Project Management Process Groups: A Quick Guide

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Projects are complicated. There are a thousand things that constantly impact the project and require you to reallocate resources to stay on track.

To keep to your schedule and manage costs, you need to gather and process project data throughout the five PMBOK project management groups.

What Are the 5 PMBOK Project Management Process Groups?

To begin, let’s look at the five project management process groups defined in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the leading industry trade group.

Project managers use the five project management phases to structure projects and lead them from beginning to end. Each of these phases serve a specific purpose, and project managers must control them to ensure that the project stays on track. Project management software helps project managers stay on top of each of these process groups.

The project management process groups are the following.

Initiating Phase

The PMBOK defines the project initiation phase as “the process of formally recognizing that a new project exists or that an existing project should continue into its next phase.”

In this phase, project managers discuss the business value of the project, as well as if the project is feasible. You also explore the impact on stakeholders. If the project is considered viable and valuable, it is pursued. If it’s not, it’s abandoned.

During this phase, you must also create a business case that answers those questions. The business case includes the estimated costs and benefits of the project. There is also a feasibility study to see if the project makes sense to the organization and its stakeholders. That’s followed by a project charter, which answers the who, what and where of the project.

There’s more, of course, such as:

  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Selecting the team
  • Defining roles and responsibilities
  • Selecting the project office
  • Choosing the right tools, equipment and communication infrastructure

Once the project has been signed and is ready to move forward, there is a kickoff meeting. Use a kickoff meeting to get everyone on the project team on the same page so the project can start off right.

Planning Phase

Once the project initiation is complete and the project has the green light to go ahead, the project planning phase can begin. The planning process is when stakeholders and the project team learn how to achieve the final deliverable of the project or service.

At this point, you document the project plan, as well as define the project deliverables and requirements. You create a project schedule, designed to manage time, cost, quality, changes, risk and any project-related issues.

You also take this opportunity to control resources, such as teams, external suppliers, materials and equipment. You also define roles, responsibilities and where team members sit in the project structure.

There is also the creation of a stakeholder register. This is a crucial document that lists all the key stakeholders and project sponsors in a project. It is part of stakeholder management, and can include how and when you update project stakeholders on the progress of the project.

The project manager is responsible for leading the project planning phase and making accurate estimates on time, budget and resources. It’s at this phase in the project that you plan the scope, use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to organize tasks, make procurement plans and define communication channels and frequency.

When making a project management plan, it helps to have project management software to organize your work. ProjectManager has robust task lists that do more than just collect tasks. The task list view (one of five different project views that let hybrid teams work how they want) can set priority, attach files, add descriptions, be assigned to team members and track status. Try ProjectManager for free today.

ProjectManager's task list viewProjectManager's task list view
Planning, executing or monitoring process groups, ProjectManager’s task list keeps you informed.—Learn More!

Executing Phase

At this point, you’re ready to build the product or service that you’ve planned for. This phase, therefore, tends to be the longest of the project. It’s where you devote most of your energy and resources as you keep the project on track against various project constraints.

The execution phase is deeply connected to the next phase of the project, monitoring and controlling. The project manager is tasked with tracking performance and progress to ensure actual effort is aligned with the planned effort.

Monitoring and Controlling Phase

While executing the project plan, the project manager monitors and controls performance to keep the work going as scheduled and within budget. Project manager continuously measure metrics to make sure they meet their milestones.

Some of the key tasks associated with this project phase are:

Closing Phase

Handing off the final deliverable on time, within budget and within the quality expectations of your stakeholders is important, but it’s not the end of the project. You still need to tie up some loose ends. All activities conclude at this point and the project is closed, which means you need to sign off on documents and fulfill contracts.

A post-mortem of the project is recommended. During a post-mortem, the project manager and team go over what worked and what didn’t to learn how they can improve processes in the next project. They do this by listing best practices and the lessons they’ve learned.

Then, you can release your team and celebrate the success of the project. The last part might not seem crucial, but it is! Keeping team morale high by validating their hard work will positively impact future projects.

Difference Between PMBOK Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas

We’ve detailed the five process groups in project management, all of which are subject to the controlling process in project management. To manage those project management process groups, you need to utilize the knowledge areas of project management.

The Ten Project Management Knowledge Areas

There are 10 project management knowledge areas. They are:

  • Project integration management
  • Project scope management
  • Project time management
  • Project cost management
  • Project quality management
  • Project resource management
  • Project communications management
  • Project risk management
  • Project procurement management
  • Project stakeholder management

Project management knowledge areas are not the same as the project management process groups. The major difference is that the process groups outline what a project manager needs to do, while the knowledge areas are what a project manager needs to know.

More specifically, the knowledge areas are used throughout the project management process groups. The knowledge areas are made up of processes. They have inputs, tools, techniques and outputs. They are project management functions that help deliver successful projects.

