Basics of Project Management

Project management is an essential skill-set for many careers and in many contexts in our lives. Introduction to Project Management is an ideal starting point if you need to manage projects at work or at home, while not necessarily being a formally trained project manager. It is also suitable if you are considering undertaking a project in the near future and are seeking to learn and apply essential project management knowledge and skills.

 Project Features and Criteria

A project is invariably undertaken in order to further the aims of a business or organization. The processes that occur within the project are therefore taking place, not in isolation, but within a wider business environment. The project team members who carry out the various tasks involved must interact with a range of stakeholders who are not directly tasked with project activities, and who have their own concerns and agendas. For this reason, the criteria for project success or failure cannot be defined simply in terms of how well or how badly a project is managed and executed, or even whether or not an agreed set of deliverable is produced on time or not. The commitment of the project team must be matched by a commitment by the client and end users in order to achieve a successful outcome. Such a commitment can only be achieved if the processes involved are well understood by the key stakeholders, which in turn is dependent on maintaining the flow of timely and accurate information. Some of the reasons that contribute to project failure are listed below (although the list is not exhaustive).

 Unrealistic expectations

 Requirements not clearly defined

 Poor communications

 Failure to anticipate and manage change

 Lack of leadership

 Poor management of resources

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The characteristics of a successful project therefore include a well-defined and well-understood set of requirements, realistic scheduling, effective channels of communication and clear reporting procedures, formal change management procedures, good leadership, and sound management of personnel and resources. Successful projects tend to occur within an organizational culture that is willing and able to investigate and deal with problems, where the vision behind the project is shared by all of the stakeholders, and where the project manager demonstrates effective communication skills when dealing with clients and project team members. Indeed, where project leadership is concerned, communication skills take far greater precedence than technical knowledge.

When considering the criteria for success, it is easy to reduce the matter to a question to whether or not all of the project objectives have been achieved, and whether they have been delivered on time or not. These are certainly important considerations, and can be objectively assessed (assuming, of course, that the project objectives and completion date have been clearly defined in the first place). There are perhaps some more qualitative (and subjective) success criteria that could be used, such as whether the project team members feel at the end of the process that they have delivered a quality project, whether they have a sense of achievement, or whether they feel they have been allowed to exercise autonomy and work creatively. Unfortunately such criteria cannot be precisely defined or measured, although they may be just as important in some ways as those that can. The success criteria that can be objectively evaluated are commonly linked to the objectives defined in the project's scope document and therefore tend to include:

 Project Phases

There are five (5) Basic Phases of Project Management

 Project conception and initiation :  An idea for a project will be carefully examined to determine whether or not it benefits the organization. During this phase, a decision making team will identify if the project can realistically be completed.

 Project definition and planning :  A project plan, project charter and/or project scope may be put in writing, outlining the work to be performed. During this phase, a team should prioritize the project, calculate a budget and schedule, and determine what resources are needed.

 Project launch or execution :  Resources' tasks are distributed and teams are informed of responsibilities. This is a good time to bring up important project related information.

 Project performance and control :  Project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, as resources perform the scheduled work. During this phase, project managers may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.

 Project close :  After project tasks are completed and the client has approved the outcome, an evaluation is necessary to highlight project success and/or learn from project history. Projects and project management processes vary from industry to industry; however, these are more traditional elements of a project. The overarching goal is typically to offer a product, change a process or to solve a problem in order to benefit the organization.

 Functions and Tasks of the Project Management

 Project Structure Plan

 Project Procedure and Schedule Planning

Project Schedule? :  Project Schedule is a list of activities that need to be performed in order to fulfill the project scope. This list is organised in a logical sequence, also called the schedule network logic. The list consists of activity duration, constraints, inter-dependencies among the various activities, activity lead and lag and the resources required to complete the schedule activity. Project schedule specifies the planned start and finish dates of each activity likely to be executed in a project, it also specifies the dates when important projects milestones have to be met. The project scope statement is a key input in developing a project schedule. The project schedule serves as a baseline against which the project progress can be tracked.

 Project Procedure

The Project Management Procedure applies to projects in the University. A project is a body of work with distinct start and end dates that progresses through defined phases and adheres to a formal project management methodology.

 Resource Planning

Resource leveling is used to examine unbalanced use of resources (usually people or equipment) over time and for resolving over-allocations or conflicts. When performing project planning activities, the manager will attempt to schedule certain tasks simultaneously. In project management terminology, resources are required to carry out the project tasks. They can be people, equipment, facilities, funding, or anything else capable of definition (usually other than labour) required for the completion of a project activity.

 Cost Planning

Cost planning is a superset of Estimating, including snapshots of the estimate and budget as they evolve over the course of the design and preconstruction process. Estimating is a subset of the cost planning methodology providing only one cost structure of the project.

 Quality Plan

A quality plan is a document, or several documents, that together specify quality standards, practices, resources, specifications, and the sequence of activities relevant to a particular product, service, project, or contract.

 Project completion Phase

Project completion is often the most neglected phase of the project life cycle. Once the project is over, it's easy to pack things up, throw some files in a drawer, and start moving right into the initiation phase of the next project. Hold on. You're not done yet.