At the end of this article, you’ll know:
- Is project management the right career for you?
- What you need to become a (successful) project manager
- How much you can make as a project manager
- What challenges you’re going to face
- What experienced project managers have to say about getting started
- What are the most popular project management methodologies
- What are the best project management tools to help you along the way
What is a project manager?
A project manager is a professional responsible for overseeing and coordinating all aspects of a project, from start to finish.
Project managers ensure the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards. They coordinate and communicate with all the stakeholders involved in the project, such as the clients, team members, and other departments. They also manage the budget, schedule, and resources needed for the project.
Usually, they complete a formal project management certification or degree program. However, only some of those who manage projects are accredited project managers.
We call the others “accidental project managers.” They work in smaller companies or agencies, and “managing projects” is their secondary role. They are technical experts or subject matter experts assigned to manage projects because they have the most knowledge.
For example, a software engineer might be asked to manage a software development project because they have the most technical expertise. They can bring valuable insights and knowledge to the project, but they may not have formal training or experience in project management. This can make their role challenging since they are learning and figuring out the best way to lead and manage a project.
An accidental project manager has been assigned to manage projects without formal project management training or experience.
Want to learn more about the discipline of project management? Check this in-depth project management guide.
Can anyone be a project manager?
In theory, yes. We are all project managers in our daily life. We use the skills required to complete projects in our personal life. At work, some of us are accidental project managers.
While many can become good project managers, others aren’t cut out for the job. Project management requires a wide range of skills and can be highly demanding, making it a challenging and stressful career. So, project management is not for everyone, but it can be gratifying for those well-suited.
What exactly does a project manager do?
Remember that project management is one of the most complex fields of work out there. There is no space for dullness in this profession. A project manager leads an entire project through initiation, planning, execution, control, and completion. Be prepared for a true adventure you’ll never get bored of.
Project managers always work in a team. They are most often friendly and great team players. And sometimes they aren’t. More on this later, though.
Flexibility is crucial to team communication since you’ll be the builder and controller of the team. As a project manager, you must adapt to different people, cultures, environments, and situations.
To be a good project manager, you must simultaneously be a team leader, coworker, and supervisor. Project management is one of the most challenging careers, as every day will be different, and you will need all your project management skills to solve every problem. Also, you’ll be your team’s first contact when a problem occurs. They might expect you to hold the answers to any inquiry. But this is what makes the project management career path interesting.
If you believe that you’re a person who knows people well from the second you meet them, this might be the right career path for you. You’ll deal with both formal and informal interactions.
Essentially, project managers are similar to psychologists. They know precisely employees’ and clients’ problems, desires, and expectations. However, a project manager won’t get emotionally involved in their projects despite being a people person.
Some of your duties in your career as a project manager will include taking part in the creation process, executing the project, preparing communication methods, finding solutions to recurring issues, monitoring the project’s progress from start to finish, and ensuring your team is getting things done, and many more. You’ll connect each project to the business world and its clients.
You must know that the entire responsibility for the project’s success will fall on your shoulders. You will be held accountable for most mistakes your team makes or client complaints. In this position, you’ll focus on the accuracy of your work and that of your team.
This profession is constantly changing and facing new demands. If you’re the kind of person who prefers diversity, this is the type of career you’ll never get bored of. You can always switch the project you’re working on, the team you interact with, the industry you’re involved in, and even the processes and tools to ease your work. No project is the same. Yet, your expertise in this field will prove helpful whenever you encounter similar situations and issues. Similarly, your experience will be essential to solving problems quickly.
Speaking about responsibilities, I’ve analyzed over 200 LinkedIn worldwide job postings and compiled this list of the most common ones:
- direct all project management phases
- set and manage project expectations with external and internal stakeholders
- coordinate and track various projects through an entire project lifecycle
- develop a detailed project management plan to track project progress
- mentor, motivate, and supervise project team members
- develop professional business relationships
- define the overall scope of the project
- prioritize the tasks of the project
- create and continuously update the project documentation
- create accurate forecasts for revenue and resource requirements
- partner with all departments to ensure work is done according to demands
- establish effective communication
- ensure team members have all the necessary information
- track work time and maintain accurate daily timesheets
- ensure project tasks are executed and reviewed within the predefined scope
- align various teams to maintain the quality of deliverables
- report and escalate issues to management when necessary
- conduct project status meetings, daily stand-ups, and retrospective meetings
- continuously follow up on the progress, risks, and opportunities of the project
- focus on customer satisfaction
- manage projects through KPIs
- manage budgets and billings
- act as the primary customer contact for project activities
- make recommendations for project improvements
- conduct workshops and training
- obtain customer input
- measure project performance using appropriate systems, tools, and techniques
- evaluate team performance
What shouldn’t a project manager do?
