How Newbie Project Manager Can Start Managing Projects Effectively Using ZilicusPM
One of the significant business trend observed in last couple of decades has been, focus on project management by businesses and institutions. Earlier top-down management approach would dictate every move of the organisation, project management revolves around delegation, collaboration planning, team involvement, responsibility and accountability. This new approach helps organisations save cost and nurture result based mind-set at various levels. New approach can only be successful if project management is used effectively. It is a new project management maturity model embraced to reap full benefits of best of project management.
What Is This Guide About & What To Expect?
This is a project management guide for beginner who has no prior PM experience, where s/he will understand how to use project management for its business, know lifecycle phases of project, learn roles & responsibilities of a project manager, understand essential activities project manager would perform with the help of project management software like ZilicusPM. In the last section, we will also look at few specific activities that experienced project manager performs. It help you set your eyes on what to do in the next stage/level/ladder. Most of the aspects of mentioned here are about project management processes, how pm, stakeholders, team members (people) are going to use ZilicusPM (tool) to get to the next level of project management maturity and deliver projects successfully - consistently and predictably.
What Is Project Management?
Applying knowledge, skills, experience and tools to meet requirements and expectations of stakeholders. Her knowledge refers to all those things you will need to plan, monitor, control, execute and deliver projects.
Definition of Project Management
PMI, the global professional organisation dedicated for project management, defines a project as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”
Important Constituents of Project Management
- Project stakeholders
- Project resources
Stakeholders are people involved during the entire lifecycle of a project: right from project proposal request to inception to planning to execution, monitoring to closure. Typical stakeholders can be project sponsors, executive management, customers, vendors/partners, portfolio managers. Stakeholders can also be someone in the internal legal/statutory team (internal teams like audit/vigilance team or external like government law enforcement groups). Different stakeholders have different level of influence on projects. That's why project manager has to perform stakeholder analysis.
Project resources are all elements which contribute or are consumed/used during project delivery process. Project resources can be staff members/contractors (human resource) and/or material, services. Project resources are always limited. You can imagine, how different stakeholders influencing the project lifecycle, constrained by availability of enough resources make project management a challenging affair.
Projects like setting up big healthcare units, hospitals, building any product can involve inter-dependent, complex, multi-year long endeavour. Today these jobs can not be done by a single person just-on-time. It has to be a team effort guided by meticulous planning, flawless monitoring needs data to be gathered during project execution and project progress/insights to be presented to stakeholders. It is about mobilising resources, delegating work, tracking progress, adapting to challenging situations to deliver desired results.
Five Phases of Project Management
Any complex problem is an opportunity for project managers. Project managers can simplify things with right project management approach. Dividing complex problems into five distinct phases of project management.
1. Initiation: It is the very first step once a project is given go ahead by project sponsors. In this phase, high level project overview is prepared, a project manager is identified/assigned, broad expectations are set from the team. Project charter becomes the formal outcome document of this phase.
2. Planning: From the project charter, project manager plans project to greater details like setting roadmap, goals, objectives, scope, a work breakdown schedule (WBS), identifying milestones. Project manager sets communication expectations for all stakeholders with a communication plan, also creates risk management plan.
3. Execution: This is the phase where tyres hit the road, planning meets reality of execution. PM delegates activities to team members, conducts meeting, sets up project tracking system, guide team members through challenges. The real project delivery work happens in this phase.
4. Monitoring: Project monitoring phase goes in tandem with project’s execution. It is essentially about tracking performance of the project against its plan and expectations. Project manager keeps track whether project is on track or not, whether deliverable meet quality, expectations of stakeholders, tracking cost and other financial performance along with team performance.
5. Closure: In the fifth and last phase of project, project manager delivers project outcome to customers/end users. Project manager along with other stakeholders review project outcome, performance, mistakes made, things-done-right, etc learning to improve overall project management process.
Role & Responsibilities of a Project Manager
Even today the project manager is considered successful if s/he is able to deliver project on time. Delivering projects on time, is a result of many things project manager has to perform carefully. Project manager has to plan for and keep in mind various project roles and responsibilities while managing a project.
