5 Project Management Process Groups to Keep Your Project on Track

Grace Pinegar
Grace Pinegar  |  July 8, 2019

Project management: it’s a process, literally.

Taking a project from start to finish within the project life cycle can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the industry or profession.

Intelligent project managers who have come before us did us all the favor of splitting project management up into process groups. These process groups break a project up into palatable, accomplishable parts.

If you’re looking to take on a new project but you aren’t sure where to begin, let’s start here.

Project management process groups

If you’re familiar with project management, you’ll realize that the process groups listed above mirror the steps in a project life cycle. Let’s talk about that for a second. 

A project life cycle defines a project from beginning to end. It outlines everything that needs to be accomplished before a project is considered “done.”

Process groups, also commonly referred to as project management phases, are less of an overview and instead, zero in on the specific deliverables that each phase should accomplish. While the difference between the two is slight, it should be noted that they are different. 

project management process groups

Organizing your project through process groups or phases ensures that each vital step in a project is completed with context and is executed in line with that phase’s deliverables.

Let’s dive deeper into the five most commonly recognized process groups and discuss what’s so important about each. 

Initiating

The initiation phase, sometimes referred to as the ideation phase, is where all pre-project documentation happens. Project managers are responsible for recording the scope, deliverables, and identifying stakeholders. It is in this stage that those responsible would develop the project charter

TIP: Don't get your project management terminology mixed up. Although it's similar to a business case, project charter is a formal document that is written after a project is off the ground.

Planning
The initiation stage is imperative, as it acts as an “approval process” for the project. As stakeholders are established and agreed upon, the project is officially approved under their watch. Specific project managers are chosen by the stakeholders to clearly establish accountability for the rest of the project phases.

In the planning stage, we break the scope out into more defined terms, and lay out a concrete plan of action. The following elements are established in the planning phase:

  • Project scope and work breakdown structure
  • Cost and budget
  • Project schedule, project team, and responsibilities
  • Quality control and what determines project success
  • Risk management, all potential constraints, and plans to combat risks
  • Stakeholder involvement

The purpose of the planning stage is to map out the entirety of the project and consider everything that could happen. The plan gives all who are involved a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish (objectives, goals, deliverables) along with how you’re going to accomplish that.

Executing

In the execution stage, work begins. Project team members begin to carry out the plan that was so meticulously created in the last phase. Project managers should have proactively prepared a capable and motivated team, or else all of the careful planning was for naught.

In the execution stage, a project manager oversees the work and manages stakeholder involvement as it was outlined in the project plan.

Project execution is the phase wherein most of the resources like physical supplies, money, or time are used up.. The execution phase can drag on as long as necessary, but project managers should do their best to make sure the project sticks to its pre-approved schedule.

Monitoring and controlling

The monitoring and controlling stage is the phase in which project managers oversee work and ensure project milestones are being hit as intended. This phase is not limited to one stage of the project, but rather is a continual action. 

During the monitoring and controlling stage, managers should take measures to ensure the project is hitting deadlines, remaining within the budget, and accomplishing deliverables. If anything veers off course, project managers take corrective action to ensure they are still able to meet their goals.

TIP: During this stage, it’s important to track progress regularly. Consider using a project management solution that creates weekly progress reports to clarify how employees are doing. Proactive monitoring and controlling is much better than reactive.

View the Easiest-to-Use Project Management Software →

Closing

In this phase, you are responsible for formally closing the project, as well as everything that comes with it. That will depend on the best practices your company has put in place. Project managers often choose to close a project by formally documenting lessons learned. This records wins and failures, which can be beneficial for anyone attempting a similar feat in the future.

It’s a process

Project management process groups are there to help you organize your project and manage it efficiently until the end. These steps are recognized universally as the basic phases of a project, so be sure you understand them in detail! 

Want to know if a project is right for you? Learn how to conduct a feasibility study!

Grace Pinegar
Author

Grace Pinegar

Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and now content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, and has come to tolerate, if not enjoy, the opposition of Chicago's seasons.