INTRODUCTION TO PROJECT MANAGEMENT KEY ELEMENTS
The concept of PM includes a set of tools, techniques, and skills that are used to achieve the goal and can vary depending on the changing conditions in which the work is carried out. Project management is a combination of experience and competencies necessary to manage individual projects using limited resources.
“Any technical problem can be overcome with enough time and money. You will never have enough time or money.”©—Lerman’s Law of Technology
To overcome the formulated problem, the methodology for project-based management was created. A little history lesson to show the scale of a PMs’ importance. Officially, it is assumed that project management in the usual sense appeared in the 1950s, but some researchers believe that already during the construction of the pyramids of Giza, they used an approach resembling PM.
These examples “lend a hand” to the creation of a modern project management system:
- The development of the UGM-27 ballistic missile “Polaris” [This is how the Program (Project) Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) method appeared, which is still used today to evaluate work on projects where the degree of uncertainty is very high];
- Development of high-tech materials for DuPont Corporation facilitated the creation of a critical path method was created (Critical Path Method, CPM, used to date in the construction industry);
- Construction of the tunnel under the English Channel, considered to be one of the seven modern wonders of the world, which was conducted in terms of synchronization of various measures of length (metric system and imperial system), standards, etc. (since the main work was carried out by the United Kingdom and France, and many companies were interested in the result);
- The launch of the Challenger shuttle, which made it necessary to look at risk management from a new angle;
- Preventive measures against the Millennium bug.
Today’s business space is not similar even to one you saw a few decades ago. For almost a century, something new was perceived as a revolution, and the consumer did not have so many alternatives. And, regrettably, for some reason, not everyone understands that the old management methods are a dead end. Therefore, many companies continue to move nowhere by inertia. Consequently, the language of modern business is not English or German; it is the language of project management. In modern business, it has become the main management method: if a company does not have project management, then it is a dying company. At the same time, everything that is aimed at creating new products and services is connected to project management.
Project management roles according to R. Meredith Belbin’s classification:
- Initiator, Chairman – The person who generates the team movement strategy and the goal of the work
- Customer, Designer – Responsible for the tactics of achieving the goal and provides “supply” (contracts with subcontractors, formalization of instructions, brainstorming, etc.)
- Idea generator, Provocateur – One who stimulates the processes of solving specific problems, sometimes with non-standard methods
- Critic, Skeptic – A person who acts as a “filter”: weed out, even if very creative, but inappropriate ideas and decisions right now
- Worker Bee – One who implements what was decided in the previous stages
- Liaison, Diplomat – Personality, smoothing over conflicts, motivating, inspiring
- The Contractor – A kind of “connector” that unites the team with the outside world, and, if necessary, seeks the resources that are needed “for yesterday” inside the team or outside
- The Finalizer – The one who is responsible for the result/acceptance of the project (sometimes he/she detects errors at intermediate stages and points out ways to improve it)
Successful project management is a complex structure that is impossible without a person holding it together. As a rule, it is a project manager.
The Project Management “Must Have”: Key Elements and Essentials
Project Scope is expressed in a document that defines the parameters—factors that define the project and determine its behavior. What work is done within the boundaries of the project? What work expires outside the project boundaries? The scope of work (SOW) is typically a written document that defines what work will be accomplished by the end of the project—the deliverables of the project. The project scope defines what will be done, and the project execution plan defines how the work will be accomplished. No template works for all projects. Some projects have a very detailed scope of work, and some have a summary document. The quality of the scope is measured by the ability of the project manager and project stakeholders to develop and maintain a common understanding of what products or services the project will deliver.
According to the Project Management Institute, a complete statement of the scope should include the following:
- Description of the scope
- Product acceptance criteria
- Project deliverables
- Project exclusions
- Project constraints
- Project assumptions
Project Schedule and Time Management. The definition of project success often includes completing the project on time. The development and management of a project schedule that will complete the project on time is the primary responsibility of the project manager. Completing the project on time requires the development of a realistic plan and the effective management of the plan. On smaller projects, project managers may lead the development of the project plan and build a schedule to meet that plan. On larger and more complex projects, a project controls team that focuses on both costs and schedule planning and controlling functions will assist the project management team in developing the plan and tracking progress against the plan.
To develop the project schedule, the project team analyzes the project scope, which is incorporated into the contract, and other information that helps the team define the project deliverables. Based on this information, the project team develops a milestone schedule. The milestone schedule establishes key dates throughout the life cycle of a project that must be met for the project to finish on time. The key dates are often established to meet contractual obligations or established intervals that will reflect appropriate progress for the project. For less complex projects, a milestone schedule may be enough for tracking the progress of the project. For more complex projects, a more detailed schedule is.
