What Is Project Management?

Project Manager

The term “project management” might sound quite broad, but it actually refers to a very particular (and, if used properly, effective) way of organising goals and producing results for long-term projects.

Most project management principles were consciously brought into existence in a software context, but good managers and leaders would have been using these principles effectively since teamwork was a concept.

Let's go over what these concepts are, and how to effectively employ project management across your workflow. Of course, project management is far easier with the aid of software. While there are a fair few project management software platforms on the market, we specifically recommend monday.com. monday.com has an incredibly smooth and user-friendly interface, and a great set of features to boot.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management brands itself as a more hands-on approach to project management. The full manifesto for this project management method isn't too long if you're interested, but it boils down to experiences and interactions with the individual over a set-in-stone plan.

While Agile Project Management was originally formulated to aid software development (hence a lot of the language in the manifesto leans toward software examples), but the principles are broad enough that they could be applied to any long-term project, like graphic design or architecture.

As an example, here are a few of the core principles of Agile Project Management:

“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”

“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”

“Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.”

As you can see from this handful of guidelines, the soul of Agile Project Management is frequent communication. While this may slightly impede peoples' day-to-day work, it does mean that the project's overall flow will be far smoother, result in fewer delays, and need little to no last-minute changes.

What are Project Management's Main Objectives?

So what is the exact purpose of project management? Well, many businesses will offer products that can't be ordered and completed on the same day. It can be easy to let these more longterm projects spin a bit out of control and take up more time and money than originally planned. That's where project management comes in.

When a project is looked at through a project management lens, it ensures a few key promises:

  • The project will be delivered on time
  • The project won't go substantially over-budget
  • There will be minimal roadblocks during the project
  • The project will be delivered uncompromised and according to the specifications
  • The project will be delivered at all

With all of these in mind, anyone should be able to see the value in a strong project management process.

How Does Agile Project Management Work?

The Core of the Agile Structure

“Agile” is one of the most popular spins on project management. Traditional project management focuses in on the end goal, and taking whatever steps are necessary to reach that end goal. Agile project management, however, takes a more iterative approach to the process.

Again, this approach was developed with software in mind, so let's take a software example. If you were developing Twitter, you'd obviously want to make sure that all of the buttons on the website did the right thing. But you can't be 100% sure that the “unfollow” button works unless you've already developed and perfected the “follow” button.

In this sense, the project of developing Twitter needs to be broken down into the multiple functions that rely on each other. “Perfect Follow Button” is a step that needs to be completed before “Perfect Unfollow Button” can be reliably started. This way, even in a worst case scenario where the entire project is unfinished, you'll at least be able to present some aspects of it that work flawlessly.

The Agile Team Structure

In any decently-sized project, you're going to have a team of multiple people, each with different skillsets. As a project leader, you'll need to fully understand these skills and delegate as effectively as possible.

Depending on the project size and goal, you can have a vast amount of participants and roles onboard, including but not limited to: business sponsor, project manager, business analyst, workshop facilitator, solution developers and team leaders, business visionary, technical coordinator, technical advisor, business advisor, and solution testers.

Understanding the roles and abilities of these individuals is crucial. A good idea is to use an RACI chart. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. This can outline the roles and responsibilities of each person involved. monday.com offers a great RACI chart, shown below in the context of an architecture project.

Monday RACI Chart

The Sprint Structure with Agile

A sprint is is defined period of time (usually 2 weeks) during which the team commits to taking on a certain amount of work. Sprints help with the iterative process of Agile work as you learn to prioritise the ‘musts' against the ‘coulds' in each sprint.

Any project with multiple moving parts is bound to hit some snags along an extended period of time. To this end, teams can create a MoSCoW chart. This stands (generously) for Must, Should, Could, and Won't.

  • Must: These are the absolute necessities of whatever project you're making. If you're making a website, you must have a homepage. If you're making a building, it must have a front door. These are absolutely non-negotiable.
  • Should: If all goes according to plan, these are the aspects that the project would include. In our building example, the windows should open, but it's not the end of the world if they don't. It's still a high priority goal, but if the project is down to its final days and some of the “Musts” are still unfinished, these can take a back seat.
  • Could: It'd be nice if the project included these things, but they're not crucial. For example, a website could include some custom HTML elements that add personality, but no one would be furious if they were missing (unless they were specifically requested, of course).
  • Won't: These were either too difficult, not relevant, or otherwise not worth the effort to put into the project.

Which Tools are Used in Project Management?

While project management can be done with something as simple as a whiteboard and some stickie notes, the best way to take full advantage of the project management process is through project management software. Excel spreadsheets aren't as versatile or secure, and with how affordable PM software is, there's no reason not to at least try it out.

There are some tools that you can only use through project management software that can greatly improve efficiency, and can help ensure your project will come in on time and under budget. Here are some examples of the tools you would come across if you ventured into the realm of project management.

How to Use Project Management Software to Make RACI Charts

The aforementioned RACI Charts are a great way of establishing a hierarchy for each step of the project management process. They're an essential element to any project team, and they're very easy to set up. Most project management software platforms offer RACI charts, but our favourite is monday.com.

Monday RACI Chart

Firstly, as is tradition with monday.com, its interface and colour coordination is second to none, making it easy for even the most unfamiliar of users. Couple that with the fact that you can organise the RACI chart by person, task, or column, and it makes a somewhat basic feature into something great. Read more about monday.com here.

monday.com isn't the absolute undisputed champion, however. Smartsheet also offers a great RACI chart, coupled with a notes column that allows users to go more in depth on the various tasks and individuals connected to them.

