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Part of Western Governors University

September 30, 2019

Business

What is project management and why is it important?

White board and post it notes for PM

Project management. It’s a vital job inside any organization, but many people don’t quite understand what project managers do. Project managers (PMs) initiate, plan, execute, control, and close the work of an entire team to help achieve goals. Usually these goals are given time or other constraints that make them difficult to accomplish, and a project manager is needed to essentially steer the ship and aid team members and stakeholders in any way possible.

A general manager is usually in charge of the day-to-day operations of a business, while a project management focuses on time-constrained, temporary projects. They facility the team, tools, project plans, deliverables, strategy, and communications needed to complete these projects. There are often many projects, one right after another, that mean project management is always busy. 

If you’re studying business, it’s so crucial to understand the role project management plays in an organization. Whether you want to be a project manager or will be working in an organization with project management, understanding how they fit in a company will help you find success. If you’re working toward your business degree, a career in project management may be path to consider. Management and stakeholders also work with project management regularly, so if you intend to follow that career path, learning how to work with project management will help you be successful.

Project manager having meeting

Project management's significance.

Project management isn’t a nice thing to have in your organization, or a convenience to teams. Project management is vital in keeping costs low, and making sure teams are efficient and effective. In fact, 80% of global executives say that project management is a core element they need to stay competitive and successful in their industry. Organizations that are committed to project management have better long-term success and increase their business value. 

Executives also say that project management is usually in their top three priorities for company growth and success. Project management helps determine project scope, and maximize the use of resources and employees. Good project management help save money on projects that aren’t going well or look like they’ll fail, they know how to assign the right employees to the project team and help them stay on track, and act as the perfect managing director to make sure budgets and deadlines are met, resulting in a successful project.

Project manager putting sticky notes on wall

What project managers manage.

There are nine focus areas for project managers, often called knowledge areas. They include:

Integration. Project management is directly involved with integrating teams and bringing new members into projects when needed. They know which stakeholders should be involved when, and help integrate them into the overall project planning.

Scope. PMs work with management to determine the scope of the project plan, what things need to be done, how the pieces move together, and more. They present the business case as part of their project planning, helping everyone understand why a certain project is valuable.

Time. Deadlines are a huge element of project management, and project management is responsible for making sure every person has their work done on time. Stakeholders expect work to be done at a certain time, and project managers make sure the project team is ready to meet those deadlines.

Cost. Budgets are a vital part of the project management process. Costs have to be met, especially when it comes to large projects. large projects. Project managers are directly in charge of making sure that costs are met. Project managers also ensure that the team has all the resources they need for success.

Quality. PMs often take on the role of quality assurance for projects to ensure that all of the elements of a project are done, and done well.

Human Resources. Personnel are important when it comes to projects. Project managers work with HR to make sure all the right people are assembled, and can help with additional hiring if it’s necessary. Managing resources like employees and costs are a huge part of the project process.

Communications. Project managers make sure all the teams and individuals working on a project are communicating well. They can help organize meetings, send updates to the rest of the team, and more.

Risk. Risk management is vital to project planning success. Project management works to mitigate risks, and explain to managers what risks are ahead and how to best prevent them. Risk management helps make sure that everyone is aware of issues before they become huge problems.

Procurement. The final step for project management is procuring the finished project for managers, stakeholders, and clients.

All of these areas help make sure there is a successful project that stakeholders and team members can be proud of.

If you want to be a project manager, or will have one on your team, you need to understand the crucial role they play for a company.

The project management process.

There is a detailed process for project management, more commonly known as phases. Completing these phases successfully requires people skills and an increased focus on technology. In fact, many project management professionals are utilizing project management software to help them enhance their processes. These technologies can make everything run more smoothly, and will help project managers feel organized. 

Phases of a project can be repeated during the process, and PMs often choose a Waterfall-style method, where phases are checked off linearly, or an Agile method, which involves fast-tracking and overlap. Whether the project management process uses Waterfall or Agile method, team members will be able to adapt and work well. A project manager’s management style will usually dictate their process and whether they chose Agile or Waterfall.

The project management process involves 5 phases which are:

  • Initiation. Initiation is where project management determines the overall viability of a project. They conduct research, they pin down the overlying objectives from upper management or clients, and describe and justify the project to the teams and management involved. 
  • Planning. The next step is for project management to get more in-depth about their objectives, and convey those expectations to team members. Project management also sets up a plan for the objectives and work out details for each individual team member. 
  • Execution. Execution by project management is when the plan is put into place. This happens usually through a system of tasks and deliverables that are necessary to complete objects. PMs often utilize software to help assign tasks to employees, with specific details of what needs to be done as well as deadlines.
  • Monitoring. Often a majority of a project manager’s time is spent keeping an eye on the progress of projects. They offer insight, make adjustments and corrections when necessary, and update management on progress. They spend time helping team members collaborate, hold meetings, and reviewing work that’s been done.
  • Closure. The last step in the project management process is closure. PMs resolve any remaining issues, and make sure all the deliverables have been met. They then complete and distribute documentation to team members, managers, and clients. They often explain how the project went, and make notes for how future similar projects should be adjusted for success. The final product is a well executed project, a team that is happy, clients that are satisfied, and stakeholders and management that are proud of what their organization is doing.

If you want to be a project manager some day, a degree in business is a vital first step in helping you have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed. Most organizations utilize project managers, and if you’re a business student preparing for a future career, it’s important to know how they benefit an organization and what they offer.

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