Project Management Basics

Project management focuses on planning and organizing a project and its resources. This includes identifying and managing the lifecycle to be used, applying it to the user-centered design process, formulating the project team, and efficiently guiding the team through all phases until project completion.

Value of Project Management

Through proper project management, you can assure that the purpose/vision and goals of the project are maintained, all while supporting the audiences’ tasks and objectives.  Additionally, you avoid risks and effectively and efficiently use your available resources.  It also helps the team members to understand their responsibilities, the deliverables expected, and the schedule everyone needs to follow to complete the project on time and within budget.

Areas within Project Management

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has identified nine areas of knowledge within project management:

  1. integration management
  2. scope management
  3. time management
  4. cost management
  5. quality management
  6. human resource management
  7. communication management
  8. risk management and
  9. procurement management

Building a Team and Encouraging Communication

Depending on your project needs, the size of your team and the roles needed may vary.  Keep in mind that members on your team may fulfill one role or may fulfill many. 

Regardless of the size of the team, it’s important to identify how the team will communicate and collaborate with one another.  This includes discussing upfront:

  • Planned/ regular meetings
  • How formal they will be
  • Whether meetings will be held in-person, virtually, or both
  • How the team will share and collaborate on documents
  • Where documents will be stored and how they will be version controlled
  • Workflow for decisions and approval

Project Phases, Life Cycles, and Incorporating User-Centered Design Principles

Projects are typically broken down into phases.  Each phase outlines the work that needs to be done and who is involved.  Generally, in order for a phase to be considered complete, specific deliverables need to have been completed and handed off.  Some project teams, however, do choose to implement fast tracking, which is when phases are overlapped. 

A lifecycle defines the beginning and end of the project; it represents all of the phases together.  When defining the project’s life cycle, the first phase is noted as Step 0.  It usually captures the visioning and conceptualizing of the project.  According to the Project Management Institute, most life cycles have four or five phases but some may have more. 

The most common lifecycle approaches are Waterfall and Agile., Regardless of the approach you choose, you will need to incorporate user-centered design (UCD) best practices and methods.  At a high-level, the UCD process includes the following steps: planning, collecting and analyzing data, writing content, designing and developing prototypes of the system, and testing.

Project Plan and Charter Agreement

When defining your project, it is important to come up with a project plan that the team agrees to upfront so that it can serve as a reference point throughout the project. Make sure when outlining your plan, that throughout it you note how you plan to include user-centered design best practices and methodologies. Most project plans outline:

  • Objectives
  • Scope, which correlates to the requirements
  • Resources, including technology, budget, and team roles and responsibilities
  • Schedule
  • Assumptions
  • Dependencies
  • Risk assessment and management plan
  • Change control plan

At the end of the project plan, depending on your team’s needs, you may choose to include a charter agreement. A charter agreement is typically a one page document that has the sponsor of the project sign off that they agree to the work to be done as outlined by the team in the project plan. Remember, however, that successful teams understand upfront that things happen and that they’ll need to adapt. The project plan establishes the baseline for how you assume the project will happen and then provides information about the process for taking changes into account, should they arise.

Creating a Schedule

Schedules are an important part of project management because they help you measure your progress as the project moves along.  They also help to outline how each team member’s part fits into the overall picture and demonstrate the dependencies.

Schedules reflect the life cycle broken down into specific deliverables and touch points.  It defines what needs to be done and who is the point of contact responsible for the work. 

Resources and References