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Project Management for Beginners: What You Need to Know

Learn the basics of project management, where to get started, and why project managers are so important to an organization.

By Fellow.app  •   December 16, 2022  •   7 min read

Project management can be a rewarding career path. But if you’re new to the world of project management, it can be tricky to know where to begin. Read ahead for a guide to project management for beginners, including roles, responsibilities, and why project managers are in such high demand. 

What is project management?

Project management is the process of ensuring all project goals are met in a timely, accurate manner. Project managers are known for wearing many hats since the role includes a bunch of different stages and processes. Organization might be the most important skill in their well-rounded set, and they often use project management software to keep track of everything. This jack of all trades also plays a key role in helping team members (and other managers) stay the course. 

Managing a team?

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What are the benefits of learning project management?

If you’re hoping to make yourself irreplaceable at your organization, project management is a great skill to have. Team members who can balance industry knowledge with interpersonal skills are well-suited for this role. And, of course, mastering project management can help you get better at all the following. 

1Planning and goal setting

Project managers are hands-on in all aspects of a project, especially goal prioritization. As the person leading projects, you’ll become a total ace at setting realistic goals and plotting out how to make them happen. 

2Scheduling

One of the most important parts of project management is making sure your team can meet its deadlines. You’ll get great at setting clear timelines and staying on top of everyone’s due dates. 

3Estimating available resources and time

Before you can assign any tasks, it’s important to really know your team’s bandwidth. A strong project manager takes this into account when creating a project plan. You’ll eventually wind up doing the same with your own schedule, which is a huge benefit of learning project management.

Project management for beginners: The 5 methodologies

When you’re getting started, you might see a lot of unfamiliar project management jargon. Here are a few common systems and resources you might encounter on your project management journey. 

1PMBOK

If you’re wishing there was a  project management glossary you could reference, the PMBOK is where to start. This acronym stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge. PMBOK is a huge resource full of common project management terms, guidelines and best practices.  

2Scrum

The term scrum originated in the sports world and makes for a great metaphor to remember this framework. Like the name’s rugby origin, this method involves a team huddling to strategize and focus on a goal. You and your team will carry out tasks in cycles called sprints, and you’ll guide your team through a “learn as you go” approach. This method is especially popular in software development, and it’s great for building team collaboration

Check out this free Daily Scrum Meeting template:

3Kanban

In the project management world, you’ll often hear about the pros and cons of scrum vs. kanban. While scrum is great for projects where you might need to adapt along the way, kanban is often better for big-picture thinking. This framework involves visually representing tasks on a kanban board, so you can see each step your team needs to take.

Check out this free Kanban 1-on-1 Weekly Check-in template:

4Agile Certified Practitioner

Scrum and kanban fall under the larger framework known as Agile, or the method of working through a project in small parts. To show that you’ve mastered Agile, you can get certified as an ACP or Agile Certified Practitioner. Like the more broad Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, the Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the ACP certification exam. Pass the exam, and you’ll have proof of your top-notch project management skills. 

5PRINCE2 Agile

PRINCE2 Agile combines the Agile framework with the methodology known as (here’s why it’s called PRINCE2) “PRojects IN Controlled Environments 2.” While the Agile approach’s greatest strength is flexibility, PRINCE2 is focused on process, principles, and themes. PRINCE2 Agile combines the best of both worlds – PRINCE2’s broad view, Agile’s adaptability. 

Project management hierarchy 

The term “project” itself might seem simple, but it’s just part of the story. Below is a primer on how projects are just cogs in the machines known as programs and portfolios. 

1Project

A project can be thought of as a change or update to a current process. Projects usually have short life cycles, and they rarely repeat. They result in deliverables.

2Program 

Programs are typically groups of related projects. They’ll stay in place until you meet your goal or realize you can’t. They show stakeholders the value you’re providing.

3Portfolio

Portfolios are groups of programs you’ll use to achieve your organization’s goals. You can use them to show your organization’s value. 

The different jobs of a project manager

A project manager needs to be well-rounded since they work in all kinds of ways to keep the ball rolling. Read on to learn about all the roles you’ll play in your project managing career. 

1Leader

Effective project managers excel at giving clear direction and being decisive when a choice needs to be made quickly. They also know how to connect their team’s work to the company’s mission and vision – this is great for motivating employees. A good team leader should also be a good mentor

As Jack Appleby, Sr. Creative Strategist at Twitch, explains, you should make sure your team members have what they need to take charge. “I’m a big believer in making sure everyone feels like they have ownership somewhere,” Appleby says. “Contributing is good, but let people have an area they can make decisions in. If you set goals early, it allows you to frame honest feedback within those goals – that way what you’re saying is always aligned with getting the team member the best shot at where they want to go.”

3Client manager

A project manager needs to walk the line between advocating for their team and meeting client goals. This means you’ll work closely with your clients to get a clear picture of their vision. This knowledge is key to building a project plan that works for both the client and your team, and that is realistic.

Setting expectations with clients is important to maintain a positive relationship. For example, if a client requests an unrealistic goal of gaining a certain number of social media followers, communicating your insight on what realistic number of social media followers to gain is important. Being clear and honest in these situations helps avoid conflict if the desired outcome of the project is not achieved.

4Facilitator

A project manager acts as a sort of stagehand, making sure everything behind the scenes runs smoothly. They’re responsible for coordinating a wide range of tasks and needs, from scheduling to budget to risk assessment. This means you should thrive in fast-paced settings, where you’ll juggle everything while still keeping everyone headed toward the finish line. 

A project manager’s timeline

A project manager’s many responsibilities can be easier to break down when you think of a project’s life cycle. Here are the tasks a project manager handles from start to finish. 

1Kick-off 

Project managers evaluate project proposals early so they can start putting everything into place. They shape resources, client needs, and team member bandwidth into a realistic path forward. 

Check out this free Agile Project Kick-Off Meeting template:

2Financial management

Project managers play a big part in drafting a project’s initial budget and keeping the organization from overspending. They keep track of all financial resources so they can flag anything that needs to be adjusted as soon as possible. 

3Deadlines

Staying on schedule is one of the most important parts of project management. That’s why project managers so frequently refer back to a project’s timeline. Project management software can especially help streamline scheduling tasks. 

4Overseeing all communication 

As the team liaison, the project manager guides communication among team members, clients, and stakeholders. Keeping everyone aware of any updates or changes is key to addressing issues before they really become problems.

5Hitting targets 

The devil is in the details, and this is another reason why project managers are so important. A project manager both makes sure a project is completed on time and keeps all deliverables high-quality enough for the organization and clients. 

6Risk assessment 

Preparation is key to avoiding hiccups. Evaluating project risk so the team can have a backup plan is essential. A thorough risk assessment at the onset can go a long way toward tackling issues that come up once the project gets off the ground. 

7Status reports

As the go-to person, a project manager should always have a clear picture of a project’s progress. If there are any bumps in the road, a project manager can see them early enough to report on them and course-correct. 

Check out this free Project Status Meeting template:

8Wrapping up

A project manager makes sure to tie up all loose ends. That means running a thorough analysis at the end of a project to see what worked and what didn’t. This helps to formally close out any remaining tasks and also provides valuable feedback for the next project. A wrap-up meeting is a great way to check this box, especially with meeting management tools in play.

Set off on your project management journey

Now that you know what makes a good project manager, you can start the next stage in your career development. Using project management tools will help you take action on your learnings from this blog post. Fellow offers a range of tools for planning meetings, taking meeting notes, creating meeting action items, and setting OKRs. Take the first step today on your road toward project management success.

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