What is Project Management? Ultimate Guide

When it comes to running you projects and keeping things going smoothly you need to understand just what goes into the process. Whether you’ve been managing projects for years without really knowing what you were doing or you’re just starting in a new role, you need to make sure you’re on the right track. That’s how you’re going to help your team and it’s how you’re going to help your clients and yourself as well. So, let’s take a look at what you need to know about project management.

Get started now

Let’s dive into projects before we do anything else. Anything at all can be a project. When you do tasks around your home you’re completing a project. When you plan out your next vacation for the family or your budget the big account at work. All of these things are projects but less formally. If you’re looking to create a true, formal project you’re going to need a few important things:

  • Start date
  • End date
  • Overall goal
  • Overall scope
  • Proper resources
  • Management

If you have all of these things then you have a true project, but you likely don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to managing that project just yet. That’s where the next step in this process comes in.

Project Management Definition

When we talk about project management we’re talking about an action. Someone (the project manager) is going to ensure that everyone else is doing what they need to be doing when they need to do it. The managers are the people who are going to make sure that all of the different aspects of the project we already talked about are going smoothly. Management is the process of actually doing the overseeing.

Frequently we hear the word ‘management’ as a way to describe the higher level bosses. ‘Management takes care of that.’ But that’s not the way that the word should be used. Management is a practice, not a person. When we talk about the management of a project we’re talking about what’s being done to ensure that things are done the way they should be. While the manager is responsible for executing proper management, they are not management themselves.

What are the 4 main elements of a project?

The project management process is pretty different for every business and project type. For example, a production factory may need different project management techniques than a software house. The reason behind that is the difference in the natures of different businesses. However, whenever it comes to project management, there are 4 main elements of projects that are always standard. So, a project manager always needs to start by focusing on those things. Below are the details of all of those.

Scope of the project

The first element of a project is its scope. Scope includes the goals and objectives regarding the size of the project. The scope also focuses on different project requirements, stakeholders, userbase, main feature and functionality requirements, and so on.

Resources for the project

The next main element project managers need to focus on is the set of resources. Resources differ depending on the project, but the main categories include the materials and tools used for the project and the manpower. All of these must be managed according to the execution requirements of the project.

Time duration of the project

Every project comes with a certain duration. For example, a website development project may come with a time duration of 20-30 days. However, for a project manager, this time duration includes a lot of things, including the following:

·   The duration of the project as a whole

·   Deliverable and task deadlines

·   Critical path design and implementation of the project

·   Schedule of the project considering deliverables and milestones

·   Dependencies

Cost and money

The last element of the project is money. This element includes everything, including the costs, expenses, revenue, contingencies, and profit. A project manager usually gets goals for all these things they have to meet while maintaining the timeline and the quality of the project.

The scope is the most important among all these elements because it is the most effective when the project is complete. A complete project is important according to its effectiveness and efficiency for its stakeholders, and its scope covers all their needs.

Understanding Project Managers

So, just what is the project manager? They’re the ones who have to communicate with everyone. They need to keep all of the different departments working together on their piece of the puzzle. They have to keep track of the puzzle itself and they need to be aware of what the team wants and what the client wants. These are the individuals responsible for scope creep, failures within the project and making the big decisions about how a project is going to be accomplished. Other tasks might include:

  • Resource planning
  • Time/cost estimating
  • Facilitating meetings
  • Analyzing/managing risks
  • Monitoring project status


How Project Management Works

When it comes to the actual execution of project management it varies from one team to the next and even one project to the next. The key is finding a balance that works for the organization and the people who are going to be responsible for every step of the process. When it comes to carrying out a project, however, most organizations follow these three basic steps, with different specifications throughout. 

Different goals and objectives in project management

Describing things that you are looking to achieve in a project can be described in 2 ways:

1. High-level statements that are project management goals

2. Low-level statements that are project management objectives

Project management goals

These are the high-level statements that align with the goals of the business. Thus, they outline what a project wants to achieve at a higher level. It focuses a lot on business performance and profitability through cost and quality improvement.

Some project goals include:

·   Better customer experience

·   Higher revenue

·   Better customer satisfaction

·   Cost reduction

·   Data collection

The project managers are responsible for managing all of these goals as well as all other goals of a business. Meanwhile, everything focuses on the quality of the business and enhancing the customer's overall experience. It is necessary to identify the project's stakeholders to meet the project goals. After their identification, you must research the needs of those stakeholders.

The last and the most important thing here is to sort those from the most important to the least important. Next, you can design your project management plan accordingly. Thus, it becomes easier to meet the project management goals.

