Project Management

Information Technology Resources

Definition and Introduction

Project management is the discipline of defining and achieving targets while optimizing the use of resources (time, money, people, materials, energy, space, etc) over the course of a project (a set of activities of finite duration).

Project Management is quite often the province and responsibility of an individual project manager. This individual seldom participates directly in the activities that produce the end result, but rather strives to maintain the progress and productive mutual interaction of various parties in such a way that overall risk of failure is reduced.

In contrast to on-going, functional work, a project is "a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service." The duration of a project is the time from its start to its completion, which can take days, weeks, months or even years. Typical projects include the engineering and construction of various public or consumer products, including buildings, vehicles, electronic devices, and computer software.

In recent years, the Project Management discipline has been applied to Marketing and Advertising endeavors as they become more technologically oriented and multiple communication channels become part of the marketing mix.

Project Management Activities

Project Management is composed of several different types of activities such as:

  1. Planning the work
  2. Assessing risk
  3. Estimating resources
  4. Organizing the work
  5. Acquiring human and material resources
  6. Assigning tasks
  7. Directing activities
  8. Controlling project execution
  9. Reporting progress
  10. Analyzing the results based on the facts achieved

Project control variables

Project Management tries to gain control over five variables:

1. Time - The amount of time required to complete the project. Typically broken down for analytical purposes into the time required to complete the components of the project, which is then further broken down into the time required to complete each task contributing to the completion of each component.

2. Cost - Calculated from the time variable. Cost to develop an internal project is time multiplied by the cost of the team members involved. When hiring an independent consultant for a project, cost will typically be determined by the consultant or firm's hourly rate multiplied by an estimated time to complete.

3. Quality - The amount of time put into individual tasks determines the overall quality of the project. Some tasks may require a given amount of time to complete adequately, but given more time could be completed exceptionally. Over the course of a large project, quality can have a significant impact on time and cost (or vice versa).

4. Scope - Requirements specified for the end result. The overall definition of what the project is supposed to accomplish, and a specific description of what the end result should be or accomplish.

5. Risk - Potential points of failure. Most risks or potential failures can be overcome or resolved, given enough time and resources.

Three of these variables can be given by external or internal customers. The value(s) of the remaining variable(s) is/are then set by project management, ideally based on solid estimation techniques. The final values have to be agreed upon in a negotiation process between project management and the customer. Usually, the values in terms of time, cost, quality and scope are contracted.

Approaches

There are several approaches that can be taken to managing project activities including agile, iterative, incremental, and phased approaches.

A traditional phased approach identifies a sequence of steps to be completed. This contrasts with the agile software development or flexible product development approach at the other end of the spectrum, in which the project is seen as a series of relatively small tasks conceived and executed as the situation demands in an adaptive manner, rather than as a completely pre-planned process.

Regardless of the approach employed, careful consideration needs to be given to clarity surrounding project objectives, goals, and importantly, the roles and responsibilities of all participants and stakeholders.

In the traditional approach, we can distinguish 5 components of a project (4 stages plus control) in the development of a project:

  • project initiation (Kick-off)
  • project planning
  • project production or execution
  • project monitoring or controlling
  • project completion

Not all projects will visit every stage as projects can be terminated before they reach completion. Some projects probably don't have the planning and/or the monitoring. Some projects will go through steps 2, 3 and 4 multiple times.

Many industries utilize variations on these stages. For example, in bricks and mortar architectural design, projects typically progress through stages like Pre-Planning, Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Drawings (or Contract Documents), and Construction Administration. While the names may differ from industry to industry, the actual stages typically follow common steps to problem solving--defining the problem, weighing options, choosing a path, implementation and evaluation.

Critical chain is the latest extension to the traditional critical path method.

In critical studies of project management, it has been noted that several of these fundamentally PERT-based models are not well suited for the multi-project company environment of today. Most of them are aimed at very large-scale, one-time, non-routine projects, and nowadays all kinds of management are expressed in terms of projects. Using complex models for "projects" (or rather "tasks") spanning a few weeks has been proven to cause unnecessary costs and low maneuverability in several cases. Instead project management experts try to identify different "lightweight" models, such as, for example Extreme Programming for software development and Scrum techniques. The generalization of extreme programming to other kinds of projects is extreme project management, which may be used in combination with the process modeling and management principles of human interaction management.

Links to Project Management Resources

Some of the following websites may not let you read the content without registration. In addition some of them may charge fee to access information.

Smartsheet.com This is a leading Software as a Service (SaaS) company, offers an enterprise-ready cloud app for project management and collaboration. The award-winning tool is trusted by more than 20,000 subscribing organizations in over 100 countries. Regarded for its online project management, collaboration, and file sharing features, Smartsheet's intuitive spreadsheet-like app is used broadly to track and manage diverse types of work including: team projects and task lists, customer information, sales pipelines, event schedules, and business processes. Customers can access their accounts online via www.smartsheet.com or through integrations with leading web services. Smartsheet is a top rated online project management solution for Google Apps, Salesforce, and is also integrated with Box and VMWare's Zimbra Collaboration Suite.

PMI: PMI is the world’s largest not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession. Our professional resources and research empower more than 700,000 members, credential holders and volunteers in nearly every country in the world to enhance their careers, improve their organizations’ success and further mature the profession. PMI’s worldwide advocacy for project management is reinforced by our globally recognized standards and certification program, extensive academic and market research programs, chapters and communities of practice, and professional development opportunities.

