20 Essential Tools for Project Management

Every tool you need to take you from brainstorming to launch of any project

New or smaller businesses often take an informal and, in some cases, haphazard approach to managing projects. The goal is usually just to get the project or product out the door as quickly as possible. And when you are a team of a few people a formal process can slow down output.

But as your business grows you will reach a point where you have multiple projects happening on different timelines. To be as efficient as possible with time, resources and money you should consider adding structure to the management and flow of projects.

This guide will teach you the basics of project management and provide the tools to help you with each step of the process.

20 Essential Tools for Project Management: What is Project Management?

Project management is about taking ideas and converting them into a planned, resourced and funded project. The project management process can be broken down in to three stages: Project Initiation, Project Control and Project Closure. 

During the project initiation stage it is necessary to clearly and explicitly define what the project is intended to achieve and its scope. By defining this first, you set a benchmark for the quality of what is actually produced at the end of the project. You also determine what resources and time will be allotted to complete the project.

The project control stage is about monitoring and controlling the progress of the project. It's also about controlling the quality of the product by tracking progress through regular checkpoints and resolving issues that arise during the course of the project. The majority of the work and time spent on a project is during this stage.

The purpose of the project closure stage consists of two parts: formally closing the project and passing on any lessons that can be applied to other projects. There may be some outstanding work that needs to be done and a plan for those things should be done in this stage. There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time you do a project but you do want to become more efficient.

You will have learned how to carry out this type of project better in the future, and will have a better idea of how long the various activities on this type of project will take to do. Any information or documentation from the project should be filed away for future use.

Here are the tools to help you further understand the project management process.

1. Project Management Guide
The project management guide is a step-by-step guide for proper project management. The project management guide covers the basic principles, proper framework, and appropriate processes. This guide is a PowerPoint presentation that is customizable and ideal for introducing the project management process to your team. Read more.

2. Introduction to Projection Management Workbook
The introduction to project management workbook is a comprehensive workbook that is perfect for someone who has a requirement to be managers of projects as part of their organizational roles. The workbook serves as a crash course to project management with training materials to help you appreciate and be familiar with basic concepts of project management, to evaluate the appropriateness of a project management approach to specific activities, and to learn and implement project management methodologies. Read more.

3. Project Management Methodology Template
The project management methodology template outlines how to successfully manage a project through completion. The template includes descriptions for the necessary stages: project initiation, project control, and project closeout. Read more.

Dig Deeper: Project Managers Institute Small Business News

20 Essential Tools for Project Management: What is a Project Manager?

On some level, all business owners are project managers. But if project managing is taking up the majority of your time you won't be able to continue to grow and build your business. This is when you might want to hire a project manager. 

The project manager is a person that oversees each stage of a project. His or her only responsibility is to successfully complete a project on time and within budget utilizing the resources available. 

The project manager might be you, someone on your team, a new hire or a freelancer. Here are the tools to help you define the project manager roles for your business and determine if you need to outsource the position.

4. Project Manager Job Description
The project manager job description is used as a guide for creating a company job description for the project manager position. The project manager is responsible for planning, executing, and evaluating projects according to predetermine timelines and budgets. Building and managing project teams, reporting to the project sponsor, and ensuring quality control throughout the project life cycle are also central to this position. Use the project manager job description to outline the position overview, key job tasks and specifications for the position. Read more.

5. Project Leader Job Description
The job title might be different but the responsibilities are largely the same. Use the project leader job description to outline the position overview, key job tasks and specifications for the position. The description can be used when defining the role of any of the following types of project positions within a company: project director, project manager, project leader, project engineer, project coordinator, project assistant, project analyst, and assistant project manager. Read more.

6. Contract for Project Management Services
If you decide to hire a freelancer to serve as a project manager on an as needed basis use the contract for project management services. The contract is used when a business needs to employ independent project management for development. It outlines the amount of time and compensation allocated for the different phases of the project. Read more.

Dig Deeper: The Value of Enterprise Project Management

20 Essential Tools for Project Management: Tools for Project Initiation

Every project starts with an idea. It's important to start a new project with an assessment process to determine the potential benefits and timing. The assessment of potential projects occurs during the project initiation stage. During this stage, a potential project is conceptualized, justified, authorized and funded. Here are the tools to take you through the Project Initiation stage.

7. Project Charter Example
The project charter is used to announce a new project, to articulate and evaluate key aspects of a proposed project. This document is critical to guaranteeing buy-in for a project. The goal during this stage, and specifically with the project charter, is not to generate a large document, but rather to provide information necessary to review, and determine whether the project should be initiated. The project charter provides the outline for a new project and gives management a sense of direction for the project from beginning to end. Read more.

