What is project management?

The Project Management Institute defines project management as “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements” (PMI, 2013). Project management particularly involves the activities of planning how to get the work done – understanding the purpose, timeline, and budget of a project – as well as executing, or getting the work done according to the plan. It is often said that project management is both a science and an art. Practicing project management involves “hard” skills, such as scheduling and estimating that are measurable and predictable, as well as “soft” skills, such as building team consensus, leadership, and managing conflict. Regardless of whether project management is viewed as a science or art, it is ultimately about getting the work done in an efficient and effective manner.

Project Management Methodologies

Most processes are divided into a number of phases to make the activities more manageable. Each phase has clearly defined objectives and goals, and there may be a list of required activities, divided into steps and sub-steps within each stage or phase. Activities are generally expressed against time and schedule variables. Each phase should also detail expected outcomes, typically expressed as technical information and decisions on project requirements. Project management methodologies tend to be divided into five phases.

There are a large number of commercially available project management methodologies. Companies may also have created their own methodology that they follow for projects. There is no single project management methodology considered to be the sole standard, but there are a large number of organizations that influence how project management is conducted. These organizations include standards-setting organizations, universities and other educational institutions, consulting companies, training companies, and software companies. An Internet search for “project management” will consistently result in over 40 million results!

Project Management Process Groups

Most processes are divided into phases and the completion of a major deliverable or milestone marks the movement from phase to phase.  The project management process (or lifecycle) is no exception. PMBOK defines the following five process groups within the project life cycle:

  1. Initiate: A project is identified, and the organization commits to it.
  2. Plan: The scope of the project is defined, and all primary and auxiliary plans are prepared.
  3. Execute: The project plan is carried out, and the team’s activities are coordinated.
  4. Monitor and Control: Project conditions are monitored, and plans are modified as necessary to accommodate project changes.
  5. Close: The project is ended, the product of the project is transferred to the customer, and the results are audited to ensure the objectives were met.

Objectives of the Project Management Process Groups

  • Initiating Process Group: Recognize that a project or phase should begin, and commit to do so.
  • Planning Process Group: Define the scope of the project and plan how the work will be accomplished.
  • Executing Process Group: Coordinate people and other resources to carry out the plan.
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group: Ensure that project objectives are met.
  • Closing Process Group: Verify that the project delivered the expected product, and close out the project.

Project Management Knowledge Areas

The processes that comprise the Project Management Process Groups are defined in the following ten PMBOK Knowledge Areas. These ten Knowledge Areas are crucial for the project manager to understand and implement. Note that the Process Groups identify the processes that need to be done for each Project Management Life Cycle Phase, and the Knowledge Areas define specific processes to ensure the project work is carried out effectively. A total of forty-seven processes make up the ten knowledge areas.

  1. Project Integration Management has the objective of identifying, defining, combining, unifying, and coordinating the various processes and different aspects of the project. The related PMI processes are the following:
  • Develop Project Charter
  • Develop Project Management Plan
  • Direct and Manage Project Work
  • Monitor and Control Project Work
  • Perform Integrated Change Control
  • Close Project or Phase
  1. Project Scope Management includes the processes necessary to make sure the project includes all of the work of the project and only the work of the project. The related PMI processes include the following:
  • Plan Scope Management
  • Collect Requirements
  • Define Scope
  • Create Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  • Validate Scope
  • Control Scope
  1. Project Time Management is the knowledge area that helps to keep the completion of the project work progressing in a timely manner according to an agreed schedule. The related processes are the following:
  • Plan Schedule Management
  • Define Activities
  • Sequence Activities
  • Estimate Activity Resources
  • Estimate Activity Durations
  • Develop Schedule
  • Control Schedule
  1. Project Cost Management involves estimating, budgeting, financing, funding, managing, and controlling costs in a manner that keeps the project progressing within the established budget. Related processes within this knowledge area include the following:
  • Plan Cost Management
  • Estimate Costs
  • Determine Budget
  • Control Costs
  1. Project Quality Management involves determining quality procedures, policies, objectives, and responsibilities that ensure the project requirements and product requirements are achieved and validated. Processes within the Project Quality Management knowledge area include the following:
  • Plan Quality Management
  • Perform Quality Assurance
  • Control Quality
  1. Project Human Resource Management includes processes that ensure team members are utilized in the most efficient and effective manner. Processes include the following:
  • Plan Human Resource Management
  • Acquire Project Team
  • Develop Project Team
  • Manage Project Team
  1. Project Communications Management is the knowledge area in which the project manager gathers, generates, and shares information in a timely, efficient, and effective manner. Related processes include the following:
  • Plan Communications Management
  • Manage Communications
  • Control Communications
  1. Project Risk Management is the area in which project managers and the project team identify, recognize, and respond to project risks and uncertainties. The objective is to increase the prospect and effect of positive events, and decrease the impact and effect of negative events. Related processes within this knowledge are the following:
  • Plan Risk Management
  • Identify Risks
  • Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis
  • Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis
  • Plan Risk Responses
  • Control Risks
  1. Project Procurement Management is the area in which the project manager efficiently acquires anything needed to complete the project from outside the organization. Related processes within this knowledge are the following:
  • Plan Procurement Management
  • Conduct Procurement
  • Control Procurement
  • Close Procurement
  1. Project Stakeholder Management is the knowledge area that includes processes necessary to identify all parties that are impacted or affected by the project and to analyze their influence on the implementation of the project. This knowledge area includes the following processes:
  • Identify Stakeholders
  • Plan Stakeholder Management
  • Manage Stakeholder Engagement
  • Control Stakeholder Engagement

There are many possible methodologies to help drive a project to completion. One such methodology is published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Phases or stages within the project management lifecycle are described by five process groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. A total of 47 individual processes support ten knowledge areas. Collectively, these processes will fully and completely define the effort necessary to launch a project, plan a project, implement a project, and complete (or close) a project.


Project Management Institute (PMI). (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) (5th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Author.

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