Project management objectives

These lower-level statements support the actualization of project goals. These help project managers track their progress throughout the project lifecycle. Objectives usually include deliverables and tangible products that the project has to deliver. While the goals can be the same for different projects, objects differ depending on the time, cost, scope, management and several other factors.

While objectives differ, every objective must be SMART(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound). Some examples of these objectives include:

·   Increasing the traffic on the project website by 50%

·   Betterment of team communication through 1 week of training sessions

·   Delivering a customer satisfaction tool within 1 month

·   Making the website load 2-times faster than before after the next update.


Research and Planning Phase

The first phase in the process is to research what needs to be done for the project to be successful. This generally includes market research, competitive analyses and a thorough understanding of what the client is looking for. By doing the research and planning out the process long before anything else is started it’s possible to ensure that adequate goals are set. This also ensures the requirements are fully understood and developed so that all members of the team can complete their portion of the tasks appropriately. The idea is to make sure that you have the right level of prioritization and delegation, which you do through our Ultimate Gantt software.

Execution Phase

The next phase of the process is to execute the plan that you’ve created. It means choosing a path and a method that you’re going to follow which could be one of many popular varieties, including waterfall or agile (which we’ll talk about later). Overall, this is where you want to work with everyone that’s going to be a part of the team and make sure everyone has tasks that they need to perform along the way.You need to talk to the employees who are going to execute each aspect. You need to talk with the stakeholders and clients who are going to benefit (or not) from the result. Everyone needs to know what the process is and how it’s all going to happen from this moment until the end product is ready to be delivered. This is going to require a lot of careful planning as well as a lot of structure.


Testing Phase

The final phase is when the project is all over. At least, it’s where the creation of the project is over. This is where you’ll need to make sure that everything is working the way that it should and that it’s getting the type of results that were expected. You want to test things out and you may need to make adjustments as you go along if you’re not getting exactly what was planned. There may be several stages of adjustments and testing before you get to the ultimate result, but when this phase is over it means the project is complete.


Putting it All Together

Now, let’s take a little closer look at those stages and what’s going to happen to make sure that your plan is effective, efficient and workable. We’ll take a look at how to create a work plan as well as some of the different processes you can use for implementing that plan. We’ll also look closely at how to make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and how they will know what tasks they need to accomplish first. So, let’s jump right in.

Setting Your Goals

Setting a goal is going to be the first step for your process, because if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? You may have heard variations of this quote from Lewis Carroll and Yogi Berra. They both knew that to get somewhere you need to actually set an end goal and not just an end goal. You need to set a SMART end goal. No, a SMART goal is not the same thing as just setting a smart goal, either. Sure, you need to put some thought into your goals, but you also need more than that:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

If your goal hits all five of these marks then you’re setting yourself up for success in actually accomplishing it. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to head back to the drawing board and see what you can come up with. The reason for that is, research shows that SMART goals are the kind that people push themselves to achieve, and that’s the whole point, right? You set a goal because you want to get there. By making sure you stick with each of these points you’re encouraging yourself (and your organization) to do just that. 

Creating the Plan

Next up is creating the plan. We mentioned that this is the first phase in the three-phase design, but it needs a little more explaining than just that. Planning means that you’re going to break the project down into steps. You’re going to start with an end goal in mind and you’ll then need to start thinking about what needs to be accomplished along the way to eventually get to that ultimate goal. There will be several people involved in the process and you need to know that each of those people is executing their tasks the way you would expect.

While it’s always a good idea to check in with your team personally, there’s no way that you’ll be able to keep track of every piece of their tasks at every moment of the day. Think about how large your team is and what all they need to accomplish. Chances are they’re not only working on a single project either. So, you need to know what’s going on in each task they’ve been assigned but you don’t want to disrupt their day (or yours) walking in to talk with them at all times, that’s where a good project work plan will make a big change. You want to create a plan that directs everyone and then put it into a system.

That way, each person can check-in, see what they’re supposed to be doing, and mark projects they’re working on or that they have completed. As the project manager, you would be able to then check into the system and see what projects are being completed, what still needs to be done and where everyone is working. From there, you can see what kind of meetings or check-ins you need to schedule and focus there, rather than spending a lot of time talking to people who don’t need it.

Agile vs. Waterfall Planning

Let’s take a look at the two most common methods of planning and executing a project. These are agile planning and waterfall planning. While either one can be successful and yield excellent results for your project, they also have their own benefits and drawbacks that might make one or the other the better choice for your specific organization or for a specific project within your organization. Overall, agile planning focuses on breaking down the plan into smaller steps.


