What does the term “project management” really mean?
Project management describes the work required to start a project and the
processes for controlling and managing the project once it starts. It also includes
the work necessary to close the project after the solution is completed.

If there are problems on a project, you can use project
management processes and techniques to respond to them. But we can take this a
step further. Project managers that know how to proactively apply sound project
management techniques generally do not have as many problems to begin with.

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Here are some tools in your project management
“toolkit”:

  • Understand
    what you’re doing before you start. Many projects experience problems
    because there’s a gap between what the client expects and what the project
    team delivers. These project teams typically look back and say “we
    should have spent more time planning.” If you apply good project
    management techniques, you will not start the project without
    understanding the objectives, deliverables, scope, risks, assumptions,
    project organization, etc. You will also have a decent estimate (+/- 10%)
    of the project effort, cost, and duration. Not only that, but you will
    validate that the sponsor agrees with you by having him or her sign the
    Project Definition document.
  • Manage
    change. Many project managers have difficulty managing scope. Project
    management shows you how to define scope to begin with and then how to
    proactively manage the scope. Scope change management does not mean that
    you tell the client “no.” It means that you have a process in
    place to allow the sponsor to make the decisions based on the business
    value of the change and the impact to the project.
  • Resolve
    problems more quickly. Some teams spend too much time and energy dealing
    with problems because they don’t know how to resolve the problems to begin
    with. Having a proactive issues management process helps ensure that
    problems are resolved as quickly as possible.
  • Manage
    future risks before the problems occur. Project management processes give
    you guidance on how to identify and manage risks. Risk management will
    result in potential problems being identified and managed before the
    problems actually occur.
  • Manage
    expectations more effectively. Many problems on a project can be avoided
    with proactive communication. Your project management process will include
    methods for formal and informal communication, which will result in fewer
    surprises. 
  • Build
    a higher quality product the first time. Quality management processes help
    the team understand the needs of the customer in terms of quality. Once
    those needs are defined, the team can implement quality control and
    quality assurance techniques to meet the customer expectations.

There are other benefits to using proactive project
management processes as well. You use your project management toolkit in a
proactive and preventative manner to continually keep the project machine in
good working order. However, when something unexpected occurs, you should
always have a project management tool that you can pull out to help you deal with it.
Using good project management processes does not guarantee success. However,
you will find that you always have one or more tools that you can apply to
respond to all situations.