Real-time Collaboration: Cloud-based PLM allows teams to work together in real-time, whether they are in the same office or scattered across the globe. This fosters greater collaboration and innovation.
  3. Resource Optimization: Project managers can allocate resources more effectively by having visibility into the PLM system. They can identify bottlenecks and redistribute resources as needed to maintain project momentum.
  4. Data-Driven Decision-Making: Both project managers and team members can make informed decisions based on real-time data available through the PLM system. This ensures that projects stay on track and align with strategic objectives.
  5. Risk Management: With access to historical project data and analytics, project managers can better anticipate and mitigate risks, reducing the likelihood of costly delays or failures.
  6. Cost Control: Cloud-based PLM systems often offer cost management features, allowing project managers to monitor expenses and stay within budget constraints.
  7. Scalability: As your business grows, cloud-based PLM systems can easily scale to accommodate increased project complexity and volume.

Find out more about modern PLM, and discover the efficiency created when highly collaborative project management tools are tightly integrated with all product changes.

With Propel PLM, even the most complex projects can be built into processes inside the platform and can be set to run either manually or through automation. Any business user can design these processes without needing help from IT or software developers given its fully composable no-code interface. Learn more here.

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Post by
Dario Ambrosini
CMO, Propel

Dario is a senior marketing and operations executive with 10+ years of venture-backed SaaS experience. He has held roles in enterprise and small business marketing at Manta, Switchfly, Yahoo! and American Express.

Fun Fact: He grew up in the United States and Italy.

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Dario Ambrosini