We’ve looked at what a project manager does all day long. But there are a few things that a project manager should avoid doing. For one, they should avoid micromanaging the team and dictating every tiny project detail. Instead, they should focus on empowering the team and giving them the resources and support they need to complete the project.
Another thing to avoid is not providing clear direction and goals for the team. The project manager needs to communicate the vision and objectives of the project so that everyone is on the same page. Finally, a project manager should never take on all the work themselves and try to do everything. This happens in smaller companies where the roles and responsibilities are unclear.
What makes a good project manager?
Good project managers have three key characteristics: organization, communication, and problem-solving. They have to be organized and able to handle many details and multiple tasks simultaneously. They must also be skilled communicators to ensure everyone is on the same page. Finally, they need to think on their feet and develop solutions when problems arise.
Is project manager a busy job?
By now, it should be clear that project management is not a job where you’ll get bored. Project managers are known for having hectic schedules and wearing many hats. They juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities, from managing the budget and schedule to communicating with stakeholders and leading the project team. They need to be very organized and efficient to keep everything running smoothly.
Being a project manager is not quite a 9-to-5 job and can be complicated and stressful. There are also many moving parts and people to coordinate; things can get complicated quickly. On the bright side, project managers who are good at what they do find solving problems and overcoming challenges rewarding and exciting. They also get a lot of satisfaction from seeing their projects come to fruition and knowing they played a part in making something happen.
Is project manager a high role?
While project managers have a lot of responsibility within the scope of their projects, they are not necessarily the “top dogs” in the corporate structure. They report to people higher up in the organization and are not usually in charge of other departments or business units.
They have much power and influence within their projects, but that power only sometimes extends beyond the project’s scope. It’s like saying they have more of a “horizontal” influence than a vertical one. They influence a lot of people within the project team, but they don’t necessarily have authority over other departments.
How much does a project manager make?
Now, to the juicy part: $$$. If you plan to pursue a project manager career, how much you’ll be getting paid is something you need to know from the start. And it depends on a few factors, like the industry, location, experience level, and company size.
A project manager’s salary varies according to their work country and previous experience. According to Glassdoor, the average project manager salary in the United States is $88,566 annually, while additional cash compensation can be between $1,541 and $19,755.
Therefore, the most likely annual income range can be between $75,000 to $125,000. However, depending on your skills, experience, and knowledge, this project lead salary can be even lower or higher.
The countries that pay project managers the most are Switzerland, Australia, Germany, the United States, and the Netherlands.
Project management careers are still in high demand, and annual wages are expected to grow for all project manager levels in the next ten years.
If you’re unsure whether project management will still be desired, here’s a report on PM job growth. Companies are shifting their attention from typical routine actions to actual projects. More and more positions will be created, and there aren’t yet enough people qualified to fill all of them.
By 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals in project management-oriented roles.
What do you need to be(come) a project manager?
There are a few components you have to take into consideration: skills, education, certifications, and experience. Let’s look at them one by one.
Project manager skills
You need more than project management knowledge to become a great project manager. As discussed above, you need soft skills as well. Being a good communicator and an open leader is not enough. Daily project management challenges also require accountability, adaptability, analytical and strategic thinking, decisiveness, a stress-resistant personality, and a love for risk-taking. Being a multitasker with excellent written and oral communication skills can place you among the top project managers in your sector.
You should know that there is no specific project management skill for hard skills. Depending on the project, you’ll have to know everything. General business knowledge is highly desired.
Don’t worry, though. You don’t need to be an expert in technical skills (such as coding). However, giving accurate and detailed tasks to your developers is essential. Leading a project is all about ensuring that your team members don’t lack crucial information to finish a task and deliver the final project successfully.
