“Do you know the process for booking train tickets?” a new colleague asked me recently. She needed to travel to another office and was planning to use public transport. We have a travel agent that she could use to make the booking, but she wasn’t sure how to go about it.
The process is relatively simple. Call up for a quote, get your manager to approve the travel request, forward the approval to the travel agent and then receive either ‘real’ tickets or e-tickets, depending on what you have ordered and where you are going. You probably have something similar in your own company.
So what’s so significant about that? It’s because it’s a process. Even something as easy as buying a train ticket has a defined process. There are lots of processes in project management and they help us manage things consistently, whether we are working on large projects or small ones. Here are 5 key project management processes.
#1. Project Initiation
Project initiation is a project management phase: it’s the stuff you do at the beginning of the project to ensure that it starts off on the right foot. But it is also the process of getting your project scoped and approved.
Project initiation involves making sure that you know what you are doing, that you have the appropriate resources (including the budget) to do so and that your project is approved. It should also include a check to make sure that you have a project sponsor allocated to the project as well as the team members who will be doing the work. That last point is probably the most important. The approval process could involve several steps including a business case review and final approval to proceed from your project sponsor. Don’t start work without it.
#2. Risk Management
The risk management process ensures that you are adequately managing the risks on your project. This process includes steps to identify risks, assess them and prepare an action plan to mitigate against them. Your risk log is the key place to record all of this activity and ensure that you are following the process accurately.
This is a good point to mention that process steps tend to result in actions, and actions need owners. In the risk management process, once you have prepared an action plan you will need to allocate someone to work on those activities to ensure the risk is managed appropriately. You can delegate this work to them using your project management software, which will also give them the opportunity to update their progress in real-time so that you’ll always know how they are doing against managing those risks.
#3. Change Management
All projects suffer changes – as project managers we just have to accept that! However, it is important that the change management process is handled properly so that the changes on your project do not get out of hand.
Changes should be specified, assessed to see their impact on the project and then approved or rejected. If a change is approved, there is another process to follow to ensure that all the project documents and the schedule get updated with the new information. You can use a change log to record all the proposed and accepted changes on your project, along with the date and who authorized them. This gives you a central record so that everyone can see what has changed and how this will impact their work.
#4. Project Reporting
Project reporting might not seem like a process, but think about it! Each week (or day, or month) you gather status updates from team members, prepare these into a short report or include the data in a template, review the report and get it approved and then circulate it to the relevant stakeholders. It has inputs (updates from the team) and outputs (the finished report). The finished report could be in any format, from a spreadsheet to a short email. Templates make the process faster as you can speed up the data entry. Dashboards make the process faster still as they pull information in real-time from your project management software and present it graphically so that everyone can see at a glance how the project is progressing.
This is a key process because communication is such an important part of making your project successful. Inadequate communication can lead to misunderstandings which in turn often lead to rework or delays on the schedule.
#5. Issue Management
Unfortunately, issues happen on projects. Things go wrong from time to time and it is not always possible to foresee these situations. It is important to make sure that you deal with problems consistently and effectively so that they can be properly managed and resolved. The issue management process achieves this.
When something goes wrong on your project you should start off by identifying the problem. Use your issue log to record the situation. Assess the impact of your project including the budget, resource plan, and schedule. Then you are in a position to work out what you need to do next to resolve it. This becomes your action plan – probably the most critical part of the issue management process. Assign a resource to take the lead with managing the issue through to resolution. Ask them to record their progress in real-time using their project management software to update the status of the issue. That helps with communication, as you’ll always be able to see how much progress has been made towards resolving the problem.
These are 5 key project management processes, but as you’ll discover on the way through a project, there are many more processes that help keep your project on track and your team on target to deliver their tasks effectively. Without these processes, project management would be much harder and the results far less successful!