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The basic principles and objectives of project management

According to the Association for Project Management (APM), “Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives”. Essentially, project management is about planning, organising, securing, managing, leading and controlling a project’s resources to achieve set project goals.

Project management principles

APM defines 13 core components of project management:

  • Defining the reason why a project is necessary
  • Capturing project requirements, specifying quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timescales
  • Preparing a business case to justify the investment
  • Securing corporate agreement and funding
  • Developing and implementing a management plan for the project
  • Leading and motivating the project delivery team
  • Managing the risks, issues and changes on the project
  • Monitoring progress against plan
  • Managing the project budget
  • Maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation
  • Provider management
  • Closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate

PRINCE2 outlines a more simple seven principles, which understandably have a lot of crossover with APM’s core components:

  • Continued business justification – a project needs to represent a clear return on investment, justifying the use of time and resources
  • Learn from experience – use knowledge gained from earlier projects to avoid repeating mistakes
  • Define roles and responsibilities – everyone should know what they and others are doing on the project
  • Manage by stages – break difficult tasks into manageable chunks
  • Manage by exception – avoid excessive management by only calling on the project board if there is or might be a problem
  • Focus on products – use product requirements to define work activity
  • Tailor to the environment – scale and tailor project management to the needs of the organisation and project

Project management objectives

Every project should have a set of objectives that are clearly defined, organised and scheduled into the project’s scope. The objectives must be measurable and include key performance indicators. A general set of objectives that project managers should consider are:

  • Developing and implementing a project’s procedures – projects of all sizes have five phases: Initiation, Planning and Design, Construction and Execution, Monitoring and Control, and Completion.
  • Good communication, supervision and guidance – project success comes down to teamwork and collaboration. Good communication is vital to ensure that information and instructions are delivered in a clear, precise and articulate way that everyone can understand.
  • Managing a project’s constraints to achieve the main goal – a project has certain constraints that need to be managed effectively: Scope, Time, Budget and Quality.
  • Optimising allocated resources and inputs – To lead the team through any strategic changes, optimise and apply the project’s resources and inputs to the pre-defined objectives.
  • Meeting the client’s expectations and a successful project completion – the ultimate goal is to deliver a completed project that meets the client’s expectations on time and within budget.

APM, PRINCE2 and CAPM courses can all introduce you to project management methods, principles and objectives. They each have their own terminology, but any one of them can provide you with the comprehensive knowledge needed to successfully manage projects.