Another critical skill is understanding resource allocation and determining the proper timing of the resources needed within the project schedule. Whether you run a small or large business, choosing the proper resource management software can ease your work.
You should have adequate knowledge to spot an issue and suggest solutions. At the same time, you should know that many project managers have had previous jobs, such as software developers, marketing managers, accountants, designers, and so on. They hold solid knowledge of projects related to their previous fields of interest.
If you’re one of these people, you might be one step ahead of the others, but you must keep in mind that you’ll also need to develop your knowledge of project management processes, frameworks, and people management. You might be used to working individually, but project management is all about teamwork.
Don’t panic if you realize that a project manager position is not the right fit for you. This profession creates many new opportunities and pathways for other future careers.
Take a look at the skill set of the most successful project managers and find out if you have what it takes to become like them and what you have to improve:
- solid understanding of business cases and risk management processes
- expert knowledge to meet specific circumstances
- proven project management and self-management skills
- strong leadership skills
- ability to monitor and control budgets
- critical thinking
- good communication and negotiation skills
- capability to make decisions under pressure
- strong interpersonal skills necessary to lead a team
- ability to define situations, document data, and draw conclusions
- strong business acumen
- ability to interpret instructions regardless of their form
- strong organizational and multitasking skills
- creative mindset
- analytical skills
- accuracy and attention to detail
- excellent time management skill
- capacity to maintain schedules and meet deadlines
- problem-solving skills
- work ethic
- working knowledge of project management tools
Project management education
Your project management career can start with a project manager or business administration degree. Not having a diploma in project management is not a disadvantage; if you study it daily in an academic environment, you’ll have a head start. However, It’s never too late to switch to a career that suits your interests.
Project management does not belong to only one industry. Usually, projects are part of another line of business, such as software, art, logistics, economics, linguistics, etc. A design agency might require you to hold a degree in Arts or Design to understand the field better. In this case, project management education is entirely up to your own will and desire to improve yourself professionally.
Self-development, self-learning, and a will to constantly develop oneself throughout a lifetime are vital for keeping your career at the top. Any college degree can be helpful for a future project manager since the academic world teaches you how to study and acquire knowledge gradually, which is essential for a project manager who could have to learn all about a new project’s main field quickly.
Before deciding on a degree, see how project management works in real life. College activities don’t allow you to see the actual consequences of your decisions. Working with a real project can teach accountability and outcome management.
There are also numerous online project management degrees, learning resources, blogs, and programs that you can follow. These resources could be an option if you don’t live close to the college you’d like to attend or don’t have enough time to attend university. These three examples are degrees that you can get through online project management education:
- Online Master’s Degree in Project Management from the Colorado State University – Global Campus
- Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Purdue Global University
- Master of Business Administration in Project Management from the Liberty University.
And here’s a list of the best project management MBA programs.
For more learning opportunities like these, check out the best project management courses you can take or other training resources. Alternatively, you can look at some of the most commonly used project management terms.
Another way of educating yourself is getting a similar position. You don’t have to begin your career as a project manager. You can start by managing more minor projects, products, or even teams. Alternatively, you can intern in this field or start as a junior project manager. Don’t get discouraged if the work you’ll be doing won’t seem like something you’ll love for the rest of your life. Sometimes, all it takes is to find a different project to work on—all project managers dream of working in a field that is one of their hobbies. If your hobby is in the field of business, you’re lucky.
Project management certifications
Are project management certificates still worth it?
Definitely! As you advance in your project manager career, you’ll either need to certify your project management knowledge or your employer will ask you to get a certificate. Although certificates might slowly start losing their importance for recruiters, the experience you’ll get during training and exams is indispensable.
What you must remember is that certificates are not everything. A project management certificate is a plus, but extensive knowledge and experience in the field matter more for a project’s success. You could have all the diplomas in the world, and if you have no knowledge or working experience in project management, no one will want to work with you.
Which are the essential project management certificates out there?
Don’t rush into studying for just any project management certification. Some employers don’t accept them, while online certifications are almost useless. Also, you should study for a certification related to the projects you work on or the industry you’re involved in.
