Process Groups and the 5 Steps of Traditional Project Management

project management framework abstract photo construction

Your company or client is excited to bring an awesome new feature or product to market but is so eager to get started building, they don’t want to spend the time thinking about how the project will actually get done. Many teams skip this crucial step in project management: proper project planning.

When you plan the best path from original idea to completed project, you’re making sure your team has the tools and direction to be successful.

With so many different project management styles and frameworks available, how do you know which one is the best for your team? It’s important to know how each fits into your project management style and to find a framework that plays to your team’s strengths.

Let’s take a closer look at process groups and how they help you move through the five traditional stages of project management.

What are process groups?

Think of process groups as a set of actions or subtasks necessary to complete one step of the plan to bring your product to market.

Baking a pie is one way to break it down into more digestible pieces and we look at the entire process from a macro level to understand how it is broken up into groups of processes.

Baking a Pie Metaphor for Process Groups
assembling ingredients in a pie as a metaphor for execution process group
  1. You poll the family to see what kind of pie they want for dessert.
  2. You find the right recipe, source the ingredients and organize the kitchen.
  3. The majority of work is done as you assemble the pie for baking, extra help may be required.
  4. Once the pie is in the oven, you set a timer and as it bakes, you are careful not to open the oven door to let out all of the heat.
  5. When the pie cools, you serve it up for dessert and after consumption, everyone shares what they liked best about your labor of love.

Essentially, process groups are a way to organize the different steps your team must take to complete any given project from proof-of-concept to post-mortem review.

After you have an idea for a new product or service, it’s time to start thinking about what your team must do to bring it to market. Process groups help you bring together and clearly define all of the individual tasks, steps, and processes you need to accomplish along the way.

Your process groups will look similar to the traditional five steps of project management outlined here:

  • Initiating: In this step, you have your kickoff meetings and lay down the framework of an upcoming project.
  • Planning: During the planning stage, your project manager will designate a team and create a concrete plan for moving forward.
  • Executing: This step is where your team is actively completing the tasks laid out during planning.
  • Monitoring/Controlling: Your project manager and team should be actively measuring project KPIs and adjusting and tracking progress throughout this entire process.
  • Closing: Now that your project is complete, it’s time to wrap up any loose ends and mark the project as done.

Each of these steps will have its own process group indicating what needs to get done before your team can move forward with the project.

We’ll talk about these five steps and how process groups fit into your overall project management strategy.

1. Kicking off your new project

This is the initiating step. Think of it as the jumping-off point for your project. You have an idea, and now it’s time to define the overall scope and work required to get it done.

The steps you take in the initiating process group should define your overall vision of the project.

You need to be thinking about things at a very high level. Performing a SWOT analysis at this time can help establish a baseline to build on.

SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Now is the time where you’ll designate the stakeholders involved in your new project. These are the people who share your vision and have the drive and commitment to make it happen. You will be selecting a project manager at this stage as well. It’s important that everyone be 100 percent invested in moving the project forward.

Now that you’ve documented the high-level vision and scope of your project and selected the right stakeholders and project manager, you can move on to the next step.

2. Creating a plan and setting goals

During the planning step you’ll be breaking up the big picture into specific, workable chunks. Think about this as the time where you define how your project will be completed.

The planning process group has a lot of work to do. You’ve already defined the ideas and the scope of the project; now it’s time to figure out how all of the work will get done. Your project management team will need to work with stakeholders to create a roadmap that defines everything and everyone involved with the project.

This means it’s also time to build a team that can accomplish everything that is set out on this roadmap. It helps to have a well-defined project plan in place.

Your team will work through the steps of the planning process group to set their schedules, due dates, KPIs, etc. This ensures that they can move forward strategically. Defining these goals early on, and with buy-in from the entire team, is paramount. If team members are not on the same page, the project can go wrong very quickly. Think about setting SMART or CLEAR goals for every person on the team.


smart clear diagram
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Once your plan is in place, and the whole team has defined their individual goals and how they fit into the larger picture, you can move forward to the next step.

3. Getting the work done

The execution step is where your team knuckles down and puts in the work. This is the time where your team is actively creating the product or service you’ve defined in the previous two steps.

The executing process group exists to make sure that every team member is actively collaborating and working toward the goals they’ve set out during planning and initiating. Your team will have their own tasks to work on, each of which builds on the other to move the project forward.

Coordination is key at this time. Your team should be meeting regularly to communicate about their progress and maintain expectations of one another. The executing process group also helps define how this communication will take place and gives your team clear and manageable tasks to complete.

As the work progresses, your project manager should frequently check in to make sure that everything is on track. This leads to the next step of traditional project management, and a vitally important process group.

4. Keeping track of everything

Monitoring and controlling is a step that works concurrently with every other step your team has taken so far. Successful teams will consistently refer to their plans during execution to make sure the project is moving forward.

The monitoring and controlling process group keeps track of everything. From initiating and planning to executing and beyond, you should be tracking your progress strategically throughout an entire project. This is where a project management solution like Redbooth can help.

redbooth timeline view
Monitoring team progress with Redbooth’s Timeline View

Your team can use a Gantt chart to see how they are progressing through certain tasks, decreasing the time it takes for a team member to digest the information. You can track individual progress using Kanban and task management boards, helping bypass any potential blockers and increase overall development speed.

When you are monitoring your overall progress systematically, it’s easy to report back to stakeholders on the overall status of your project. The monitoring and controlling process group gives you a set of processes to reference so you can easily make adjustments based on how well the team is performing, and you can keep the project on track without having to scramble if issues arise.

With proper management of the project up to this point, it’s even easier to move on to the next step.

5. Wrapping up

Congratulations, you’ve done it! The project work is now complete and your new product or feature shipped. But that’s not all folks. Your team has reached the closing step of this project, so it’s time to review your work.

The closing process group helps make sure the project is wrapped up cleanly. Now’s the time for your team to document the entire process and their experiences and reflect on how each step was accomplished. This is where an honest postmortem should occur.

You’ll also use the closing step to measure the overall success of the project, based on the original scope and goals set down during initiating and planning. That way, your team can easily celebrate their successes and find areas of opportunity to address in future projects.

When you’re able to replicate the processes laid out on a successful project it makes planning and executing on future projects that much easier.

Seeing your project through to completion

Process groups integrate seamlessly with the 5 steps of traditional project management. They give you a framework for measuring and progressing through each stage of a project and help set clearly defined goal-points along the way. Like following a recipe, process groups help to break up the work into smaller, easier to manage sets of tasks.

Using process groups as outlined above, and a tool like Redbooth to manage tasks and subtasks related to each process, it is easy to break down and visualize the staggering amount of work that must get done for a project to be successful. When your team has a concrete set of tasks to complete during any given project it becomes easier to move them towards a successful outcome on a pre-determined timeline.