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4.2: What Is Project Management?

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    Project management focuses on planning and organizing a project and its resources. This includes identifying and managing the lifecycle to be used, applying it to the user-centered design process, formulating the project team, and efficiently guiding the team through all phases until project completion.


    Through proper project management, you can assure that the purpose/vision and goals of the project are maintained, all while supporting the audiences’ tasks and objectives. Additionally, you avoid risks and effectively and efficiently use your available resources. It also helps the team members to understand their responsibilities, the deliverables expected, and the schedule everyone needs to follow to complete the project on time and within budget.


    The Project Management Institute (PMI) has identified nine areas of knowledge within project management:

    1. integration management
    2. scope management
    3. time management
    4. cost management
    5. quality management
    6. human resource management
    7. communication management
    8. risk management and
    9. procurement management


    Depending on your project needs, the size of your team and the roles needed may vary. Keep in mind that members on your team may fulfill one role or may fulfill many.

    Regardless of the size of the team, it’s important to identify how the team will communicate and collaborate with one another. This includes the following upfront:

    • Planned/ regular meetings
    • How formal they will be
    • Whether meetings will be held in-person, virtually, or both
    • How the team will share and collaborate on documents
    • Where documents will be stored and how they will be version controlled
    • Workflow for decisions and approval


    Projects are typically broken down into phases. Each phase outlines the work that needs to be done and who is involved. Generally, in order for a phase to be considered complete, specific deliverables need to have been completed and handed off. Some project teams, however, do choose to implement fast-tracking, which is when phases are overlapped.

    A lifecycle defines the beginning and end of the project; it represents all of the phases together. When defining the project’s life cycle, the first phase is noted as Step 0. It usually captures the visioning and conceptualizing of the project. According to the Project Management Institute, most life cycles have four or five phases, but some may have more.

    The most common lifecycle approaches are Waterfall and Agile, regardless of the approach you choose, you will need to incorporate user-centered design (UCD) best practices and methods. At a high-level, the UCD process includes the following steps: planning, collecting and analyzing data, writing content, designing and developing prototypes of the system, and testing.


    When defining your project, it is important to come up with a project plan that the team agrees to upfront so that it can serve as a reference point throughout the project. Make sure when outlining your plan that throughout it, you note how you plan to include user-centered design best practices and methodologies. Most project plans outline the following:

    • Objectives
    • Scope, which correlates to the requirements
    • Resources, including technology, budget, and team roles and responsibilities
    • Schedule
    • Assumptions
    • Dependencies
    • Risk assessment and management plan
    • Change control plan

    At the end of the project plan, depending on your team’s needs, you may choose to include a charter agreement. A charter agreement is typically a one-page document that has the sponsor of the project sign off that they agree to the work to be done as outlined by the team in the project plan. Remember, however, that successful teams understand upfront that things happen and that they’ll need to adapt. The project plan establishes the baseline for how you assume the project will happen and then provides information about the process for taking changes into account, should they arise.


    Schedules are an important part of project management because they help you measure your progress as the project moves along. They also help to outline how each team member’s part fits into the overall picture and demonstrate the dependencies.

    Schedules reflect the life cycle broken down into specific deliverables and touchpoints. It defines what needs to be done and who is the point of contact responsible for the work.


    A project plan takes into account the approach the team will take and helps the team and stakeholders document decisions made regarding the objective, scope, schedule, resources, and deliverables.

    It is important to include usability activities in your project plan, so you can build in the time and resources to carry out those activities. Review the step-by-step usability guide to better understand which activities fit your needs to include in your plan.


    The project scope identifies what needs to be accomplished for the project to be considered complete. When discussing scope, it’s important to ask the following questions:

    • What product is being developed?
    • What information is going to be covered? Will it feature a particular topic, or is it for a particular audience?
    • What is the size of the product (i.e., how many pages will the site contain)?
    • Are you creating a website for an entire agency or organization? Is the site for part of that agency or organization?
    • What amount of research do you intend to pursue? Is there time built in for incremental adjustments based on those findings.

    Gather more detailed questions on how to hold a kick-off meeting.

    For a project to stay on track, it’s important to avoid scope creep. Scope creep refers to when there are things incrementally added to the project plan that are individually doable when piled together endanger the successful completion of the project as previously defined. Scope creep can be on the business front or the technical front.


    At the beginning of the project, it’s vital to think about the audience you are trying to reach, the tasks they come to complete, and how addressing those needs compare to that of your organization. It is important to avoid being broad when defining your target audiences.

    To identify and analyze audiences for an existing site, you can gain insight
    from the site’s analytics, performing market research, and conducting
    user research methodology. For new sites, you may need to rely on market research for initial insight and then refine through conducting additional user research techniques.


    Think about your website and define objectives that consider what your organization hopes to achieve. When you set meaningful objectives and set targets to reach, you have the ability to measure success after the site launches.

    There are two types of goals/ objectives to consider:

    • User goals are the users’ task scenarios. They explore what users come to the website to achieve.
    • Usability goals should measure your users’ ability to accomplish tasks on your site. This will tell you whether your site is effective, efficient, and satisfying to your users.

    An example objective, if you want users to get the answers to their own questions without calling your agency or organization, is to reduce phone calls by X amount, saving Y dollars. You can set similar objectives for reducing emails, increasing customer satisfaction, and increasing subscriptions to online newsletters.


    • Project Management” by (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services). The Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines, Enlarged/Expanded edition. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2006. (Unless otherwise noted, text, documents, and images on the website are in the public domain, are not copyrighted, and therefore may be copied and distributed at no cost.

    This page titled 4.2: What Is Project Management? is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Chelsea Milbourne, Anne Regan, Morgan Livingston, & Sadie Johann.

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