Project Costs definition often includes developing and controlling a project budget that will accomplish the project objectives and is a critical project management skill. Although clients expect the project to be executed efficiently, cost pressures vary on projects. On some projects, the project completion, or end date, is the largest contributor to the project’s complexity. The development of a new drug to address a critical health issue, the production of a new product that will generate critical cash flow for a company, and the competitive advantage for a company to be first in the marketplace with new technology are examples of projects with schedule pressures that override project costs.
The accuracy of the project budget is related to the amount of information known by the project team. In the early stages of the project, the amount of information needed to develop a detailed budget is often missing. When more information is known, the project team can develop a rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimate. Additional information such as the approximate number of hours needed to develop a software program can provide a basis for providing an ROM estimate. After a project design is complete, a detailed estimate can be developed. The cost of the project is tracked relative to the progress of the work and the estimate for accomplishing that work. Based on the cost estimates, the cost of the work performed is compared against the cost budgeted for that work. If the cost is significantly higher or lower, the project team explores the reasons for the difference between expected costs and actual.
Project Quality focuses on the product or service deliverables that reflect the purpose of the project. The project manager is responsible for developing a project execution approach that provides for a clear understanding of the expected project deliverables and the quality specifications. The project manager is responsible for developing a project quality plan that defines the quality expectations and assures that the specifications and expectations are met. Developing a good understanding of the project deliverables through documenting specifications and expectations is critical to a good quality plan. The processes for assuring that the specifications and expectations are met are integrated into the project execution plan. Just as the project budget and completion dates may change over the life cycle of a project, the project specifications may also change. Changes in quality specifications are typically managed in the same process as cost or schedule changes. The impact of the changes is analyzed for impact on cost and schedule, and with appropriate approvals, changes are made to the project’s execution plan. (The PMBOK has an extensive chapter on project quality management.)
Project Management “How-to” and Tools to Match
The start of a project is like the start-up of a new organization. The project leader develops the project infrastructure used to design and execute the project. The project management team must develop alignment among the major stakeholders on the project during the early phases or definition phases of the project. During the project’s start, the project management team refines the scope of work and develops a preliminary schedule and conceptual budget. The plan for developing and tracking the detailed schedule, the procurement plan, and the plan for building the budget and estimating and tracking costs are developed during the start-up. The plans for information technology, communication, and tracking client satisfaction are all developed during the start-up phase of the project.
Flowcharts, diagrams, and responsibility matrices are tools to capture the work processes associated with executing the project plan. The first draft of the project procedures manual captures the historical and intuitional knowledge that team members bring to the project. The development and review of these procedures and work processes contribute to the development of the organizational structure of the project. When considering Project Management for your organization, it is imperative to equip your team with a suitable toolbox, that provides those tools. And it is always better if the toolbox of your choosing has them all, or has an option to intertwine all the tools you need into one system seamlessly.
PPM: Take Your Project Management to the Next Level
If you’ve got more than one project on your hands, more so—if there’s “plenty,” you may group them by some parameters or features, for example, by department. That’s how your project management becomes project portfolio management. But for managing portfolios, you and your management might need a more sophisticated system. But how to operate such a system that allows you to have a global picture of how things are moving, and be simple and swift in use at the same time? Specifically for such cases, higher-level yet lightweight PPM systems are created.
- Easy to use, intuitive interface connects all project’s data—terms, budgets, performance indicators—into one wholesome picture.
- The budget uses the FluentPro Financials app to budget and finally the Release section that allows adding release dates for your portfolio.
- Data synchronization is covered in multiple ways. For example, setting up Perpetual synchronization or a specific synchronization schedule.
- Group several projects into a portfolio to get a quick representation of the planned and actual work, budgets, and statuses for all the projects included in it.
- Filter your data by project, portfolio, resource filtering by various attributes: assigned manager, linked system, stage, etc.
- Configurable table of available portfolios to see only the basic stats for each portfolio as well as an overall timeline.
- The dashboard also includes portfolio details (viewing and editing), a summary with a “progress bar,” and a Status section with summaries for all current portfolios.
- Makes long-term and short-term reporting easier. It is designed specifically to accommodate the need for PMOs and executives in a portfolio to be transparent and flexible.
- Advanced customization options make it extremely adaptable to any market segment or business landscape.
- Maintenance-free. Not just much more affordable, but it also includes technical support and data backups, so you don’t have to spend any time managing environments.
Benefits of Using Project Management
So, the main difference between project management and the traditional approach is that the task is first formulated, the goal is set, and then the performers create a clear calendar and financial plan for achieving this goal. This approach allows you to have approximately:
- A 20-30% increase in overall level of project implementation efficiency
- A 50% increase in the rate of turnover of funds
- A 30% improvement in customer satisfaction rates
- A 30% increase in the loyalty of company employees and their satisfaction with their job.
What to Read About Project Management?
- Strategic Project Management: Simple Tools for Leaders and Teams – Terry Schmidt
- A novel about project management – Tom DeMarco
- How to manage. Ways of influencing others – Joe Owen