When Do You Use Project Management Knowledge Areas?

The knowledge areas work within all of the project management process groups. The process groups are where you break up and categorize a project. It’s the sequence of the project from start to finish. You can use the knowledge areas throughout each stage of the process.

A good way to understand the difference is that knowledge areas categorize processes, while project management process groups are stages or phases of the project. The knowledge areas don’t have a logical relationship, but the project management process groups lead from one to the next.

Both project management process groups and knowledge areas work better together when they’re powered by project management software. Project management software will help you control the process groups and lead you to a successful project.

How ProjectManager Helps With PMBOK Process Groups

ProjectManager is cloud-based software that gives project managers more insightful data to make better decisions while equipping hybrid teams with multiple project views to get work done how they would prefer. There are features that help throughout each process phase. From unlimited file storage for a central hub of documentation when initiating to reviewing what worked and didn’t during close.

Get Started on the Right Foot in the Planning Process Group

Planning is one of the more complex process groups. You need a tool that can organize your tasks, link dependencies and set milestones. ProjectManager’s Gantt chart project view does that and more. You can filter for the critical path instead of having to make time-consuming calculations. Then, set a baseline and track planned versus actual effort.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart viewProjectManager's Gantt chart view

Nail Your Execution Phase with Different Project Views

ProjectManager has multiple project views. Managers can use the Gantt or Sheet view, while teams can manage their own workload on kanban boards, task lists and calendars. This connects hybrid teams, no matter where they are. The kanban board visualizes workflow during the execution phase, letting team members manage their backlog and plan sprints. Meanwhile, managers get the transparency needed to accurately allocate resources and keep teams working at capacity.

ProjectManager's kanban board viewProjectManager's kanban board view

Track Progress in the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

During the monitoring and controlling process group, real-time data comes in handy. Data gives managers a window into the progress and performance of the project. ProjectManager’s live dashboards calculate metrics such as project variance, costs and more for an instant status report without having to take time to configure the tool, as with other tools.

ProjectManager's real-time dashboardProjectManager's real-time dashboard

ProjectManager is an award-winning software with features to organize, monitor and report on your project. One-click reporting features filter detailed data and can be easily shared with stakeholders, and resource management software makes sure everyone has what they need when they need it to complete their work. Try ProjectManager today for free!

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5 Tips for Better Agile Release Planning

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If you’re working in software development, you know that the software development life cycle can often be frenetic. Product features and stakeholder requirements constantly change, and your initial product development plan might look very different as the project evolves.

Agile release planning, also known as scrum release planning, is an alternative to the traditional waterfall approach. Instead of planning everything at once, teams can instead break down their process into staged product releases, hence the name.

In software development, things rarely play out exactly as planned. From this grew the Agile methodology, and with it agile release planning (also known as scrum release planning).

How does that fit into an agile project? Why is it a better way to work? How do you create a scrum release plan? And how can project management software help? These are a few of the questions we’ll answer.

What Is an Agile Release Plan?

An agile release plan is part of a larger product management plan that aims to stays flexible to respond to the inevitable changes that occur in software development. It lets teams incrementally release features in iterative agile sprints, which are short periods of usually no more than two weeks.

The power of agile release planning is that it gives project managers and product managers time to adapt to changes imposed by project constraints, challenges or evolving needs.

Because the release plan moves forward in phases, there is always a period to reassess and adjust the plan to meet the needs of the product.

Key Elements of Agile Release Planning

The agile approach is all about flexibility, being open to change and pivoting as needed. It is almost the complete opposite of structured planning in a waterfall methodology. But don’t be fooled. There is some structure to agile and scrum release planning.

It’s carefully crafted for the agile team, and while they are a bit different from organization to organization, they mostly share these elements:

  • Proposed release for the project
  • Plan for the release
  • Iterations (agile sprints) for the release
  • Plans for each iteration
  • Product Features development
  • Tasks needed to deliver product features

What Is the Purpose of Agile Release Planning?

Managing a software development or product development project with an agile mindset means working with an iterative approach. This lets projects pivot and adapt rather than follow the linear path of traditional project management methodologies.

That’s why release planning fits so comfortably into that agile or scrum format. It’s a project planning method that’s both iterative and incremental. By planning in short agile sprints and not making far-reaching plans, the product development project can stay agile and open to change.

Agile seeks to release the benefits of the project throughout its life cycle, not just at the end. Agile release planning is how that objective is realized in product management.

Being open to change is one thing, being able to observe the project in real time in order to see when constraints require you to adjust your time, cost or scope is another thing.

ProjectManager is a cloud-based software that gives product managers and project managers real-time data to make better decisions. ProjectManager’s live dashboard doesn’t have to be configured—it’s set up and ready whenever you need it. Try ProjectManager today for free!