Each of these steps is called a sprint, which is approximately 1 to 3 weeks’ worth of work. By breaking things down into sprints it’s possible to break each project into more manageable steps. It feels a whole lot easier to execute when you’re able to look at small pieces rather than a large project that could take months or longer to be done. This process makes sure that each step is being done in the right way and that nothing gets missed in the process. It’s also the most popular method, with approximately 71% of organizations saying they use this method, likely because it’s flexible, open to changes and quite simple for members of the team to work with. Waterfall planning, on the other hand, is quite structured and strict.


Many project managers aren’t quite as keen on this method because it feels entirely too fixed. It feels like you don’t have any level of flexibility, which can be a little difficult for some to follow. On the other hand, if you’re interested in going from one step to the next in a linear manner it can be an effective method for executing a project. It actually plans everything out one step after the other. When the first step is complete then you can move on to the next and so on, until the ultimate goal is achieved at the end of the line.

Assigning Roles Properly

During the course of project implementation and the steps we’ve outlined above, one of the most important aspects is giving everyone a job to do. Each member of the team needs to know where they fit into the grand scheme of things and what they’re responsible for doing. One way to assign roles positively and effectively is through a RACI chart. This is a chart that focuses on four important aspects of assigning tasks.


·   Responsible

·   Accountable

·   Consulted

·   Informed

With each of these different roles, you’re going to be assigning different team members, which makes the project more efficient and makes sure that everyone has a job to get done. Check out the link above if you’re interested in learning even more about how RACI can help you and your entire team to get the job done.

Scheduling Tasks

Now, another important aspect of planning out your project is making sure that each aspect of the project is done the right way. You want to make sure that not only do you have tasks assigned but everyone knows what tasks need to be completed first. It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle where you’re trying to complete the easiest tasks first just to cross something off the list.


An Eisenhower Matrix can allow you to not only showcase the tasks that need to be accomplished, but also make sure that they are prioritized, so the most important things are being done first.With this matrix (which you can find out even more about as well) you’ll be able to clue your team in on what’s the most important tasks that need to be completed. Or, in Eisenhower’s terms, which are the urgent tasks. In general, items are broken down into one of four quadrants.


These are:


1. Urgent and important

2. Not urgent and important

3. Urgent and not important

4. Not urgent and not important

Tracking Tasks

Once tasks have been assigned and scheduled it’s important to make sure that they’re being accomplished and executed properly. This is where we start entering into the second phase of the project as we’ve talked about in the previous section. To track tasks you can use several different methods, including programs like Trello, Wrike, Asana or Monday, but what you’re going to want to check out is Instagantt because it allows you to do more than just assign tasks.


Where Trello, Asana, and Monday are going to allow you to assign tasks and even to write notes and make sure that tasks are checked off, they’re not going to give you the more advanced aspects of the management process. You’re not going to be able to manage things like baselines, critical paths, dependencies, milestones and more. For those things, you’re going to need a Gantt chart software. Now, you can find out more about Gantt chart software here, if you are interested in things like the background, where they started out and even how they’ve evolved, but you can accomplish more with Wrike or Instagantt than you will with the other two options we’ve mentioned.


What’s great about these types of software is that you’re going to be able to check progress on projects, rather than just whether it’s complete or not. You can also perfect the program to match your specific organization and your teams’ needs. You’ll be able to manage resources, manage workload and even track budget and more. Overall, it’s a very in-depth and detail-oriented project management system, which makes it a whole lot easier for any project manager to utilize. It also takes care of most of the concepts you’ll need for the second phase of the project you’re managing.

Measuring Success

The final aspect of the process is measuring your success. Now, there are several different ways that you can choose to measure the success of a project and it’s primarily going to depend on the specifics of the project itself. You’ll need to look at things like the return on investment for the client and the overall amount of time that it can save them. Measuring success means that you’ll need to know some of the metrics from before the project was implemented and compare them to the same metrics after the project is completed.

Instagantt can help you with some of these steps as well, and you can also look for other types of tracking software that will allow your clients and your team to measure where a particular project is succeeding and where additional changes or improvements can be made. This will allow everyone to stay happy with the result and will ensure you are achieving the level of success that you’re looking for.

Tips to make your project management job easier

If you are a project manager, you must consider all of the following things to make your job easier:

·   Always put efforts into making good documentation as it sets the base for good management

·   Communicate, collaborate, and coordinate in Realtime

·   Always stay focused on the main goal to avoid confusion

·   Stay up to date with resources and techniques

·   Follow safe and secure ways of managing projects

Principles of project management

Some project management principles help the whole team focus on the business goal and provide better performance and efficiency, from low-level employees to high-level management. The following are the details of all of those principles.