ALLPM.Com: ALLPM.Com was founded in 1998 with one simple vision: to help project managers succeed in their careers and in their projects by leveraging the power of the internet to build an world-wide open and free community of project managers. In furtherance of this vision, ALLPM has grown over the years to encompass new tools, features and information, all intended to help project managers help themselves and others be more successful.

GanttHead.com: gantthead provides help to project managers in a number of ways. It is a community for IT project managers, giving you Connections - to others who are managing projects like yours. It is a place to get started - processes that you can customize for your needs, where you can get in touch with experts - real people who understand what you are going through News that matters - stories that relate to what you are trying to accomplish and Advice you need - tips on the art of managing your effort 'Just-in-time' Consulting - Providing services ranging from answering questions, reviewing deliverables, and participating in meetings remotely. These services can be an hour on the phone with an expert or live consulting on your site, whichever is best for you.

Microsoft Project Users Group: MPUG-Global (Microsoft Project Users Group) is the official international community supporting Microsoft Project. Launched in 1997, the organization serves as an ongoing resource for members to improve their understanding of MS Project and to help maintain their investment in the tool. Currently, MPUG-Global has over 2100 members and 30 chapters worldwide.

NewGrange Center: Welcome to the NewGrange Center for Project Management. We are an international web based, non-profit, all volunteer organization, dedicated to the principle of building a community of practice among project managers. The backbone of the organization is the 5 minute email list. Our mission is to further the discussion of project management as a professional discipline. Our focus is a hands-on, practical approach to project management. We want to know what really works, why it works and how to replicate it consistently.

American Society for PM: asapm is a not-for-profit professional society dedicated to advancing the project management discipline. Working with members, asapm provides the leadership for professional growth of both members and the profession. Enhancement of the profession benefits project practitioners, their respective organizations, and the project management community. asapm is working at the forefront of the project management discipline to push practices, procedures, and techniques to their best use.

Project Management Wisdom: Welcome to my project management site I have been engaged on projects all my working life and have been studying project management for the last three decades. The reason is simple — I just enjoy the satisfaction of getting things done...It is not for me to tell you how to run your project — that's your decision. Nor am I trying to teach you about project management — there are plenty of excellent books and courses to do that. You see, any fool can make things complicated, my purpose is to help you keep it simple!

PMFORUM Library: Welcome to the PMFORUM Library, your gateway to project management knowledge and information from around the world. Open a door below for access to PM books, journals and publications produced by project management experts and organizations worldwide. If you don't find the resource you need, please let us know. Additions to the PMFORUM Library occur regularly.

Project Management KnowledgeBase. This is said to be Web's most extensive free PM library. You’ll find articles, tools and techniques from our 100’s of years of collective PM experience to help you in each of these areas. Visit our KnowledgeBase for free materials as well as our bookstore and training sections.

Project Smart: Project Smart is the Internet based project management resource that helps managers at all levels to improve their performance. This site provides an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With regular monthly updates it keeps you in touch with the latest project management thinking. Find out what's new this month.

PM Boulevard: PM Boulevard is an online resource delivering quality project management information designed to help you in your day-to-day tasks. As the most comprehensive PM resource on the Web, PM Boulevard offers access to an extensive Knowledge Center, a dynamic Knowledge Mapping System, an e-Learning training center, a virtual project management office (PMO), and personalized online consulting services. PM Boulevard also provides news, links, and other PM resources to keep you up to date on the industry's latest trends.

The Project Connection: The ProjectConnections Community offers a variety of ways to interact with experts and peers, ranging from our ongoing "Critical Path" discussion forum to regularly scheduled events and learning groups on specific topics. Our Know-How section provides a wealth of resources to support your work. It includes a "knowledge base" with primers on key topics in the field as well as a rapidly growing list of valuable templates you can download and put to use immediately. We also offer guides to the most useful books, periodicals, papers, and web sites. In our Marketplace you'll find a comprehensive buyers' guide to vendors of training, consulting, and tools as well as "storefronts" from some of the leading companies in the field.

The PMFORUM : The PMFORUM offers personal and company services for improved web use productivity. The free Time and Expense Sheet will give you recording of time and expense from any location world wide. Additionally, you can quickly establish a PM Virtual Office for remotely located colleagues to conduct a web based conference and project management related work discussions. eFax is a service that lets you receive all your faxes at your existing email address formatted as an email message! The World Time site provides the time in every major city and country in the world. Use Dialpad to make free telephone calls and the Currency Converter a quick look at the value of expenses and costs in other international locations.

Project Management Tools: This section of Mind Tools teaches more than 50 individual project management skills. Start with our quiz, which helps you assess your current skills levels. Then explore the key areas of project management, learn how to schedule projects, and find out how to manage change so that your projects are accepted and embraced by the people they affect. The Browse by Category box below will help you target specific project management skills areas, while you can look through the full list of tools to find interesting topics. Enjoy using these tools!

Projects@Work: Projects@Work is the only business-to-business magazine of its kind, written for professionals with front-line responsibility for project management. Published bimonthly, Projects@Work presents case studies, practical information and applications, product updates and news. Projects@Work magazine complements the ProjectWorld Conferences by providing another quality media channel and information source for project managers. Learn what your peers in the project management field are doing to manage projects more effectively.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Attribution: Some information for this article has been adapted from wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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