Here’s a list of project management certifications that you should consider:
Perhaps one of the most commonly known project management certifications, the Project Management Professional certification, provided by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), sets the standards for project management. The PMBOK Guide and Standards contain the essential guidelines and characteristics for project management. The PMBOK® Guide is the primary study resource, but you can use any other materials focusing on the PMP® exam.
Only some people can sit this test. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and it requires three years of previous working experience as a project manager (or five if you don’t have a four-year degree in project management), at least 4,500 hours of experience working on directing a project (or 7,500 if you don’t have a four-year degree), and 35 hours of formal education on the project management process.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive course, the PMP® training offers widely accepted standards that can help you achieve project success. Remember that this certificate expires as you must renew it every three years due to the changing nature of project management standards.
The PMBOK® Guide and the PMP® certification are primarily known in the USA, Canada, and the Middle East. For Europe, you might want to look for PRINCE2 certification.
If you’re not yet prepared to sit the PMP® exam, you can try going for a Certified Associate in Project Management examination. The CAPM® certification is perfect for less experienced people with little project management experience who would like to pursue this career in the future. Earning this certificate helps you prove your dedication to project management despite not having enough work experience yet.
The PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a project management method. The UK government developed PRINCE2, so if you plan on working in the UK, you should give this certificate a go. This certification has two main learning paths you can choose to pursue:
- PRINCE2 Foundation – This first level can confirm your basic knowledge of this method. There are no prerequisites to take this exam, but you should have previous experience with project management. Having this certificate doesn’t mean that you can be a project manager but that you can work in a team that uses PRINCE2 as a PM method.
- PRINCE2 Practitioner – The certification allows you to be a project manager who can apply PRINCE2 principles to a project. This level confirms whether the candidate can use the PRINCE2 method in real-life scenarios. It’s perhaps the most important one you can get if you want to work with PRINCE2.
Scrum is an Agile framework often used for product management or software-industry projects. Scrum.org provides assignments that can certify your Scrum knowledge. You can choose between the following assessments:
- Professional Scrum Master™
- Professional Scrum Product Owner™
- Professional Scrum Developer™
- Scaled Professional Scrum™
- Professional Agile Leadership™
- Professional Scrum With Kanban™
A series of open assignments are free if you’re not looking for a certification and just want to test your command of Scrum.
The views expressed in the above project management training opportunities differ. Please don’t consider them opposites. They are complementary, and you’ll need all of them for successful project delivery. It would help if you looked at all the opinions since you’ll probably need all the information in the future.
Project management experience
After the theoretical aspect, this is where you get your hands dirty. A good starting point for this is to look at some advice for beginners from experienced project managers. And because the start is always the most challenging part, I’ve asked them the following question:
What was the biggest problem you encountered when you started your PM career, and how did you overcome it?
Here’s what they had to say:
Carmen Pop, Global Project Manager @Dropbox
“My story on my career project management is as follows – I was assigned a project back in 2016, which seemed like a regular project at the start. However, after a first round of initiating and planning, it became an extensive program with multiple cross-functional stakeholders within Dropbox and external technical vendors. This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone as a project manager, and it was difficult to manage ongoing changes continuously.
Besides the general rules of project management (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing), my best advice is to remain compassionate and composed. People will get upset, and things will not go how you want them to, but as the project manager, you are the glue that needs to keep everything together and moving forward. I believe I achieved this in my project, and as a result, we were able to launch as a team.”
Susanne Madsen, Project Leadership Coach, Facilitator, and Speaker @Susanne Madsen International
“When I first started as a project manager, my biggest problem was that I had no one to shadow or learn from within my company. For many, many years, I was the only project manager around. It would have probably fast-tracked my career had I had someone to ask for advice, but instead, I learned to find my answers, rely on my intuition, and use common sense. I always tried to find the most simple and effective way to track and communicate something without jargon.
To learn about the project management process, I researched the internet and studied the PRINCE2 manual at my initiative. Furthermore, I often asked myself, “What would the head of the department do right now?” That helped me gain a different perspective and ensure that I was focusing on the right things.”
Glauco Paiva, Senior Delivery Project Manager @Microsoft
“In my career as a project manager, my biggest problem was managing the anxiety to finish things in a scenario in which we cannot control the others. I focused on delivering projects, interacting (listening to) with other people as a customer, partner, or the same company, studying techniques, and finally, always pursuing to understand myself. When you recognize your limitations and respect yourself, you can achieve and leverage the best from others. For me, it is the nicest thing we can do. So, it is possible to work with a satisfied team and help the business to grow.”
