Project Management

project-management

Project management is the discipline of carefully projecting or planning, organizing, motivating and controlling resources to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables) undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations) which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived constraints. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary — and more ambitious — challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives.

The Agile Approach

Agile project management encompasses several iterative approaches, based on the principles of human interaction management and founded on a process view of human collaboration. Agile-based methodologies are “most typically” employed in software development as well as the “website, technology, creative, and marketing industries. This sharply contrasts with traditional approaches such as the Waterfall method. In agile software development or flexible product development, the project is seen as a series of relatively small tasks conceived and executed to conclusion as the situation demands in an adaptive manner, rather than as a completely pre-planned process.

Advocates of this technique claim that:

  • It is the most consistent project management technique since it involves frequent testing of the project under development.
  • It is the only technique in which the client will be actively involved in the project development.
  • The only disadvantage with this technique is that it should be used only if the client has enough time to be actively involved in the project every now and then.

Agile is an umbrella term for multiple project management methodologies, including:

  • Scrum – A holistic approach to development that focuses on iterative goals set by the Product Owner through a backlog, which is developed by the Delivery Team through the facilitation of the Scrum Master.
  • Extreme Programming (XP) – A set of practices based on a set of principles and values, with a goal to develop that provides real value by implementing tight feedback loops at all levels of the development process and using them to steer development. XP popularized Test Driven Development (TDD) and Pair Programming.

Processes

Traditionally, project management includes a number of elements: four to five process groups, and a control system. Regardless of the methodology or terminology used, the same basic project management processes will be used. Major process groups generally include:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Production or execution
  • Monitoring and controlling
  • Closing

In project environments with a significant exploratory element (e.g., research and development), these stages may be supplemented with decision points (go/no go decisions) at which the project’s continuation is debated and decided.

Initiating

The initiating processes determine the nature and scope of the project. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’ needs. The key project controls needed here are an understanding of the business environment and making sure that all necessary controls are incorporated into the project. Any deficiencies should be reported and a recommendation should be made to fix them.

The initiating stage should include a plan that encompasses the following areas:

Planning

After the initiation stage, the project is planned to an appropriate level of detail (see example of a flow-chart). The main purpose is to plan time, cost and resources adequately to estimate the work needed and to effectively manage risk during project execution. As with the Initiation process group, a failure to adequately plan greatly reduces the project’s chances of successfully accomplishing its goals.

Project planning generally consists of:

  • determining how to plan (e.g. by level of detail or Rolling Wave planning);
  • developing the scope statement;
  • selecting the planning team;
  • identifying deliverables and creating the work breakdown structure;
  • identifying the activities needed to complete those deliverables and networking the activities in their logical sequence;
  • estimating the resource requirements for the activities;
  • estimating time and cost for activities;
  • developing the schedule;
  • developing the budget;
  • risk planning;
  • gaining formal approval to begin work.

Additional processes, such as planning for communications and for scope management, identifying roles and responsibilities, determining what to purchase for the project and holding a kick-off meeting are also generally advisable.

For new product development projects, conceptual design of the operation of the final product may be performed concurrent with the project planning activities, and may help to inform the planning team when identifying deliverables and planning activities.

Executing

The execution/implementation phase ensures that the project management plan’s deliverables are executed accordingly. This phase involves proper allocation, co-ordination and management of human resources and any other resources such as material and budgets. The output of this phase is the project deliverables.

Monitoring and controlling

Monitoring and controlling consists of those processes performed to observe project execution so that potential problems can be identified in a timely manner and corrective action can be taken, when necessary, to control the execution of the project. The key benefit is that project performance is observed and measured regularly to identify variances from the project management plan.

Monitoring and controlling includes:

  • Measuring the ongoing project activities (‘where we are’);
  • Monitoring the project variables (cost, effort, scope, etc.) against the project management plan and the project performance baseline (where we should be);
  • Identify corrective actions to address issues and risks properly (How can we get on track again);
  • Influencing the factors that could circumvent integrated change control so only approved changes are implemented.

In multi-phase projects, the monitoring and control process also provides feedback between project phases, in order to implement corrective or preventive actions to bring the project into compliance with the project management plan.

Project maintenance is an ongoing process, and it includes: 1 Continuing support of end-users 2 Correction of errors 3 Updates of the software over time. In this stage, auditors should pay attention to how effectively and quickly user problems are resolved.

Over the course of any construction project, the work scope may change. Change is a normal and expected part of the construction process. Changes can be the result of necessary design modifications, differing site conditions, material availability, contractor-requested changes, value engineering and impacts from third parties, to name a few. Beyond executing the change in the field, the change normally needs to be documented to show what was actually constructed. This is referred to as change management. Hence, the owner usually requires a final record to show all changes or, more specifically, any change that modifies the tangible portions of the finished work. The record is made on the contract documents – usually, but not necessarily limited to, the design drawings. The end product of this effort is what the industry terms as-built drawings, or more simply, “as built.” The requirement for providing them is a norm in construction contracts. Construction document management is a highly important task undertaken with the aid an online or desktop software system, or maintained through physical documentation. The increasing legality pertaining to the construction industries maintenance of correct documentation has caused the increase in the need for document management systems.

Closing

Closing includes the formal acceptance of the project and the ending thereof. Administrative activities include the archiving of the files and documenting lessons learned.

This phase consists of: 

  • Contract closure: Complete and settle each contract (including the resolution of any open items) and close each contract applicable to the project or project phase.
  • Project close: Finalize all activities across all of the process groups to formally close the project or a project phase

Also included in this phase is the Post Implementation Review. This is a vital phase of the project for the project team to learn from experiences and apply to future projects. Normally a Post Implementation Review consists of looking at things that went well and analysing things that went badly on the project to come up with lessons learned.

Extracted from Wikipedia.