Accountability is the first principle, and it makes the person working on a specific task accountable for the success or failure of that task. Accountability puts more pressure on the assignee, the project manager, and the whole team. Thus, the requirements are met better, and the project management is also done better to efficiently achieve the project's goals.

The clarity in goals and objectives

The next principle has clear goals and objectives. Having ambiguity will break the performance momentum throughout the project lifecycle. With clarity in goals and objects, the steps can be completed easily. It is why the project manager sets the goals and objects of every project according to the SMART guidelines.


When a team is working together on a project, communication is important for effective cooperation. No bad communication can hinder the progress and efficiency of the whole team. Additionally, with good team communication, everyone knows their duties and responsibilities with all the important details.

Effective communication makes the team perform better from the first day of working on the project to the day when the final deliverable is delivered.

Exceptional Management

A project manager must work exceptionally to manage the quality and cost while meeting all the standards and deadlines of the project. A project manager must maximize efficiency by delegating tasks and other responsibilities to other team members to take charge of the employees working under them.

It is the model of upper-level management and lower-level management. For the best performance, it is necessary to keep stress as less as possible for all levels of workers.

Focusing on the main goal

One of project management's most important principles is focusing on the main goal. It is a good approach to divide certain project parts into smaller tasks and deliverables for easier management. However, the main focus of all the deliverables and tasks must be the main goal. Always keeping the main goal within the perspective helps bring up the solution that benefits the main goal instead of just solving that problem for the time being.

Risk Management

The process of project management goes through so many risks at certain levels. In fact, for some projects, managing risks is more important than other tasks. So, having risk management planning and qualities is necessary for the project manager. There are 2 types of risks:

1. Those you can anticipate

2. Those you cannot anticipate

As a project manager, setting up risk assessment sessions and having a backup team to schedule and solve those risks is necessary. Risk management, for sure, takes some extra time and effort to plan and implement things. However, when risk management is done right, the final deliverable yields the most profitable results.

The importance of project management

At a glance, project management defines deliverables and the timeline for delivering the project. However, under a detailed inspection, project management helps clarify the project's goals to the whole team working on that project, which results in precise execution. Without proper project management, the goals and objectives of a project remain unclear for everyone working on the project. Thus, the project may lead to failure.

Effective documentation

Most of the project management work is about making effective project documentation. It is because most projects are mere statements for managers. However, they work on the project's use cases, requirements, functionalities, and technicalities to produce effective documentation. Thus, this documentation helps throughout the project's lifecycle and helps the whole team work accordingly. Through project management, good documentation is produced that plays a vital role in making the key elements and requirements of the project clear.

Better performance with better monitoring

Project managers focus on performance monitoring on all levels of a project’s lifecycle. They can define quicker and more effective methods for working on a project. These also allow teams to coordinate better. So, project managers can monitor the performance of everyone working on a project considering the following things:

·   Timeline and schedule

·   Deliverables and their deadlines

·   Results

·   Risks

·   Task owners(individual and multiple)

Good project management is always the foundation of a successful project regardless of the scope of the project, its type, money, time, and everything else. With proper project management, the managers create a thorough environment and timeline for everyone working on that project to work efficiently. Thus, processing that project gets easier. More importantly, that project is easier to deploy and use for users, which results in a great user experience which is one of the major goals of every project manager.

Final words on Project Management

Project management and especially effective and high-quality project management is a benefit to any company because it provides a few major aspects that are difficult or impossible to achieve otherwise:


·   Efficient teams

·   Happy clients

·   Proper organization

·   Team growth and development

·   Overall flexibility

·   Project quality

·   Project quantity

By engaging in each of these different aspects, any business is going to be able to improve their bottom line and increase the level of work that they are providing. Using proper project management style ensures that teams are created effectively and that those teams are then encouraged to work in their strength areas rather than everyone trying to accomplish different tasks. Project management provides the organizational structure, the growth, and development necessary to complete tasks and the flexibility that’s necessary for everyone to achieve what they need.

By working with an effective management team throughout this process, it’s also possible for employees and team members to feel better heard and understood, enabling them to speak up and to make effective changes throughout the process. Project management can be a game-changer for any business, as long as they know how to properly implement it at every stage.


If you’re looking to start a project or if you’re the project manager for a project that’s already up and running, you must take a look at each of these different aspects of a successful project. Your team is looking to you for leadership and for help to be successful, and it’s only through proper management that they’re going to achieve it.

Ready to simplify your project management?

Start managing your projects efficiently & never struggle with complex tools again.