In a nutshell: Learning about project management can help your small business become more effective and efficient.

Project management professionals are usually pictured as employees of huge corporations who coordinate large teams and manage massive budgets to implement multimillion-dollar changes.

That image is not entirely true. The teams aren’t always big, and neither are the budgets. The changes can be quite small in scope. And, most importantly, project managers don’t always work for big companies. In fact, they can work at companies of any size — the elements of project management can be applied nearly everywhere.

Here are some of the benefits of learning project management if you’re at a small business.

What Is Project Management?

Project management isn’t the same thing as management. While management activities are typically open-ended and related to continuing business, project management has:

  • A limited, well-defined scope
  • A definite deadline

Like any business initiative, a project will have constraints. These can include the budget, the number of employees available to work on a project, and the amount of time those employees can spend if they are managing other responsibilities simultaneously.

The Five Stages of Managing a Project

Villanova University, which is known for its project management courses, describes five stages for successfully managing a project. These can easily apply to small business.

  1. Initiation:Before any work begins in earnest, the project manager needs to demonstrate that the project has business value and is achievable. Feasibility is an important consideration — some projects might simply be out of reach, so it’s not worth the time and effort to undertake them.
  2. Planning: In this stage, the project manager will formalize deadlines, budgets, resources and communications. They’ll also need to describe the scope of the project — exactly what it is meant to achieve — so that team members don’t stray and work on things that might seem important but are actually extraneous (this is called scope creep).
  3. Execution: With a strong plan in hand, the project manager keeps the team focused on meeting their individual tasks. A large project will often be broken into a series of smaller projects, each one needing to be completed before the next one can be started.
  4. Monitoring and control:The project manager will track progress to make sure tasks are performed on time and on budget.
  5. Closure: A project isn’t completed until the final product or service is delivered. At this time, the team should evaluate its performance to see what opportunities for improvement might exist.

Studying Project Management

Project management training is offered at a variety of schools, and can often be obtained through 100% online courses. In a previous article, we discussed some tips and strategies for attending school while holding down a full-time job.

There are many options for those studying project management, including degrees and certificates. Project management might be part of a larger program, such as the MBA with Specialization in Project Management offered 100% online at Florida Tech.

Certification and continuing education for project management professionals is provided by the Project Management Institute.

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