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Project Management Basics (Part 2 of 4)

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 6/29/2011

Need a primer on project management basics? This series of four articles is the place to learn the basics of project management.

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    Miss Part One? Start reading this series of articles on project management basics from the beginning.

    What can be done to start a project?

    The first thing you need when starting a project is a good set of project requirements and specifications. Without these, any project is doomed to overrun in terms of both cost and time and may not achieve the desired result. It's important to be clear in the beginning exactly what the project stakeholders expect the end-result to be. Otherwise, you'll never know if you have achieved your original project goals.

    Determining the project requirements is often the job of the Project Manager. A Project Manager is responsible for ensuring that a project is completed on time, within budget and at an agreed upon level of quality. Your project manager is also the person responsible for communicating with everyone involved in the project from the stakeholders to the team members and anyone else that needs to be kept in the loop of project happenings.

    Once a Project Manager has been assigned, the project team, or “resources,” is then assembled. These are the people and equipment that will be needed to complete the project deliverables (tasks).

    An essential part of a project is planning. Effective projects follow the guidelines of painting a new room. That is, it's 90% preparation and 10% actual work. This means, you'll want to stick with project management basics and spend a good deal of time up-front planning and preparing for your project before the actual project work begins.

    This planning goes into a project plan. At last count, there were… well, let's just say, "lots" of project planning applications available. And, all are right for one project or another. The project planning tool you use is a personal choice. Just a few of these software tools include: Microsoft Office Project, BaseCamp, DeskAway, iTeamwork, AtTask, and QuickBase.

    You can see a longer list of available project planning tools on Wikipedia. Within your project plan, regardless of the software tool you use, milestones should be established to help keep the project on track. These milestones are simply dates throughout the project that need to be met in order for the project to complete within the required time frame and budget.

    For instance, some project managers choose to insert a milestone every two weeks that reminds them to review the tasks that have been completed to ensure the project is still on track. Other project managers break their project tasks up into phases with milestones at the end of each phase.

    Click here to read Part Three in this series on Project Management Basics.

    Miss Part One? Start reading this series of articles on project management basics from the beginning.