How to Use Project Management Software to Make Gantt Charts

A Gantt chart is the most popular way to manage a project with a long timeline or a multitude of dependencies. It displays every step and aspect of the project in one calendar, letting you see the timeline of the project from day one to the finished date.

As far as PM software Gantt charts go, while we've tested several platforms, we favour ClickUp (featured below). You can include info like budgets and timelines, and there is a dedicated board where you can list all the risks that could impact your project.

How to Use Project Management Software to Make RAID Charts

A RAID chart is a collection of “risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies.”

  • Risks: What can go wrong during the entire project?
  • Assumptions: What is a safe bet but is still not set in stone?
  • Issues: What upcoming problems will we definitely need to address?
  • Dependencies: What tasks can only be started once another task is completed?

These are quite basic, but getting a comprehensive RAID Chart set up at the start of a project can make things far simpler and easier to anticipate.

Again, monday.com is a great way to set up your own RAID Charts, with an example shown below.

monday RAID chart

How to Use Project Management Software to Track Your Team's Day-to-Day Work

Project management software is obviously intended for more long-form projects, but it can still be used in a more day-to-day context. Collaborative to-do lists, message boards where users can assign tasks, deadlines, and comments, and ways to mark the progression of various tasks and objectives. It's great for a bird's eye view of your entire team or department, especially if your workplace is hybrid or remote.

If it's not obvious, project management software has a tonne of versatility. If you'd like to investigate the world of project management software further, check out our list of the 11 best project management software platforms.

What is the Role of a Project Manager?

While there are dozens of roles included in the project management process, the project manager obviously gets top billing. They are obviously responsible for managing the team and workflow of the project overall, but on the whole, their role can be broken down into five elements:

  • Initiating: Getting the ball rolling! Establishing what the project goal is, what needs to be done to get us there, and establishing things like budgets and timeframes.
  • Planning: Possibly the most crucial step of all. While the execution of the project is obviously important, it can crumble within days if it isn't planned out.
  • Executing: The longest step, but the least involved for the project manager. They're obviously still in control of the process and in charge of leading meetings, but this is when the team itself does the heavy lifting.
  • Monitoring and Controlling: This happens alongside the execution step, and is mainly made up of checking in with the team, dealing with any speed bumps, and doing everything in their power to ensure a speedy and smooth process.
  • Closing: Presenting the project to the individual or organisation that requested it. Hopefully this is the easiest step, and will end with the popping of a champagne cork!

Which Businesses Need Project Management?

As mentioned, while the term “project management” was officially brought about in a software development context, the principles and systems of project management can be used for almost any project. Project management is now being used by software developers, finance firms, legal teams, construction businesses, and even in the arts, in fields like visual effects and graphic design.

All that to say, while few businesses categorically need project management, it's a benefit to almost all of them. This benefit is enhanced further by project management software. If a business is trying to use project management techniques, but is struggling to keep on top of it all, project management software can help teams and businesses maintain an efficient workflow.

Some of the most helpful capabilities of project management software include:

  • Building a work pipeline
  • Taking notes on the various steps of the process
  • Create a to-do list, and assign different tasks to different users

As far as the best project management software out there, our researchers favour ClickUp, which is a great pick for anyone unfamiliar with project management. In our research, comparing 11 platforms, ClickUp came out on top with a very healthy score of 4.6/5. Not only does it have a free tier, which can allow you to dip your toes into the water without committing to anything, but it also scored our best usability score (4.0/5).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ``scrum`` in Project Management?
“Scrum” is one of the core tenets of Agile project management, especially among small teams. This typically involves a “Scrum master,” who is basically the leader of the team. This involves multiple “sprints,” which are short periods of time wherein every second of work is devoted to a single goal. The team will meet daily and present any issues that have arisen, which can lead to them being solved together. It's a great method for fast results amongst a small team.
What is risk in Project Management?
Any good project management process requires a thorough assessment of risk. What can go wrong during the project, and what can your team do to mitigate the possibility of that happening? Or, if it does happen, how can your team solve it as quickly as possible? No project management process is complete without nailing down the risks beforehand!

As an example of potential risks from the process itself, obviously, project management requires a lot of meetings, no matter what method you're using. While these meetings are extremely helpful when it comes to checking in on progress, too many meetings can clog up schedules and slow down the work process, rather than speeding it up.

What is RAID in Project Management?
No, it's not storming a castle – in project management, RAID is an acronym. It stands for Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies. These are the four aspects of any project that you'll need to nail down in order to ensure an effective result.

  • Risks: As mentioned in the FAQ above, risks are anything that could go wrong at any step. While you might not be able to prevent all of these risks, you can hopefully anticipate and mitigate them.
  • Assumptions: Anything your team takes for granted that might not entirely be true. For example, a team working at full output for the entire time assumes that none of them will fall ill or go on holiday.
  • Issues: Anything that arises during the process that can impede the project's delivery.
  • Dependencies: Which steps of the project rely on another step's completion? For example, if you were building a building, you can't paint the walls without the wiring and pipes being installed within them first.
What is a stakeholder in Project Management?
Anyone who is sightly involved in the project's process or product is a stakeholder. The team working on it, any investors in the project, the customer who requested it, and even the customers at the very end who aren't even aware of the entire process. All of these people are stakeholders, and their needs and desires will need to be addressed at every point in the process.
Duncan Lambden
Duncan Lambden Senior Writer

Duncan (BA in English Textual Studies and Game Design) is an Australian-born writer for Expert Market. His articles focus on ecommerce platforms and business software that allows small businesses to improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on invoice financing and customer relations. He has written for Website Builder Expert and Tech.co, and has been featured in Forbes. In his free time, Duncan loves to deconstruct video games, which means that his loved ones are keenly concerned about the amount of time he spends looking at screens.