ProjectManager's dashboardProjectManager's dashboard
Track release plans in real time with ProjectManager’s dashboard.—Learn More!

Benefits of Agile Release Planning

Project success comes from going in the right direction. Release planning lets software development teams plan better, direct their efforts more effectively and release projects incrementally, which helps the customer experience. Release planning is a great way for scrum teams to plan their sprints when working in product development.

Scrum teams can take the feedback they received from previous scrums and use that information to inform their next scrum. This is one of the most important aspects of scrum release planning and it directly impacts the success of the project.

Release planning lets project managers and scrum teams review and revise. They can change course if necessary. The feedback gives agile teams a chance to align the next sprint more closely with the current project roadmap. That leads to a better chance of success.

Project Managers and Release Planning

As noted, release planning is part of a larger agile framework. Scrum is a means to execute a project in an agile environment. Therefore, it is usually the product manager who outlines the base release plan or product roadmap.

This agile release plan will include the goal for the sprint, as well as a release target date. Also includes are the appropriate user stories, which are descriptions of the features from the end-user’s perspective. But prior to defining the user story, goal and date, the product manager will consult with executives and stakeholders to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The scrum team will be brought in after you create the release plan. There will be a planning meeting that will include everyone on the team, and the stakeholders. The release plan will then be reviewed and revised as necessary, so that your team members know what product features and user stories they should work on.

5 Tips for Better Scrum Release Planning

The product owner owns the release plan, and it’s their responsibility to make it the best it can be. In order to have the best release plan possible, follow these five tips:

  1. Identify Task Dependencies: Dependencies are tasks and user stories in the product backlog that can’t start or end until another starts or ends. If you’re not aware of the dependent user stories in your release plan, you’re going to suffer delays and block your team. By identifying these user stories beforehand and making sure you stay aware of them, you’re going to keep the scrum team working without unnecessary interruption.
  2. Keep the Focus on Goals: There’s a lot to take into account when developing the release plan. You can easily get lost in the weeds. Mitigating risk and optimizing marketing opportunity are other things that you want to be aware of when you’re agile release planning. While these are of varying importance, you want to keep your eyes on the priorities: goals, benefits and results. Features contribute to a goal. Focus on the goal and the feature will follow.
  3. Release Done Work: It might sound obvious, but often work in the product backlog is moved forward through production without being completed. These incomplete user stories can involve a lot of time and money to fix. That will take away from your main goal, which is delivering value to your customers. Have a definition of done for your user stories and product deliverables and stick to it.
  4. Continuously Improve: Yes, you have to deliver product features and functionalities but you don’t want to set the bar at status quo. Good enough isn’t good enough. Part of a product owner’s job is to always be looking at areas of improvement. That means collaborating with your team, running tests and getting feedback on user stories. There will always be room for improvement, but like release planning these improvements should be applied incrementally, not all at once. Give them time to prove themselves.
  5. Release Often: The mandate of any release planning is to release your product to customers. Only then will you be able to determine if the user stories you released were of value to them. Therefore, release often. Don’t get tied down with running a few more sprints. Release, get feedback, refine. Smaller releases are easier to digest for customers than having a couple of big ones per year. But don’t release just to release. That will backfire on you and potentially erode your customer base.

How ProjectManager Helps With Release Planning

Creating a release plan, connecting your team and keeping stakeholders in the loop involves not something you can do on an Excel spreadsheet. ProjectManager is a cloud-based software that organizes release planning, gives hybrid teams the tools they need to succeed and delivers real-time data to keep you on track.

Plan Work on Gantt Charts

Product managers will gravitate to the online Gantt chart project view. It lets them create the sprint on a timeline, link dependencies to avoid bottlenecks and then filter for the critical path. They can also set the baseline, capturing the release plan and allowing them to then compare that to the actual progress once the sprint is executed.

ProjectManager's Gantt chartProjectManager's Gantt chart

Work Effectively on Kanban Boards

Meanwhile, the team can work on any of the multi-project views available on our software. They can set up a robust task list or use the kanban board that visualizes the workflow. This lets teams manage their backlog and collaboratively plan sprints. Best of all, the data is shared from tool to tool, so everyone is working on the same view.

ProjectManager's kanban board ProjectManager's kanban board

Track Progress on Real-Time Dashboards

The real-time dashboard gives you a high-level view of the progress, but if you need more detailed information to keep agile there’s one-click reporting. It can instantly generate reports on project variance, costs, time and much more. That data can then be filtered to zero in on what you want to see. Then share it with executives to keep them in the loop.

ProjectManager's status report filterProjectManager's status report filter

ProjectManager is award-winning software that organizes tasks, creates plans, monitors progress and reports on performance. Our multiple project view is great for hybrid teams, working on different aspects of the project, in different places and skill levels. See how ProjectManager can help your release planning by trying our software free today!

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