Autor: horse_44 10 November 2009
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Project Management Defined
Project management was once a unique term designated for specialized organizations such as NASA or the US Army Corps of Engineers. Today, this term is a widespread and well-known term for almost every business, regardless of its size. Some regard project management strictly as a business discipline used to Ð²Ð‚Ñšdefine goals, plan and monitor tasks and resources, identify and resolve issues, and control costs and budgets for a specific projectÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (2006, Bridgefield Group). Others view project management almost as an art - Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe art of managing the product and service development cycle to achieve a balance of time, cost and qualityÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (2007, MarketRight, LTD). The Project Management Institute defines project management as Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular projectÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (2007, Project Management Institute [PMI]).
Almost any human activity that is non-repetitive can be considered a project: building a new bridge, planning a wedding, or writing a term paper. However, there is a big difference between carrying out a very simple project involving one or two people and one involving a complex mix of people, organizations and tasks. It is only human to plan for the future and in an essence; a project can be captured on paper with a few simple elements: a start date, an end date, tasks to be done, and some idea of the resources needed during the course of the project. However, when the plan starts to involve different things happening at different times, some of which are dependent on each other, and resources are required at different times and in different quantities and perhaps, working at different rates, the Ð²Ð‚Ñšpaper planÐ²Ð‚Ñœ becomes a pile of balled-up, indecipherable notes.
Most people want their projects completed on time, to meet quality objectives, and to not cost more than what their budget allows. This forms the core of every project: the project triangle of time, money, and scope (2007, Microsoft Corporation). Project management control can only be achieved when cost, schedule, and technical objectives are clearly documented, realistically derived, and managed deliberately (1997, Chapman). In other words, in order for a project to reach successful completion, the who, what, where, when, and how of a project must first be defined, which will be done through the establishment of three major elements: work breakdown structure (WBS), time and cost estimation, and risk management assessment.
Work Breakdown Structure
Every project should have a specification, which is the definition or purpose of the project. However, the specification itself is not a solution, but a statement of the problem that warrants the initiation of the project itself. Once having decided what the specification intends, the next step is to decide what actually needs to be done and how to do it. Managers provide some form of framework to plan and to communicate what needs to be done. Ð²Ð‚ÑšWithout a structure, the work is a series of unrelated tasks which provides little sense of achievement and no feeling of advancementÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (2007, Leading Project). Ð²Ð‚ÑšIf the team has no grasp of how individual tasks fit together towards an understood goal, then the work will seem pointless and will only lead to frustration.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
As part of the planning, the specification needs to be turned into a complete set of tasks with structure. Once there is a clear understanding of the project, a description of separate activities is created. Thus, the intricate project is organized as a set of straightforward tasks that combine to achieve the desired outcome. The reasoning behind this is that no matter how advanced oneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s intellect is, Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe human brain can only take in and process so much information at one timeÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (2007, Leading Project). To get a strong grasp of the project, it needs to be thought about it in smaller segments rather than in every detail all at once.
In planning any project, there are simple steps to follow. If an item is too complicated to manage, it becomes a list of simpler items. Formally, this is called producing a work breakdown structure. Without following this formal approach, one is much less likely to remember every detail. This procedure allows the details to be simply displayed on the final lists. Take an everyday example of two housewives setting out to do the weekly errands, with one housewife leading the way with a written list in hand, and the other with the errand list hastily scribbled in her mind. If time, money, and mishaps do not cloud the process, the housewife with the written list is guaranteed to complete each errand; whereas the housewife without the list may forget to stop at the dry cleaners or forget to pick up milk.
The next stage of the work breakdown structure is the allocation of tasks to different people in the team and the order in which these tasks are performed. Task allocation is not simply a case of handing out the various jobs on your final lists to the people you happen to have available. Managers must look beyond the single project and allocate tasks with the purpose of increasing the skills and experience of the team (2007,Allainet).
Cost and Time Estimates
In order for a project to reach successful completion, the project manager must have a realistic estimate of the time and money needed to complete the project. The work that goes into a project must be measured in dollars and work hours, as well as the productivity that comes out of the project. Without a stable baseline and measurement of input and output, the project cannot be measurable and in control (1997, Chapman). Additionally, the establishment of time and cost estimates not only assists higher management with their planning, but also protects the team from being held to impossible expectations.
Cost estimating is one of the most important steps in project management. A cost estimate establishes the baseline of the project cost at different stages of development of the project. A cost estimate at a given stage of project development represents a prediction provided by the project manager based on available data; and in turn, allows for adjustments. In other words, it is much easier to adjust the cost of a project at each stage of a project, rather than adjusting the total cost of the project only at the moment of completion.
Additionally, the more complex a project, the more difficult it is to estimate schedules. However, one way to clear this hurdle is to Ð²Ð‚Ñšlearn from the past,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ and use experiences from previous projects. The most common error in planning is the assumption that there will be no errors during the course of the project. At the beginning of a new project, the project team will generally be optimistic (sometimes overly so) and will tend to ignore probable difficulties, assuming the best-case scenario. Using the experience from past projects allows for reality-based estimates, leaving room for mistakes and mishaps.
Planning for Error
Although the schedule may be derived under the notion of Ð²Ð‚Ñšif nothing goes wrong,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ as mentioned previously, assuming that nothing will go wrong may leave the project management team back-peddling to correct errors they did not originally account for. Of course, recognizing and accepting that there are risks in every project and that errors will occur is the reason for implementing a risk management strategy on the project. Thus, when the inevitable does happen, the team can react and adapt the plan to compensate.
However, how do the project manager and project team manage risk? First, both the project manager and project team must realize that one person alone cannot identify all of the risks. This is one of the vital purposes of forming a project team and identifying risks is a pivotal role. Second, the entire project team must never underestimate the severity of a risk. A risk that may seem minimal in size or the least likely to occur, can often times be the very risk that will bring an entire project to a halt. Third, and what any Information Technology professional will tell you is the most crucial, have a back-up plan (2005, Zanfardino).
Many projects are cancelled before they are completed. Many are completed late and cost well over their original estimates. Moreover, of the rare, few that are completed on time and within budget, many do not meet the needs of the project stakeholders. Sound project management is the key to resolving these difficulties.
Allainet (2007). About Company: Business Process. Retrieved Oct. 29, 2007 from: http://www.allainet.com/home/business_strategy.php
Bridgefield Group, Inc. (2006). Bridgefield Group ERP/Supply Chain Glossary. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2007 from: http://bridgefieldgroup.com/bridgefieldgroup/glos7.htm
Chapman, James R. (1997). Principle Based Project Management. The Project Management Triangle. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2007 from: http://www.hyperthot.com/pm_prin2.htm
Leading Project (2007). ConceptDraw Project. Planning Project Structure. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2007 from: http://www.leadingproject.com/en/products/project/articles/planning_project_structure.php
Marketright, LTD (2007). Definitions. Retrieved October 28, 2007 from: http://www.marketright.co.nz/Site/definitions.aspx
Microsoft Corporation (2007). Microsoft Office Project: Every Project Plan is a Triangle. Retrieved October 28, 2007 from:
Project Management Institute, Inc. (2007). About Project Management. Retrieved October 28, 2007 from: http://www.pmi.org/WhoWeAre/Pages/About-PM.aspx
Zanfardino, Rob (2005). Maria and the Asp: A Study in Risk Management. Retrieved October 29, 2007 from: http://www.pmforum.org/library/papers/2005/Maria_and_the_Asp.pdf