Project Management Techniques Every PM Should Know
Mastering the art of project management is not easy as there are so many variables to plan and keep an eye on throughout execution. And if you know that projects drastically differ from industry to industry, the only reasonable conclusion is that project managers ought to specialize in a highly specific niche.
But it doesn’t mean that different projects demand completely different techniques.
On the contrary, there are lots of project management mechanisms applicable to various fields of work. That is what every project manager has to learn in order to maximize professional productivity and ensure a flawless realization. In this article, you can learn the following:
- 7 project management techniques every PM should know
- The best project management tools to supplement those techniques
There’s a long way ahead of us, so let’s dive straight into the subject!
7 Practical Project Management Techniques
It’s not possible to describe all of the project management techniques because there are countless of different strategies out there. What we can do is pinpoint the most important and popular tactics used by project managers worldwide. Without further ado, let’s see our top seven picks.
1. Traditional project management
We open the list with the most common project management technique. Namely, traditional project management is still by far the most frequently-used solution among business teams because it is the simplest and requires no formal training.
One report reveals that only 22% of organizations use a project management tool as it’s not a quintessential factor in traditional project management. How does it work?
It all begins with a brainstorming session where team members need to identify key deliverables and pinpoint the corresponding actions. After that, the leader of the team designs a plan of work and delegates tasks.
Who should use traditional project management?
The concept is valuable for smaller units with professionals who are able to make minor or even major improvisations if necessary. They can help each other out and take over certain duties to speed up the work.
2. Agile project management
Agile project management is a broader concept that encompasses lots of smaller techniques, but we will discuss it as one of the techniques that revolutionized the way businesses approach project planning and execution.
What is agile project management? By definition, it represents an iterative approach to planning and guiding project processes. In other words, agile project management is trying to deliver the highest value while sticking to the predefined budget and schedule targets. It usually works like this:
- Dividing projects into smaller units
- Prioritization of the tasks
- Collaborative work, particularly with the client
- Learning and adjustments at regular intervals
All these peculiarities of agile methodology make the concept extremely efficient at solving complex problems, which is exactly why software developer companies tend to rely on it frequently.
3. Work Breakdown Structure
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is yet another very interesting project management solution that you can use to conquer complex endeavors. Just like the name suggests, the point of WBS is to come up with an overview of activities and help team members to focus on manageable sections.
According to the definition, WBS makes a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team. It is essentially a visual representation of the work that clearly shows key performance indicators at each level of the organizational hierarchy.
For example, let’s say you are building a house. In this case, WBS will divide the project into three main categories: Foundation, Interior, and Exterior works. Each of these units comes with a whole set of unique tasks followed by the corresponding budget and timeframe.
The WBS technique is perfect for larger organizations operating with huge budgets.
Another extremely popular agile method is Kanban, a technique that originated in Japan’s automotive company Toyota. Namely, car engineers at Toyota designed a special cardboard system (Kanban means billboard in Japanese) to track workflows and control manufacturing.
The Kanban technique is all about using small boards to mark different tasks and deliverables. It is basically a visualization strategy that helps team members to understand the current state of affairs and learn what’s coming next in the timeline.
The goal of Kanban is to identify potential bottlenecks in your process and fix them so work can flow through it cost-effectively at optimal speed or throughput. It makes the technique valuable for manufacturing companies such as Toyota. Kanban focuses on six operational rules:
- Visualize the workflow to make it more meaningful
- Limit the work in progress to ensure flawless realization before moving to another task
- Analyze the workflow in order to improve it
- Clearly define your process policies
- Conduct feedback loops regularly
- Experiment and improve gradually
PERT is a popular agile methodology that stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. The main idea of this concept is to evaluate project timeframes and find ways to improve delivery dates. It is also a convenient way to reduce operating costs since more time almost always means spending more money in the process.
What makes PERT so interesting is its ability to create accurate time estimates even if you are dealing with hundreds of correlated factors. Needless to say, it’s a complex methodology that relies on various statistical analyses to assess interdependent factors and deliverables.
We don’t want to bombard you with technical details, but the essence of PERT is to figure out the earliest (TE) and the latest time (TL) for each task within the project. That way, a team can understand the workflow and learn how to improve internal efficiency by focusing on the most problematic activities.
6. Gantt chart
A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule as well as the dependency relationships between activities and current schedule status. It also represents a powerful visualization technique that project managers use to monitor activities and supervise their teams.
A typical Gantt chart adds the planned tasks to the vertical axis, while the horizontal axis is reserved for time intervals. The sheer width of a horizontal bar reveals the duration of a given activity.
Teams dealing with lots of interdependent tasks love Gantt charts because it’s a great way to visualize workflows and highlight activities that cannot start before the other one is completed.
Of course, the entire scope of work gets divided into the smallest chunks delegated to individual team members. Modern Gantt charts automate certain activities such as notifications and deadline warnings.
7. Critical Path Method
The last project management technique on our list is the Critical Path Method (CPM), a feature that can be defined as a decision-making algorithm. The CPM technique concentrates on core tasks that the entire project is dependent on.
This is exactly why experts define CPM as the sequence of scheduled activities that determines the duration of the project.
To put it simply, CPM is all about identifying major activities that are absolutely critical to the success of a given project. It doesn’t bother with minor details, but rather concentrates on key deliverables that will make or break the project as such.
That way, the CPM technique is used to design the longest sequence and calculates the time needed for project completion. It helps companies to reduce or completely eliminate time waste all the way through the critical path, thus making teams better and more productive in the long run.
The Best Project Management Tools
No matter how skilled or experienced you may be, it will be almost impossible to administer projects successfully without a project management platform. The market is packed with hundreds of tools, so we made a list of our favorite solutions. Here they are:
GitHub – GitHub brings teams together to work through problems, move ideas forward, and learn from each other along the way. The platform offers you a wide range of practical features, but the thing we love about it the most is that GitHub starts as a free tool for smaller teams. Although not impressive, GitHub Free is enough for you to form the first impression and think about purchasing a more advanced package.
Jira – Jira is one of the most popular agile project management tools with millions of users from all over the globe. It works through scrum boards that incentivize team members to work faster and more accurately. Jira will host up to 5,000 users for $7 per user a month, allowing them to design customizable maps, create backlogs, utilize advanced reporting, and so on.
Lean Kit – Lean Kit is a very convenient solution for engineering teams who appreciate the Kanban project management technique. The platform is based on three principles: visibility, accountability, and efficiency. It offers you many features, including configurable board templates, personalized work views, and connected work items, but it’s free for beginner-level testing.
Pivotal Tracker – Pivotal Tracker is a platform designed for software developers eager to speed up their projects. With a shared view of team priorities, a process that fosters collaboration, and dynamic tools to analyze progress, your team will deliver more frequently and consistently. Pivotal Tracker is free for teams with up to three members.
Active Collab – The last tool on our list is Active Collab, a platform for midsize to large teams eager to boost efficiency. The tool costs $7 per user a month, but it comes with unlimited projects, tasks, time records, dependencies, and so on.
The Bottom Line
Finding the best way to complete the project on time and on a budget is not too difficult if you know how to approach the whole process and plan it strategically. In other words, you need to learn the finest project management techniques and understand which tactic suits a given project.
In this post, we discussed seven project management techniques every PM should know. We also gave you an overview of practical project management tools that could augment your efforts.
What is your favorite project management technique? How come? Feel free to share your ideas and experiences in the comments – our readers would love to see it!
Liam Catalan is an essay writer from San Francisco, California. Liam is a project management expert, but he writes about a wide range of other topics including self-branding and personal development. He is the father of two kids and a passionate long-distance runner.