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Project Management

Project Management

P

roject Management is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. A project is a finite endeavor-having specific start and completion dates-undertaken to create a unique product or service which brings about beneficial change or added value.


Overview

Project management is actually a carefully planned and organized effort which is set to accomplish a particular project in a one-time deal. Building construction, establishing businesses or implementing new computer systems are some of the more basic projects that call for proper project management. Project management includes the development of the intended project plan. This may seem simple yet it involves planning and organizing all the needed details for the successful implementation of the project. The process of project management commonly includes defining the goals of the project, setting project objectives, specifying tasks in order for goals to be achieved, the needed resources and budget, timelines and completion dates. Furthermore, proper project management includes implementing the project plan to make sure that each step is being properly followed. Highly organized would properly define a well-considered project management plan following carefully differentiated steps to complete the project. Feasibility studies would be the first step, followed by project planning then implementation, evaluation, and finally maintenance or support.

Project management activities

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

  1. Analysis & design of objectives and events
  2. Planning the work according to the objectives
  3. Assessing and controlling risk (or Risk Management)
  4. Estimating resources
  5. Allocation of resources
  6. Organizing the work
  7. Acquiring human and material resources
  8. Assigning tasks
  9. Directing activities
  10. Controlling project execution
  11. Tracking and reporting progress (Management information system)
  12. Analyzing the results based on the facts achieved
  13. Defining the products of the project
  14. Forecasting future trends in the project
  15. Quality Management
  16. Issues management
  17. Issue solving
  18. Defect prevention
  19. Identifying, managing & controlling changes
  20. Project closure (and project debrief)
  21. Communicating to stakeholders
  22. Increasing/ decreasing a company's workers

Project Management Triple Constraints

Like any human undertaking, projects need to be performed and delivered under certain constraints. Traditionally, these constraints have been listed as scope, time, and cost. These are also referred to as the Project Management Triangle, where each side represents a constraint. One side of the triangle cannot be changed without impacting the others. A further refinement of the constraints separates product 'quality' or 'performance' from scope, and turns quality into a fourth constraint.

Project Management

The Project Management Triangle

The time constraint refers to the amount of time available to complete a project. The cost constraint refers to the budgeted amount available for the project. The scope constraint refers to what must be done to produce the project's end result. These three constraints are often competing constraints: increased scope typically means increased time and increased cost, a tight time constraint could mean increased costs and reduced scope, and a tight budget could mean increased time and reduced scope.

The discipline of project management is about providing the tools and techniques that enable the project team (not just the project manager) to organize their work to meet these constraints.

Another approach to project management is to consider the three constraints as finance, time and human resources. If you need to finish a job in a shorter time, you can throw more people at the problem, which in turn will raise the cost of the project, unless by doing this task quicker we will reduce costs elsewhere in the project by an equal amount.

Time

For analytical purposes, the time required to produce a deliverable is estimated using several techniques. One method is to identify tasks needed to produce the deliverables documented in a work breakdown structure or WBS. The work effort for each task is estimated and those estimates are rolled up into the final deliverable estimate.

The tasks are also prioritized, dependencies between tasks are identified, and this information is documented in a project schedule. The dependencies between the tasks can affect the length of the overall project (dependency constrained), as can the availability of resources (resource constrained). Time is not considered a cost nor a resource since the project manager cannot control the rate at which it is expended. This makes it different from all other resources and cost categories. It should be remembered that no effort expended will have any higher quality than that of the effort- expenders.

Cost

Cost to develop a project depends on several variables including (chiefly): resource costs, labor rates, material rates, risk management (i.e.cost contingency), Earned value management, plant (buildings, machines, etc.), equipment, cost escalation, indirect costs, and profit. But beyond this basic accounting approach to fixed and variable costs, the economic cost that must be considered includes worker skill and productivity which is calculated by variation to project cost estimates. This is important when companies hire temporary or contract employees or outsource work.

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. A major component of scope is the quality of the final product. 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).

Together, these three constraints have given rise to the phrase "On Time, On Spec, On Budget". In this case, the term "scope" is substituted with "spec(ification)".

