"Project Management" has always been a term more likely to elicit a groan than a smile.
Nevertheless, the use of project management skills is often what distinguishes an easy,
successful project from a painful and unsatisfactory one. In a world where clients and
business partners increasingly want a full solution, rather than just the component pieces
of design and code, having basic project management skills, at least, is quickly becoming a
requirement for web professionals.
In this article I'll talk about what project management (PM) is and what it isn't, introduce you to
the basics of the project lifecycle, and provide you with an arsenal of tools that you can use to
make your projects run smoother, faster, and easier, starting from today. I also include some
handy documents you can
download for use in your own projects in zip file format
So, what IS Project Management?
The Project Management Institute's definition of PM is: ".
.. the application of knowledge, skills,
tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements."(
PMBOK Guide, 3rd
, Project Management Institute Inc., Pennsylvania, 2004.)
A less abstract version of this definition is that PM is what you need to make a project happen on
time, within budget, with required scope, and quality.
My personal definition is that PM is the simplest way to look like a superhero without requiring
the involvement of any radioactive spiders or questionable parentage.
There are also lots of things that PM isn't, the most notable being a replacement for personal
productivity. Whether you use a simple todo.txt file, a hipster PDA, or a full GTD (that stands
Getting Things Done
) system to keep yourself organized, you're still going to need to use PM
tactics. PM is all about making the project happen -- how you complete the work that you need
to do for the project is up to you. Mixing up personal productivity and PM is one of the main
reasons for those groaning reactions I mentioned earlier: if you make your PM tools double up as
your to-do list, then you're obviously going to end up with a lot more detail than anyone else in
the project (including the client!) needs to see. It's a very common mistake seen with smaller
projects, where realistically the project manager is also doing a lot of the project work, if not all.
It can be a lot easier to keep the distinction in large-scale projects with dedicated project
managers, but even there you see evidence of the mistake, with project plans starting to look
more like personal brainstorms rather than a path to a future that involves getting home in time to
see your kids.
Now that we've talked a little about what PM is and isn't, let's move on to looking at the project