8. Project Charter Template
The process of creating the project charter provides a basis for communication, understanding and agreement among project managers, department directors and any other stakeholders regarding the project. The project charter template is another option you can use. Read more.

9. Project Scope Statement Template
The overall project scope must be defined from the very beginning. The project manager has to provide a concise, measurable statement of what the project will accomplish. Project managers create an official statement for a project's scope using the project scope statement template. The project scope statement template's sections include: executive summary, business objectives, project description, project milestones, project approach, authorizations, and the general scope of project. Read more.

10. Project Risk Management Plan Template
All projects have constraints, and these need to be defined from the outset. Projects have resource limits in terms of people, money, time and equipment. While these may be adjusted, the project manager considers them fixed resources. These constraints form the basis for managing the project. Project managers identify, categorize, prioritize, plan, and track the risk in a project using the project risk management plan template. The project risk management plan template provides a comprehensive template for outlining the strategic process to ensure that the level, type, and visibility of risk management are commensurate with both the risk and the importance of the project. Read more.

11. Project Risk Management Plan
Project assumptions need to be defined before any project activities take place so that time is not wasted on conceptualizing and initiating a project that has no basis for funding. The project risk management plan is a template to manage and plan the risk in a project. The project risk management plan outlines all the necessary sections of the plan, including the: overview, process, roles and responsibilities, risk communication strategy, rules/procedures, and risk impact analysis approach. Read more.

12. Project Kick-off Report
Once you have your project charter, the scope defined and the risks accessed it is time to start the project. The project kick-off report is a comprehensive template for a product kickoff document that includes descriptions for the necessary sections: objectives of the project, scope of the project, requirements, involved parties, timeline of key deliverables, meeting schedule, contingency plans and budget. Read more.

Dig Deeper:  Think ROI at the Beginning of a Project

20 Essential Tools for Project Management: Tools for Project Control

The way a project is managed and executed is the key to its success. Particular attention must be paid to keeping interested parties up-to-date with project status, helping manage quality control and monitoring project risk. Here are the tools to take you through the Project Control stage.

13. Project Plan Template
The project plan is a formal, approved document used to manage and control project execution. Project managers schedule and plan project resource hours, requirements, and all necessary sections for a balanced scorecard design and development plan using the project plan template. Once the project plan is completed it should be reviewed and approved by department management. Read more.

14. Project Status Report
Project managers have to provide regular project status updates and can use the project status report as a template. The project status report provides information on milestones, financials and the risk status of a project. Read more.

15. Project Management Schedule
The project management schedule is used to track the progress of projects assigned for them to complete and/or manage. The project management schedule outlines the project, activity/task, phase lists in a comprehensive spreadsheet. Read more.

16. Change Request Form
The change request form is used to submit a request for change in a project. This document can be used to avoid scope creep in a project. Scope creep is adding work without corresponding updates to cost, schedule and quality.  Scope creep can render original project plans unachievable. The change request form summarizes the reasons and costs associated with a particular change. Making any change request a formal part of the project management process will allow for discussion of the change with all project team members and for everyone to be aware of any changes.  Read more.

17. Project Management Sales Plan
The sales team should be included in a project from the beginning. But once the project is underway a project management sales plan should be created. The project management sales plan is a comprehensive excel template used by sales managers. This document can be used to apply project management techniques to the sales process to stay on top of the critical points in the sales process. The project management sales plan is designed to target sales activities, meet time estimates, manage control points, control risks, and achieve greater sales success.  Read more.

18. Project Test Plan
Testing is a critical part of project management. The project manager has to create a plan for testing all aspects of the project. The project test plan includes descriptions for the necessary sections: project requirements, involved parties, key deliverables and milestones, time line, budget, checklists for testing requirements and a test plan. Read more.

Dig Deeper: How to Use Software to Plan and Prioritize Projects

20 Essential Tools for Project Management: Tools for Project Closure

The last major stage of a project's life cycle is project closure. Project closure is completed once all defined project tasks and milestones have been completed and the project has launched. Here are the tools to take you through the project closure stage.

19. Project Closing Report
At the completion of a project, the project closing report helps summarize the process, methodology, findings, budget constraints and specific lessons learned from a project. Read more.

20. Project Transition Plan Template
The project transition plan template is a detailed guide for transitioning a completed project. The project transition plan template includes sections dedicated to: the project overview, system support resources, budgeting, and more. Read more.

Dig Deeper: Managing projects and collaborating with co-workers

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Last updated: Feb 25, 2011

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