There are four qualities utmost important for the project manager to be successful
- Excellent communication (involves understanding, expressing)
- Astute planner who can see bigger canvas as well as focus on small details
- Team leadership
- Change agent to work in the dynamic environment, who can take everyone along with him/her
Some of the responsibilities of project managers are:
- Defining the scope of a project
- Planning project schedule (sequence of activities)
- Identifying, planning and managing resources
- Estimate time delivery timeline and costs
- Prepare budget, seek approval if budget amendment is necessary
- Plan, analysing, track and manage risks
- Build cohesive team, create & nurture project leads
Essential Activities of a Project Manager
Managing Project Risks
Tracking Timeline Using Gantt chart
Tracking Project Status Using Dashboard & Reports
To make entire project management process smoother, project managers have to invest their time in planning the project. There are multiple aspects of planning projects such as
1. Scheduling - Planning Timeline
The process of deciding, planning the duration, amount of time it is expected to take a project from start to completion is project scheduling. Project manager creates high level project work (called work breakdown structure, WBS). It is further detailed to included tasks and sub-tasks (actionable activities) which can be assigned to staff members. Each task will have start date, due date (duration) along with more information. It takes astute skills to rightfully identify/breakdown activities, foresee sequence & dependencies and guesstimate duration.
You can use Gantt chart in ZilicusPM to create the project timeline. Create project plans by adding tasks, milestones, sub-tasks, sub-sub-tasks, assign priorities; set up dependencies as shown below. ). One can also keep using project template (default or created from projects)
Please refer following guide for more information to manage tasks using ZilicusPM: Task Management Guide
2. Budgeting and Cost Estimation
Managing project financials is very important to any business. It takes project planner’s skill to be able to judiciously estimate project cost. Whenever it comes to budget approval, (in bottom-up approach), project manager is asked to justify the budget. Project manager can quickly provide rationale/justification using detailed cost estimation prepared using ZilicusPM.
To prepare bottom up, estimation of project cost, ZilicusPM enables you to set elements of cost estimations at task level, which get rolled up, to project summary task, to project phases and all the way, higher up to portfolio level. Here are couple of screenshots explaining estimation at task level and tracking estimated cost through reports.
Cost report at a project level
Please refer Project Budget & Cost Management Guide to manage project budget & estimate cost using ZilicusPM.
3. Resource Planning
Project resources are essential to delivery of any project. What kind of resources a project need (skills, experience, cost, billing, shared/exclusive, internal/external), for how long, exactly when, these are some of the questions answered as a part of resource planning.
ZilicusPM enables you to plan project resource using capacity planning report, resource load chart, identify resources based on skill, job-roles, etc. Assigning right resource to right task is a skill of a project manager, ZilicusPM allows you to identify such resource. One can set different resource allocation levels to different projects. Following screenshot gives you ideas about resource planning and checking resource load even before assigning him/her a task.
Checking Resource Availability for Task
Please refer Resource Management Guide to plan resources for your project using ZilicusPM.
4. Risk Planning
Project risks are integral part of any projects. It is just whether project stakeholders are ready to acknowledge and act on it or not. Experienced project manager always ensure they have mitigation, contingency planning for risks in advance. Planning risks can save you greatly from nasty surprises (at least it can prepare you to face it better).
ZilicusPM offers you project risk planning & management capabilities. Project manager & any of the team member, stakeholders can identify risks even during planning phase of the project. Project manager can review those risks for likelihood (probability), possible impact (minimal to significant to catastrophic) and prepare with mitigation/contingency plan. Online risk register in ZilicusPM allow you to keep a tab on project risks, get notified when they are due, collaborate with team members about it. Following screenshot shows risk register.
Please refer Project Risk Management Guide to plan project risks using ZilicusPM.
5. Quality Planning
The definition and importance of quality planning differs from one project to another. Essentially, it deals with the quality of project delivery process as well as the outcome of a project; not necessarily after project delivery. During the project execution, project may encounter hiccups. Incident/issue/bug management in ZilicusPM allows you to keep track of these incidents/issues and assess the impact on the project quality, delivery timeline and ultimately on the project cost.
Many project managers consider quality planning as an integral part of managing project. It calls for estimating efforts, resources for quality management. Project manager can use ZilicusPM to assess these aspects of quality management. You can also use issue tracking in ZilicusPM to keep stakeholders involved about the issues faced during the project execution.