Project Management Approaches

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

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

The Traditional approach

Project Management

Typical development phases of a project

A traditional phased approach identifies a sequence of steps to be completed. In the traditional approach, we can distinguish 5 components of a project (4 stages plus control) in the development of a project:

  1. project initiation stage;
  2. project planning or design stage;
  3. project execution or production stage;
  4. project monitoring and controlling systems;
  5. Project completion stage.

Not all the 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. In software development, this approach is often known as 'waterfall development' i.e. one series of tasks after another in linear sequence. In software development many organizations have adapted the Rational Unified Process (RUP) to fit this methodology, although RUP does not require or explicitly recommend this practice. Waterfall development can work for small tightly defined projects, but for larger projects of undefined or unknowable scope, it is less suited. The Cone of Uncertainty explains some of this as the planning made on the initial phase of the project suffers from a high degree of uncertainty. This becomes specially true as software development is often the realization of a new or novel product, this method has been widely accepted as ineffective for software projects where requirements are largely unknowable up front and susceptible to change.

Rational Unified Process

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is an iterative software development process framework created by the Rational Software Corporation, a division of IBM since 2003. RUP is not a single concrete prescriptive process, but rather an adaptable process framework, intended to be tailored by the development organizations and software project teams that will select the elements of the process that are appropriate for their needs. The following are phases of RUP, which align to business activities intended to drive successful delivery and deployment of projects.

  1. Inception - Identify the initial scope of the project, a potential architecture for the system, and obtain initial project funding and stakeholder acceptance.
  2. Elaboration - Prove the architecture of the system.
  3. Construction - Build working software on a regular, incremental basis which meets the highest-priority needs of project stakeholders.
  4. Transition - Validate and deploy the system into the production environment The open source version of RUP is OpenUP.

Temporary organization sequencing concepts

  1. Action-based entrepreneurship
  2. Fragmentation for commitment-building
  3. Planned isolation
  4. Institutionalized termination

Critical Chain

Critical chain is the application of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) to projects. The goal is to increase the rate of throughput (or completion rates) of projects in an organization. Applying the first three of the five focusing steps of TOC, the system constraint for all projects is identified as resources. To exploit the constraint, tasks on the critical chain are given priority over all other activities. Finally, projects are planned and managed to ensure that the critical chain tasks are ready to start as soon as the needed resources are available, subordinating all other resources to the critical chain.

For specific projects, the project plan is resource-leveled, and the longest sequence of resource-constrained tasks is identified as the critical chain. In multi-project environments, resource leveling should be performed across projects. However, it is often enough to identify (or simply select) a single "drum" resource-a resource that acts as a constraint across projects-and stagger projects based on the availability of that single resource.

Extreme Project Management

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 Agile Project Management methods including 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.

Event chain methodology

Event chain methodology is the next advance beyond critical path method and critical chain project management. Event chain methodology is an uncertainty modeling and schedule network analysis technique that is focused on identifying and managing events and event chains that affect project schedules. Event chain methodology helps to mitigate the negative impact of psychological heuristics and biases, as well as to allow for easy modeling of uncertainties in the project schedules. Event chain methodology is based on the following major principles.

  1. Probabilistic moment of risk: An activity (task) in most real life processes is not a continuous uniform process. Tasks are affected by external events, which can occur at some point in the middle of the task.
  2. Event chains: Events can cause other events, which will create event chains. These event chains can significantly affect the course of the project. Quantitative analysis is used to determine a cumulative effect of these event chains on the project schedule.
  3. Critical events or event chains: The single events or the event chains that have the most potential to affect the projects are the "critical events" or "critical chains of events." They can be determined by the analysis.
  4. Project tracking with events: If a project is partially completed and data about the project duration, cost, and events occurred is available, it is possible to refine information about future potential events and helps to forecast future project performance.
  5. Event chain visualization: Events and event chains can be visualized using event chain diagrams on a Gantt chart.

Process-based management

Also furthering the concept of project control is the incorporation of process-based management. This area has been driven by the use of Maturity models such as the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) and ISO/IEC15504 (SPICE - Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination), which have been far more successful.

Agile project management approaches based on the principles of human interaction management are founded on a process view of human collaboration. This contrasts sharply with traditional approach. In the agile software development or flexible product development approach, 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.