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:
- Planning the work
- Assessing risk
- Estimating resources
- Organizing the work
- Acquiring human and material resources
- Assigning tasks
- Directing activities
- Controlling project execution
- Reporting progress
- 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.
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
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