Project management: what it is and why it is important

For the past two years, you have been driving around the roadworks on your way to work. Every day you wonder why there are always delays because the site just won't get done. Does this sound familiar?
For such tasks there is project management, whose job it is to plan and monitor the implementation from start to finish. But what exactly is project management and what strategies should be used to avoid such delays?
Several construction cranes.



Project management is responsible for organising, implementing and monitoring a project and its tasks. A good project is one that achieves its objectives as well as possible. No matter how big or small a company is, project management brings organisation to the project and therefore more peace of mind. Projects can be risky, complex and sometimes time sensitive, so good planning is essential. Methods and frameworks provide support for good planning.
But what does it actually mean to organise, implement and control? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it means "arrange things, plans, ideas, etc., according to a particular system so that they can be used or understood easily", "put a plan or system into operation", have "a tool […] for doing work" and "watch a situation carefully for a period of time in order to discover something about it". This describes project management very well.

The basics of project management

There are two approaches to project management: agile and traditional. 
Agile approaches include Scrum and Kanban. Both use flexibility in the context of change to ensure continuous improvement. When changes occur during the project, they can be well integrated through the iterative loops. As a result, the process does not run rigidly from phase to phase but can be adapted flexibly.
This is in contrast to traditional methods such as the waterfall model. Here, the next phase cannot begin until the previous one has been completed. Therefore, the waterfall method should only be used when the goals and scope are fixed from the beginning and no changes are expected. Traditional project management is discussed in the following.
Roughly speaking, there are four phases that every project goes through.
In the initiation phase, the scope and all the basics in terms of content, duration, cost and effort are determined. The project team is also put together, as it is clear from the outset how many people will be needed. 
The planning phase then begins. It should be determined when the project will be considered successful and thus when the project objectives have been achieved. It is also possible to create a project strategy plan that gives an overview of the objectives, milestones and results. This is useful because it makes it easier to keep track of the project.
During the implementation phase, the team works to achieve the results. During this time, attention must be paid to resource management, which consists of several elements. Among other things, it is necessary to check that the resources are sufficient, that the budget is not exceeded, and so on. Overall, the work must be carried out in such a way that the defined objectives are achieved.
Reports should be kept during and after implementation to track the progress of the project and the services provided. This will ensure that everything is going to plan and that the team is working well together. It can also be used to assess whether anything has gone wrong.
In the final phase, time should be taken to discuss with key participants what went well, what went less well and what can be done better next time. It is important to record the results in writing so that they can be traced.

The role of the project manager

Project managers are experts in planning and organisation and have overall responsibility for the project. This requires rules, frameworks and systems to support project work and provide guidance in difficult situations. This is the role of methods and frameworks that provide this support and help project managers find their way around the project. With the right organisation, deadlines and costs are met and the defined services are delivered with the appropriate quality. In this way, the project is completed to everyone's satisfaction. 
However, it is not only the methods and frameworks that contribute to successful project management, but also the analysis of the project so that the knowledge gained can be used for future tasks and projects. In this way, working practices can be improved and leadership skills strengthened at the same time. With increasing success, one can demonstrate this externally and become more confident in dealing with the team.
However, the technical and methodological skills that are acquired over time and that can be developed and demonstrated through training and certification are also very important. But social and personal skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, etc. are also necessary. A well-functioning team can only be created if the communication and interaction with the team is appropriate.
With all these skills acquired over time, the project manager can balance the iron triangle of time, cost and performance and bring the project to a successful conclusion.

Why project management is important

Project management centrally organises goals and associated tasks. Project managers are responsible for coordination and making sure everything runs smoothly. If you have any questions, you know who to ask. Especially in situations where quick decisions have to be made, it is an advantage to have the authority to make decisions in one place.
The goals set by the project management motivate the team because they know the overall goal, have a clear structure through good project planning and are approaching the goal step by step. Risk management was also carried out as part of the project management, in order to be able to react to unforeseen events. In this way, the team is always prepared and can pursue its goals.
Software is usually used to keep track of everything. This leads to greater efficiency as work can be done better and more productively. Confusing information or interruptions due to queries are avoided. A team working on different sub-projects knows exactly who is working on which subtasks and what the status is. An accessible overview solves this problem. For example, if you are waiting for a colleague to finish a task, you can simply consult the software to see how far along they are and work on other tasks in the meantime. This improves efficiency and communication within the team, leading to better collaboration.

Common tools and technologies in project management

There are a number of tools and technologies that can help you make your project a success. The first step is to find out exactly what you need by asking yourself the question Where do you need technical support? It is best to ask the team members as well, as they have a better overview and can say exactly what they have in mind. The more team members you ask, the more opinions you will get. It is therefore important to prioritise the opinions to know which requirements are essential. 
Once the tool has been selected, it should also be checked how well it works in day-to-day work and whether it meets the requirements. It should also be checked whether the software is compatible with other software. After that, it is just a matter of getting used to it.
Some examples are MS Project, Trello, Asana or Jira. Which one you choose will depend on your own needs. Each has its pros and cons and can be integrated with other software in different ways.
MS Project

The software is based on the network analysis and enables a variety of tasks such as planning, controlling, time recording, risk management, project monitoring and resource planning.

Tasks can be managed in lists in so-called boards (also together with other members). Tasks can be freely customised and supplemented with checklists, attachments, deadlines and much more, and allow for extensive logging.

This software is used for team collaboration and project management. Teams can create projects, assign tasks, set deadlines and communicate. It also includes tools for reports, attachments, calendars and goal tracking.

From planning to release with integrated error management and problem solving, this software is used especially for software development in agile teams.


Project management is a very diverse profession that involves many steps to plan a successful project. But back to the example from the beginning: No matter how well a project is planned and how much you have followed the theory, things can always go wrong. People fall ill, materials do not arrive. But with experience, even these admittedly big hurdles can be overcome.
After all, planning is half the battle and can sometimes make a big project not seem so big.

What is project management - the IAPM logo
Author: IAPM internal
Keywords: Project management

The IAPM certification

The certification can be taken via a reputable online examination procedure. The costs are based on the gross domestic product of your country of origin.

From the IAPM Blog

Become a Network Official

Do you want to get involved in project management in your environment and contribute to the further development of project management? Then become active as an IAPM Network Official or as a Network Official of the IAPM Network University. 

For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.