Bert Heymans, Senior Project Manager @Journeyman PM
“The biggest problem I encountered when I started my PM career was deciding what not to do to get good at project management. I have a technical background and made the common mistake of dividing my time between project management and production-related tasks when I should have only concentrated on project management. It’s hard to let go of something you know how to do well because you’re used to doing it and feel like it’s expected of you.
After a while, I discovered how deep the project management skill set runs and how many things you need to know and do to be good at it. Project management is 90% communication (at least), and learning to do that as effectively as possible takes time and practice. Getting the right people to listen to you requires leadership skills, tact, and rapport. Those skills take time to develop; you’ll never learn them from a book.
My advice for people in a similar situation who want to get good at project management would be to let go as soon as possible and focus on doing project management work. If you don’t know or if it’s just not clear what “doing project management work” means in your company, educate yourself or switch to another company or department.”
Ben Aston, Owner @The Digital PM
“I tend to be pretty optimistic, and naturally, I’m a ‘just wing it’ kind of guy. So when I started my career as a project manager and relied on my instincts to take it easy, perhaps unsurprisingly, projects kept going over budget, timelines slipped, and clients got mad when they didn’t get what they thought they had paid for.
Somebody soon brought to my attention that the way I was managing projects wasn’t managing at all – I was just letting projects happen around me – hoping for the best and that everything would work itself out in the end. The lesson I quickly learned was that if I wanted to succeed as a project manager, I needed to park my optimism and be more of a realist.
I had to learn to lead projects more proactively and assertively. Not just hoping the team knew what they were doing but ensuring they were appropriately briefed. Not just hoping they were on track but making sure they knew the milestones and dependencies. Not just hoping we were on time and budget but tracking progress daily. Not just hoping the client knew what was happening but ensuring everything was appropriately documented. You get the idea – it’s a lot more effort, but it’s what gets results.”
Elizabeth Harrin, Project Management Expert @Rebel’s Guide to Project Management
“When I first started, I think my biggest issue was being taken seriously at work. As a young woman in a project management position, I tried to influence others more senior and older than myself. I was lucky to have the support of a good mentor and a supportive line manager; plus, I could attend leadership training. Having confidence in my abilities and knowing what I could contribute made me feel more optimistic about the difference I was making.
For people in a similar situation, beginning their careers, I’d advise you to get a mentor and be brave! Believe that you have the right to be taken seriously because of what you bring to the table.”
Ramiro Rodrigues, Owner @RR Project Consulting
“It’s known that a great PM professional has to have this triad of skills – technical, managerial, and behavioral. I knew that the first two could be acquired with study and that the most complex to develop would be the last. So I plunged into two fronts: 1 – self-assessment and analysis to understand my behavior and seek to change my mindset of what I knew it had to change; 2 – studying psychology and philosophy to understand the nuances of human behavior better. In short, to succeed as a project manager, know that you need to understand yourself. This made and continues to make all the difference in my professional life (and personal).”
Alejandro Roman, Integrative Technology Projects Engineer – Project Management Office @Huenei IT Services
“It was the beginning of 2003 when I started my career in project management and led my first project: the MPLS network update of the Atento Global Holding Client (for ten countries). The problem appeared since the MPLS Service Upgrade had installed Cisco Router equipment, and there was a significant delay from the manufacturer in delivering this equipment. This made it necessary for us to opt for a local supplier in Argentina to comply promptly with what was planned with the client. The chosen strategy was successful, and the time and budget of the project were met.”
Stéphane Parent, CEO @Leader Maker
“The biggest problem I encountered when I started my project management career was that I was the only project manager at my office. There was nobody around me I could reach out to ask questions or get coaching.
I had to build my virtual network to provide the support I needed during my project management learning and growth. Through phone calls, emails, and discussion boards, I got the encouragement and answers that helped me with my first projects.”
Project manager career challenges
Project management careers are not perfect. Just like any other job, it has its downsides. It can be difficult, and you must be the right person to handle all project management challenges. Many project managers keep track of their projects, answer emails, and stay connected with their team after work or on holidays.
