13 Essential Components of Project Management
“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” This quote by American motivational speaker, writer, and consultant Denis Waitley best describes successful project management.
Projects don’t just succeed on their own. There are core components you need to apply. Creating a project plan is just one ingredient for project success. If you focus on some components and ignore others, project failure is the result.
Read on to learn the essential project management components that are necessary to make a project successful.
1. Project Goals
37% of projects fail because of a lack of clearly defined goals, specific project objectives, and milestones (PMI)
What do you aim to achieve with the project? Every project must clearly define its goals. Your team will run in circles and produce results outside what you planned to achieve without clearly defined project goals.
Clear project goals guide the project team toward achieving the set deliverables. They take different forms: business, health, professional, communication, academic, and financial goals.
Project managers use different goal-setting frameworks, and the most popular are CLEAR and SMART goals.
CLEAR goals are collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, and refinable objectives that are flexible and subject to change.
An example of a CLEAR project goal is to double business revenue.
“The project team will work with the sales and marketing departments to increase revenue by 100% in 6 months, completing at least a milestone monthly. To achieve this goal, the sales and marketing teams will double their campaign spending. The teams involved will hold weekly meetings to review progress reports and resolve issues to ensure it delivers on the project.”
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives.
An example of a SMART project goal is to increase team collaboration.
“The goal is to boost team collaboration across departments in three months by encouraging team members to participate in virtual team building activities for an hour every day.”
2. Project Scope Management
Project management statistics indicate that companies with scope management experience unexpected changes and delays on 33% of their projects, while those without it experience them on 66% of their projects.
Before you can understand project scope management, you need a working project scope definition. The project scope is a detailed document that outlines the goals, tasks, resources, timelines, budget, requirements, boundaries, and deliverables for stakeholders and sponsors.
Many think the project charter and the scope are the same documents. Project scope defines the project boundaries, while the project charter is a short document that authorizes a project manager to use organizational resources for project activities.
Project scope management is the process of setting, directing, and governing tasks and deliverables required for project success.
According to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), it is one of the 10 project management knowledge areas every manager should learn.
A clearly defined scope is crucial for creating a successful project management plan and preventing stakeholders from losing sight of the set objectives.
What happens when you fail to clearly define the project scope? Scope creep (project deviating from its original course), miscommunication, and unexpected bottlenecks.
When creating a scope statement, you must define the project requirements. Let’s check out a scope statement for a project to create a mental health app for teenagers.
- Downloadable on Android and iOS devices.
- Easy to access and free to use.
- Provides tips and exercises that help users track their mental health wellness and get help when required.
- A reliable hotline to call in times of emergency.
These identified items will guide your team activities and ensure the project execution phase runs smoothly and doesn’t deviate from the original project plan.
3. Project Deliverables
36% of projects mostly or always deliver their full benefits. (Wellington’s The State of Project Management Survey)
The end products of a project are deliverables. A project deliverable is a tangible or intangible output produced during the project phases for stakeholders and clients, especially at the closing stage.
Clearly defining your deliverables in the project plan is essential for the successful completion of projects. The key criteria for a successful project are on-time delivery and within the set budget. You can’t achieve this without clearly understanding the desired outcomes.
Let’s assume you are the project manager charged with hosting a fashion show with an 80s theme. The project deliverables will include 80s theme clothes, music, food, and decoration. If you deliver a modern fashion show, that project will be a disaster.
Project deliverables take different forms.
- Internal Deliverables: Products or services produced for internal employees. Examples include documents like project plans, reports, signed contracts, budget sheets, expense statements, and training program goals.
- External Deliverables: Products or services created for external stakeholders, clients, or customers.
- Final Deliverables: The expected outcome of the project delivered at the closing phase.
- Tangible Deliverables: The physical outcome delivered by a project, like the construction of a manufacturing plant.
- Intangible Deliverables: A measurable intangible outcome delivered by a project, like improvements on your logistics system.
4. Work Breakdown Structure
According to Gregory T. Haugan's 100% rule, a work breakdown structure (WBS) must cover 100% of the work defined by the project scope. (Project Management Institute)
The work breakdown structure (WBS) is the foundation of effective project management. This visual and deliverable-oriented diagram breaks the project into smaller and simpler tasks for easy project execution.
Project managers use WBS to break down a complex project into smaller and easily achievable tasks. Let’s be honest, if a project looks cumbersome, it can affect the team’s morale. Break down into smaller tasks and watch your team’s morale go up.
WBS is an essential project planning tool that helps you visualize every task necessary to complete a project from start to finish. Project managers can combine a work breakdown structure with a Gantt chart for better project planning, scheduling, and execution.
An effective work breakdown structure covers the 5 phases of the project management life cycle:
- Project Initiation.
- Project Planning.
- Project Execution.
- Project Monitoring.
- Project Closing.
Creating a work breakdown structure guides the project team to remain on schedule at all times. You can use project management software like Monday.com and Clickup to create and track progress on the work breakdown structure for your project.
Let’s look at a work breakdown structure for a city hospital renovation project.