Please refer Project Issue Management Guide to plan project risks using ZilicusPM.
6. Communication Planning
Though communication planning is not emphasised formally as much it should be, it is very important to keep all stakeholders informed appropriately at right time. The project communication can be about project submission, project approval, task assignments, issues/risks/change submissions, project meetings, due-date reminders, collaboration notifications and much more.
Gone are the days, manager would keep emailing all stakeholders manually for every aspect of projects. Most of these communications are better handled by a system automatically, thus freeing up, project manager’s crucial time (and possibility of him/her missing out and thus causing blame-game, chaos). ZilicusPM allows you to set email preference for project communication. It allows you to set how/when emails to be sent automatically by the software.
Managing Project Risks
One of the many things project sponsors and especially senior management do not like about project delivery is bad surprises. NO one wants to hear it, when you surprise them about things going bad. Project risks is about avoiding bad surprises (becoming reality) and turning positive surprises into reality (it is both ways. There can be good surprise too, right?). Project risk management is about getting prepared to handle unexpected. Stakeholders, team members, pm can highlight potential risks to the project, review those risks for possibility and impact, set risk response whether to ’ACCEPT/AVOID/MITIGATE/CONTINGENT/TRANSFER’ & get ready with mitigation & contingency plan. Using online risk register in ZilicusPM, project manager knows exactly which risks/when they are likely to occur and when their corresponding mitigation/contingency plan to manage the risk impact appropriately.
Seasoned project managers are always two steps ahead to foresee things and proactively manage project lifecycle. Risk management in ZiliucsPM allows you to do that. Following screenshot shows how to review/manage project risks.
Please refer Project Risk Management Guide to manage project risks online using ZilicusPM.
Tracking Timeline Using Gantt chart
They said, if you get planning right, your work is half done. The reality is, today the business dynamics are changing so quickly, you have to be really watchful and adaptive to be successful. Being watchful and adaptive is about a mindset but project management tool ZilicusPM can help you be more watchful with status information:- help you track project status, timeline. You can track how project timeline looks like during execution. There are few aspects one can quickly track using Gantt chart
- Project schedule plan, inter-dependency
- Task priority
- Task status: % progress, state, actual start/due date
- Baseline schedule
- Resource workload
- Estimated vs actual cost
- Linked issues/risks
Using Task Filters
Tracking Project Status Using Dashboard & Reports
Schedule is important element of any project but that’s not the only thing project manager has to worry about. Project management software ZilicusPM enables you to keep a tab on portfolio of projects in terms of project status, budget vs estimated cost vs actual cost vs billing, issues, risks, changes, meetings, timesheet, expenses, documents, discussions and more.
You have a unified dashboard to get real picture of multiple projects under your command. The dashboard shown below is interactive, you can check status of project in terms of timeline, issues, risks, budget/cost and move to details of specific project-aspect concerning your attention.
Remember, there are plenty of standard reports available for you to track almost every aspect of your project. Additionally, you get weekly summary status of your projects via email.
Managing Project Meetings
If you ask any project manager in general, where does s/he spend most of his/her time, the answer you will hear is meetings. For quite some times, meetings are considered necessary evil in the business environment. More often than not, staff members & management think of meetings as a waste of time. But even when meetings are schedule & conducted out of necessity, the way meeting-information are managed, it is still time consuming, in a non-productive way.
ZilicusPM allows you to schedule project meetings, set agenda, set timeline, invite attendees - just the way you would do using MS Outlook, Google Calendar or any other calendaring platform. ZilicusPM helps you organise project meetings such that once you conduct the meeting, you can record minutes of meeting, mention who attended the meeting, what are the action items from the meeting, assign those action items to resource, set deadline for those and track for the status. You don’t have to search through emails, spreadsheet to track any of these information, you have one central place to check project meetings details. The beauty of ZilicusPM is, it shows action items to team members, right on their home screen where they can check basic info about it, check the due date, mark it as done or click on it to see more information of the meeting.
Please refer Project Meeting Management Guide to manage project meetings online using ZilicusPM.
Activities for Professional & Experienced PM
- Defining & Managing Project Scope
- Resource Management
- Budget & Cost Management
- Project Issue Management
- Project Risk Management
- Project Change Management
- Tracking & Approving Timesheet, Expenses
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