Some project managers can work long, stressful hours to ensure a project is on track and delivered before the deadline.
More than this, as a project manager, you can’t expect to go home and disconnect entirely from your work.
If you work for a smaller company where you’re the only project manager, you might be in charge of all duties. You’ll need to juggle several projects and allocate enough daily time to manage and control them. If you’re barely starting your career, this could be impossible since you don’t have the necessary knowledge to manage your time accordingly.
On the other hand, you might not get to choose the project you’ll work on. In this case, you’ll get small projects that could waste your time. Similarly, you could come across a project related to a field you’re not interested in, making it difficult for you to want to learn more and grasp complete control of that domain.
A project manager’s responsibility is not easy to handle just by anyone. The pressure of delivering a project on time can be too much if you’re not used to holding such authority. Likewise, if you’re not resistant to stress, keep away from hard-to-handle projects or even from this vocation. From the outside, being a project manager could seem like you’ll maintain complete control of what goes on in the project development process.
Don’t get this wrong. The truth is that you are entirely dependent on what your clients want. You can make your own suggestions but also have to be flexible with any last-minute changes your client might want to make without complaining. Top management often gets to make the final decisions; therefore, the project management process is hard to implement in a company where the principal and project managers hold similar powers.
Also, people don’t always like project managers. Employees like good project managers because they give detailed and accurate tasks, are considerate, and can lead by example. On the other hand, lousy project managers are the ones that emphasize the necessity of a lot of meta-work: too many meetings, presentations, and status reports and less actual work and growth opportunities. In other words, project managers dedicate themselves to providing valuable output rather than the development process. But I’ll dig deeper into this in the next chapter.
There are also project managers who believe the project belongs to them. But it’s not just project managers.
Product and program managers encounter the same issues, and the truth is that any employee can support meta-work. You’ll encounter problematic employees during your career, and getting them to understand your purpose will be challenging. Being unable to open up to your employees and listen to their opinions can only push them away.
To gain your team’s respect and avoid unnecessary arguments, learn to listen to others actively, focus on team cooperation, communicate openly, and aim for accurate project results, not just measurements and status documentation.
Learn how you can become their mentor and ensure that how you guide them is as helpful and detailed as possible. Nobody hates anyone more than a project manager who throws random tasks with no accurate descriptions or client requirements to guide them. Doing this signifies that you don’t know much about the subject or the client’s requirements.
Value individuals and treat them with respect. Never see your team members as simple resources or machines that can instantly execute any task. Listen, understand, and adapt to their own needs. If you don’t like working with people and are impatient when waiting for coworkers to finish their duties, you might not be a good match for this job.
So, why do (some) people don’t like project managers?
There are a few reasons why some people don’t like project managers. Sometimes, they interfere with your work or slow you down. Project managers often ensure everyone follows a particular process or uses specific tools. This can feel like a lot of extra work and can be frustrating. Another reason is that people often feel like project managers are there to tell them what to do, creating tension and leading to conflict.
Sometimes, people feel like project managers don’t understand the technical aspects of their work. Since project managers are often generalists, not subject matter experts, this can make it harder for them to truly understand the team’s challenges, leading to frustration, miscommunication, and disconnection. It can also lead to conflicts when the project manager and the team members have differing opinions on what’s best for the project.
Another reason for dislike is that people tend to be protective of their work. When a project manager comes in to coordinate and oversee a project, it can feel like an intrusion into their work. People are sometimes territorial about their work and want to avoid someone coming in and telling them how to do it. This can make project managers seem overbearing, and it can also make them feel unwelcome.
Imagine you’re a software developer, and you’re working on a major software release. A project manager oversees the project and ensures everything is on track. The project manager might check in with you and ask for updates on your progress, which might feel like micromanagement. Or the project manager might make suggestions about improving the code, which could feel like criticism of your work.
What can you do about it? Taking the above example, one way to improve the relationship between developers and project managers is to focus on communication and trust. If the project manager can communicate their goals and intentions clearly, it can help the developer feel more comfortable with their involvement. Similarly, if the developer can communicate openly about their progress and challenges, it can help the project manager understand their perspective and offer support rather than criticism.