5. Project Schedule
50% of organizations mostly or always start their project with a baseline schedule. (Wellington’s The State of Project Management Report)
A project schedule is a timetable that shows tasks, the start and due dates of each milestone, and the resources necessary to finish a project successfully. The project initiation phase is the best time to create a schedule.
Project scheduling is a core project management component. As a project manager, imagine how disorganized your day will be like without a schedule. You will miss out on meetings and struggle to effectively manage your project team for success.
Now imagine your day with a schedule. You will meet deadlines, avoid the problem of doing tasks at the wrong time, and properly monitor project progress.
A project schedule helps you break down your project into various phases with start and end dates. You can create your simple schedule on paper or with spreadsheet software.
However, if you want to create project schedules and manage progress in real-time, use project scheduling software. They help you allocate resources, organize meetings, track your team’s progress, and send notifications of pending or completed milestones.
6. Project Budget
Companies using project management software complete 66% of their projects within budget, while those without it complete 47% of their projects within budget. (PMI, “The Future of Work”)
Every project requires a budget. No matter how clear the project and organizational goals are or how concise the tasks are, without a budget, the project is going nowhere.
A budget is a planning tool that estimates the project cost from the start to the end. When creating a project budget, ensure you pay attention to details. If you miss out on an essential expense, it can result in project failure.
Nobody wants to invest in a project that will overrun its budget. The project manager has to check the budget at intervals to ensure the project is not exceeding the budgeted estimates.
Creating a project budget will not guarantee project success. You must implement the budget plan within its limit. Plan for potential budget issues and prepare the team for necessary cost adjustments.
The project manager drafts the budget and passes it to the project sponsor for approval. But this is not always the case. Key stakeholders and top management may create the budget and pass it on to the project manager to enforce.
7. Project Milestones
A milestone is the planned completion of a significant event in the project. (PMI)
Milestones in project management are tools used to mark key achievements along the project timeline. They represent major activities within the project life cycle that project managers use to gauge the project’s progress.
The number of tasks needed to successfully complete a project can be overwhelming. Breaking down your project into milestones and celebrating them can boost your team’s morale. With each milestone your project team completes, they get closer to the finish line.
Milestones are essential for creating project timelines. Interestingly, you can define a project timeline as a collection of milestones with due dates arranged in chronological order.
There is a strong link between one milestone and the next, which is called project dependency. You can’t start the next milestone until you complete the last one.
An example of a project milestone.
8. Project Human Resource Management
The technical skills of the team (48%) and the leadership of certified project managers (17%) account for project success. (Wimi-Teamwork)
Project resources are individuals and materials required for executing a project. Human resources are the most vital component of a project. Take away the project team’s contributions and watch the project fail instantly.
Human resources in project management focus on recruiting, organizing, managing, and leading the project team. The project manager is responsible for assigning roles and responsibilities to team members based on their skills and strengths.
Managing a project team (big or small) successfully from start to finish is no easy task. How do you choose your project management team and allocate specific resources or tasks to them? It gets more tricky when you discover the resource requirements vary for different projects.
Project managers use a human resources plan to solve this resource allocation problem. This plan identifies employees with the necessary skill sets and experience for the project and how best to use them.
There are essential elements required for creating a human resources plan.
- Resource Requirements: Outline and define the resources required for the project. What are the roles and tasks each project team member will perform? What team positions and job descriptions need filling?
- Staffing Management Plan: Describe how you plan to hire or gather a competent team for the project.
- Training: Detail any relevant training or development program your project team needs to execute the project successfully.
- Management: Define ways to keep your team motivated throughout the project and inform team members how you plan to assess their performance.
9. Project Quality Management
15% of project managers agree that achieving high-quality deliverables is a measure of the project’s success. (Wimi-Teamwork)
“Project management is like juggling three balls – time, cost and quality” – Geoff Reiss. Imagine your project follows project management principles for success, sticks to the set budget, and delivers on time, but the end product lacks quality. Will you consider it a success or failure?
You can deliver a project on time and within cost estimates, but if your end deliverables don't match your client’s quality standards, it’s a failure.
Smart managers collaborate with relevant key stakeholders or clients to set quality standards for the project. If you fail to set and monitor quality standards, the project outcome will fall short of expectations.
There are several important aspects of quality management.
- Determining quality standards.
- Developing a plan to meet standards.
- Measuring quality.
With clear quality standards, your team will have no issues understanding the project expectations and achieving results that satisfy the client’s needs.
Map out clear strategies that help your team meet quality standards and measure the quality of their work. With a well-drawn-out template, you can ensure consistency and high-quality deliverables.
10. Project Communications
30% of respondents in a survey choose inadequate and poor communication as the primary reason for project failure. (PMI)
Communication is one of the essential project management skills that every manager should have. No project can succeed with poor or inadequate communication among the project team members and other relevant stakeholders.
A project manager is responsible for ensuring there is no breakdown in project communications from start to finish. This individual ensures the team understands the project definition to prevent poor quality delivery.
