In the field of project management, there are two main categories which every project manager will require mastery of in order to succeed: Knowledge Areas and Process Groups. These two categories are the backbone of the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge).
In order to successfully pass the PMP Exam (Project Management Professional), you must become proficient in both of these areas. The Knowledge Areas consist of 10 different categories of project management that deal with all you must know in order to be a successful PM. The Process Groups are the methods by which you actually do the project management.
Learning about Process Groups and implementing them is not quite the same thing. Every project is unique, and so the implementation of process groups will necessarily be molded and shaped to fit your project in order for it to be successful. Here are the basic principles of the 5 Project Management Process Groups.
Why Process Groups?
Before we discuss the five Process Groups and all that they entail, it is helpful to consider why these Process Groups are important for successful project managers. It may seem that they aren’t necessary, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the last several decades Project Management International (PMI) has spent countless hours and resources researching what contributes to effective project management. In so doing, they have assembled the best practices, and have done so with evidence from experts across the globe.
By familiarizing yourself with the five process groups, you are aligning your skill set with proven tactics. This will only serve to deepen your knowledge as you lead projects and enable you to do so in the most efficient and successful way possible.
The first step of any project involves casting a vision for what will be accomplished throughout the duration of that project. Without this step in the process, there is no groundwork laid, and a foundation is crucial for the building of anything, including successful projects. Initiation creates a strong foundation upon which the other four Process Groups are built.
During this stage, the project is formally authorized by the sponsoring company or organization. This includes making sure the broader vision of the project aligns with the vision of the company or organization.
The initial scope of the project is laid out and defined. As well, stakeholders and are identified, a critical part of the ongoing health of the project. Keeping the stakeholders informed as the project moves forward is an important component of project management.
This stage also includes establishing the phases of the project, organizing teams, acquiring necessary permits and setting initial work orders in place. The project manager will be responsible for identifying risk, needed resources, dependencies, objectives, timelines, and scopes and deliverables.
In short, project initiation is the set of steps required to successfully set a project in motion.
Within the PMBOK Guide, 24 different processes are defined as being part of the larger process of planning. Not all of these processes will necessarily be used in every project, but as you can see, this portion of a project involves more than just a cursory overview of the project before getting started.
In order to successfully execute (which is the third Process Group), you must first successfully plan. Much of what is accomplished in this phase is taking the broader ideas established within the initiating stage and fleshing them out in greater detail. The following areas are considered while making a plan.
- Defining the scope of the project in greater detail (including risks, milestones, summaries and budgets).
- Selecting teams and team leaders.
- Setting plans in place to maximize workflow in all areas of the project.
- Developing a project schedule (this will often involve the use of Gantt Charts).
- Giving the project the necessary infrastructure to achieve the goals of the project within the defined timeline and budgetary limitations.
- Establishing a communication plan for project team members and stakeholders (this will include selecting the project management software or apps you intend to use throughout the project.
Once a project manager has spent the time mapping out all of these details, he or she will assemble everything into a master document, or project management plan. This official document can be referred back to by all team members, stakeholders, and leaders throughout the project, and can be presented for final authorization and approval before officially beginning work on the project.
Oftentimes people are anxious to begin the work of a project and this will lead them to skip over some of the planning phase to get to the execution phase, but this is unwise. With all of the planning details in place, a team can move forward into the execution stage with a clear, unified vision of all that needs to be accomplished.
During the executing phase, the members of the team assigned to individual tasks begin producing deliverables while the project manager monitors resources and budget restraints. With a detailed schedule in place, the team members will also be executing their tasks in the order necessitated by any dependencies between tasks.
The executing stage is also a place where most of the budget is spent, as well as where stakeholders may get involved and make changes or requests.
This is the phase during which reliable project management software can come in especially handy, as it can keep all members of the team communicating, and aware of any changes that need to be made. Especially with larger projects, it’s important for all the individuals involved in a project to have the ability to track progress, and integrative software can help tremendously with that process.
4. Monitoring and Controlling
Throughout all of this, the project manager will be responsible for maintaining organization, effective communication, and reaching benchmark goals. In short, he or she must monitor and control the project while it’s being executed.
An effective project manager will also be able to assess and manage team members during this period, recognizing concerns or need for change, and effectively handling them, while keeping the project on track. Managing personnel is one of the most important pieces of successfully executing a project.
This Process Group relies heavily on the ability of the project manager to identify and troubleshoot problems as they arise, keeping the project on track and preventing it from stalling. During this stage, it’s important to have a well-developed understanding of risk assessment and management.
The manager must always have the scope of the project in view, measuring the project’s progress against projections, and acting accordingly. By keeping the broader goals of the project in mind, while assessing the details of day to day operations, he or she can make sure goals are achieved and the project is successfully brought to completion.
Once a larger project’s individual tasks are completed, the executing and monitoring and controlling phases officially come to an end, and the project enters the Process Group known as Closing.
It may seem that it’s all smooth sailing from here, but successfully closing out a project requires skill, and will reflect on a project manager’s overall ability to lead a team and project. In order to close out a project, the manager will need to do the following:
- Assembling a final report on all that was accomplished during the project.
- Presenting the report to stakeholders or clients and acquiring final approval and acceptance of the project.
- Tying up loose ends, including making final payments and closing contracts.
- Creating a project closure report to establish how the project has performed against the original business plan for budget, timeline, and workflow.
- Creating a lessons learned report. This will involve assembling the team and discuss what was successful and what could be improved in future projects.
- Archiving all reports and documents in an organized fashion for future reference.
Healthy closing reflects a healthy team. If a team grows disorganized in the end, with team members not showing up for meetings or final steps, it reflects poorly on the manager and on the company at large. It’s important for the project manager to inspire a continuing strong work ethic in his or her team members up to the very end of the project.
As project management continues to grow as a desirable position by companies in every type of industry, it’s important that professional project managers be familiar with the practice of these five main Process Groups. By knowing how to effectively initiate, plan, execute, monitor, and close a project, a project manager makes him or herself valuable to a company.
When you pass the PMP exam, you prove yourself familiar with the five Process Groups, but continuing your education through earning PDU’s can help to round out your knowledge and keep you prepared for any project you face.
As you lead more projects, not only will your portfolio grow, but your knowledge of and skill concerning Process Groups, as you gain the experience necessary to understand what works best and what doesn’t.