There are other reasons why people dislike some project managers: they are considered lazy and stubborn, snatch other people’s credit, or don’t create realistic plans, consequently putting a lot of pressure on their teams.
What are the solutions to these problems? Be proactive, remain conscious about individual contributions, give credit whenever possible, listen carefully to what others say, and plan and negotiate deadlines with team leaders and members.
The most popular ways of managing projects
There are several approaches to project management and its methods, methodologies, or frameworks, which are constantly changing. New frameworks and PM trends appear all the time. You’re mistaken if you think you can get away with knowing only Agile for the rest of your career. Your framework depends entirely on your company, project, and team. A company may want you to own a particular certificate or have experience with a specific one. However, you can’t solely rely on the use of a method. As a project manager, you’ll probably get to work with more than just one throughout your career.
We have compared and simplified a list of eight project management methodologies. You’ll also find out which are better for your work process and style.
Agile is a series of practices and principles that are best for products and initiatives that face various changes during their progress. This mindset is based on short delivery cycles (sprints) and a dynamic work culture supporting continuous collaboration. “Just like its name, Agile means being adaptable – the ability to gracefully adapt to rapidly changing customer needs,” remarks Kamlesh Ravlani, an Agile Coach and Scrum Trainer at Agile For Growth.
Agile focuses on team members and their regular feedback that can reshape the course of a project. Stakeholders will review each stage and recommend adjustments accordingly. This system allows the entire team to share a project’s responsibility by being in charge of specific individuals or collaborative tasks. There is no clear predefined path or extensive control as projects are very flexible. Objectives are named from the beginning but can change deliverables and outcomes.
Scrum is used predominantly in software or product development. Small cross-functional teams work with a Product Owner responsible for the product’s direction. “A Scrum Master then serves the entire team and ensures that all obstacles are cleared.”, says Kamlesh Ravlani. The Scrum process is divided into smaller cycles of 2 weeks (usually). Every day, the team members review what they’ve done and what they’ll work on for the rest of the day during the daily stand-up meeting.
Kanban is a method that allows you to get a visual overview of your tasks. The method consists of a physical or digital board with three columns (To Do, In progress, Done). These include tasks written on cards that can be moved from one progress stage to another until completion. Kanban focuses on an entire team’s capacity to work collectively and can help you manage your workflow and best identify bottlenecks early on. Among the benefits of Kanban software are visualization, flexibility, and continuous delivery.
Extreme Programming aims to improve software quality (hence its name). Like Scrum, it relies on quick sprints, frequent releases, and constant stakeholder collaboration that can improve productivity. With this framework, project managers can avoid employee burnout and increase the quality of project deliverables.
This traditional approach breaks your workload into tasks you must execute in strict order. One has to complete each task before starting to work on another one. Similarly, one phase won’t start before you complete the previous one. Extensive planning sits at the base of this approach. It comes with clear timelines and set budgets that support success. Outlining all steps before development can eliminate risks and misunderstandings.
Waterfall implies investing more time in the early stages of project development to prevent errors and save maintenance time. Its downside is that it has not yet adapted to the requirements of modern software development. It works better for companies and industries that build physical products. There are seven main phases/components to this method:
- Client Requirements
- Creation (Construction)
- Validation (Testing)
- Continuous Maintenance
PRINCE2 (Projects In Controlled Environments2)
In PRINCE2, control over the project is divided between a higher-authority project board and a project manager. While the board is responsible for providing resources and setting business justification, the project manager oversees daily activities and team management. This project management method includes all of the essential themes, principles, and processes needed to conduct a project from start to finish. Compared to other methods, PRINCE2 can offer greater control of resources, increased management of risks, structured accountability allocation, focus on the final user, regular review cycles, and organized planning and execution.
PRiSM (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods)
If you’re a fan of sustainability, this is the method for you. PRiSM takes environmental factors into account during the project management process. It is commonly used for construction, architecture, or landscape projects that impact the environment. It can help project managers reduce pollution, eliminate waste, and save energy.
Centered around quality control, the main focus of the Six Sigma approach is reducing defects, bugs, and errors. It is driven by data that must be analyzed to discover nonconformities from the original specifications before an issue arises. All decisions are made based on existing data and statistics. The goal of this approach is to deliver efficient and uniform products. The six main steps of Six Sigma are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, and Synergize.