Some of these communication tasks include:
- Asking questions of the project sponsor to better understand expectations.
- Explaining the project goals and individual roles to your team.
- Getting approval from executives and other key stakeholders for the project.
- Giving regular project updates to stakeholders and clients.
Many project leaders make the mistake of overwhelming stakeholders with project information in the name of effective communication. If you adopt this communication approach, you will leave them more confused than clear about the project.
A better approach is to conduct a communication requirement analysis to determine the relevant project information needed by stakeholders for quick decisions.
Create an environment where your project team can willingly ask questions. But don’t be afraid of letting conflicts stop getting in the way of proper communication.
If you feel your team is underperforming, be vocal about it. Let your project sponsor know if they are setting unrealistic targets. You have to be vigilant and attentive during meetings to spot areas of confusion, disagreement, and misunderstanding in communications.
Write a team meeting agenda and distribute it to the project team and stakeholders before the meeting starts. Sending the meeting plan will allow for better engagement and communication. At the end of the meeting, send out the minutes to avoid miscommunication.
Effective communication is not complete without using the right tools. What are the best communication tools for your project team and the stakeholder? Are you using multiple communication channels or a single one?
If you choose to use multiple channels for communication, keeping everyone updated on the project's progress in real time is difficult. There is a danger of overlooking important messages. Using a single channel for all project communications simplifies the process.
11. Project Procurement Plan
39% of projects fail due to a lack of planning. (ResearchGate)
Every project has purchase needs that are necessary for its success. The process of choosing an external supplier, if not properly planned for, can affect the project’s timeline or outcome.
A procurement plan is a guide for managing purchases (supplies, goods, and services) needed by your team throughout the project’s life cycle. This plan identifies the items for purchase, the contract approval process, and the specific criteria for choosing an external supplier.
Teams that use the procurement plan to manage their purchases experience lower costs and a smoother project process than those without one.
Take note of these three factors before creating a project procurement plan.
- What are the required products and services?
- How do you plan to purchase them?
- How can you monitor the progress and quality of your purchases?
A good manager should be familiar with every line of the contract and have a good supply lawyer for assistance.
When creating your procurement plan, leave room for necessary updates or changes that can happen during the project lifecycle. Changes in the project scope or procurement needs can cause it.
You need to always have a backup plan in the event suppliers disappoint you with late deliveries or poor products. In your procurement plan, include backup suppliers, so you don’t have to restart the process of finding a new one.
A project procurement management plan includes the following:
- Items for purchase and “why” statements.
- Contract type.
- Procurement risks.
- Estimated procurement costs.
- Clear contract deadlines and deliverables.
- Explanation of how procurement and contracts fit in the project scope, timeline, and budget.
- Vendor selection process and criteria.
- Plan for tracking procurement activities.
12. Project Risk Management
A survey of 100 businesses across industries showed that 50% of projects failed to achieve their specific project objectives. (KPMG)
Many projects fail because they don’t plan and prepare for risks. A project risk is an uncertain event or condition that can happen during the project and threaten its success.
The ability to appear on the scene without any prior warning or signal is what separates a project risk from other issues. If you fail to plan for project risks, it can cause late delivery and an incomplete project.
Smart managers plan ahead for project risks despite their unpredictable nature. “If you don't invest in risk management, it doesn't matter what business you're in, it's a risky business.” This quote by Gary Cohn, an American business leader, shows why preparing for risks is essential for project success.
A risk management plan is an essential project management report that helps you manage project risks. Project managers use a risk register to identify likely risks and their predicted impact on the project.
Completed Risk Register.
You can manage project risks effectively with the following steps:
- Identify all likely project risks.
- Link each risk outcome with its impact.
- Focus on the ones that have the highest probability of happening.
- Create a contingency plan for each risk.
13. Project Stakeholders Management
89% of firms have a PMO (Project Management Office), but only 45% of staffers have a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (PM Solutions)
Stakeholders are people and organizations who contribute directly or indirectly to the project. Their contributions are essential for successful project execution and delivery.
Identifying and managing project stakeholders is one of the key roles of the project manager. Stakeholders bring different mindsets and expectations to the project. Managing these expectations is tough.
Project managers use stakeholder analysis to identify the stakeholders involved and their levels of interest, influence, and impact on the project. This document helps you know what to communicate to different stakeholder groups.
How you communicate with key stakeholders like the project sponsor, steering committee, and key executives differs from other stakeholders. Since key stakeholders can control and determine the project’s outcome, communicate with them about the project scope and progress.
The best project managers know how to keep all project stakeholders happy irrespective of the size of their influence and contributions. They know how to communicate effectively and build relationships with stakeholders, which strengthens the project’s progress.
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- The State of Project Management Annual Report 2018
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- The State of Project Management Annual Report 2020
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- How to manage a milestone or manage by deliverables
- 52 statistics on project management that you absolutely need to know
- Project success and new ventures’ outcomes: How often do partners’ potential benefits and losses really converge?
- KPMG Project Management Survey 2013
- The State of the Project Management Office (PMO) 2016