This method can help you prioritize tasks and identify a project’s shortest timeline. Project managers can investigate milestones, dependencies, and deadlines more efficiently. A project model uses four elements: a list of the required tasks, the work hours needed for each task, dependencies, and milestones. A project manager has to decide which item is essential (critical activities) and which can be delayed without disturbing the project’s final date (non-critical activities).
Scientists and manufacturers usually use this method because of the heavy emphasis on a task’s length.
Established on the theory that you can’t start working on a task until another is finished, the Critical Path method allows for faster completion times, fair resource allocation, and bottleneck prevention.
Are you tired of waste? Lean supports delivering high-quality products with fewer people and resources in less time. Focusing on customer value, bottleneck removal, and repeated process improvement eliminates waste. Using this method can help a small team deliver excellent results in a short amount of time without spending a fortune on materials. Lean focuses on moving the main goal toward valuable product delivery with fewer resources. It also helps companies adapt rapidly to changing customer desires and behaviors.
With this guide, project managers can divide projects into the following five process groups selected by the Project Management Institute (PMI):
The PMI standards are used mainly in the USA, Canada, and the Middle East and contain the project management processes and techniques needed to complete projects. It’s more of a reference guide that outlines project management standards rather than an actual method.
Tools and resources for project managers
Let’s clarify: no software suite can replace a skilled project manager to complete successful projects.
Yet, sometimes, it takes more than just a great project manager to complete a project on time and within budget. Times have changed. Project management tools can now ease your work and eliminate the hassle of working with paperwork that can be lost forever.
Tip: Here’s how to manage a project in Paymo step by step, regardless of whether you are in the workplace, self-employed, or own a small business.
The first thing you should look at is project management software. Tools like Paymo, Teamwork, Asana, or Clickup are all worth a try. Here’s a complete list of the most popular project management tools – there’s a big chance the company you’ll work for already uses one of these apps.
These tools are usually complete solutions that help you manage projects throughout their entire cycle. They eliminate the need to switch between different apps constantly.
Your entire team will also need a complete system for creating project documentation. Your best free option, in this case, is the Google Suite. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can all be used collaboratively. This way, you can work with your team members efficiently, even remotely. Also, using Google Drive, you can ensure the safety of your data.
The paid alternative is the good ol’ Microsoft Office (nowadays, Microsoft 365).
Efficient collaboration is critical to ensuring that each task is completed according to your client’s requirements and that no mistakes are made. You’ll need a place to ask questions, share news, plan meetings, clarify tasks, and get feedback. In this sense, there are many collaboration tools, such as Slack, that you can connect your entire team to. If you prefer face-to-face interaction, you can also use video chat services. In this case, Slack works as a video calling system, too, but you can opt for other alternatives like Skype, Google Meet, or Zoom.
It would be best not to ignore the productivity aspect of the entire project development process. For this purpose, you can organize your articles, notes, and documents using Evernote, Pocket, or Google Keep.
If you want to keep track of your time on a task or project, you can always use time-tracking software. Some time tracking tools worth mentioning are Paymo, My Hours, Toggl, and Timely. These can help you see exactly where you’re slacking through time reports and improve your work performance by fixing those time-related issues.
Your career path doesn’t have to stop at being a project manager. You can become a program manager and handle multiple related projects. Another alternative is a portfolio manager position. They are responsible for choosing and prioritizing future projects according to an organization’s rules and strategy. Finally, you can become a project management office manager. This job helps ensure the entire company’s project organization. If you have higher expectations from your career, you can always opt for an executive position or start your own company.
If I’ve convinced you that project management is the perfect career, you can start your project manager learning journey right now. Follow the above steps and begin preparing for a successful future in project management.
Bookmark this guide and return to it whenever you need more tips to help you become a project manager, and if you found it helpful, please share it with your wannabe project manager friends and teammates.
Alexandra Cote is a SaaS content writer and strategist with a passion for workplace productivity, social media marketing wonders, conversion rate optimization, artificial intelligence, and keyword research. Reach out to her via LinkedIn.
Laurențiu started his marketing journey over 18 years ago and now leads a marketing team. He has extensive experience in work and project management, and content strategy. When not working, he’s probably playing board games or binge-watching mini-series.