Project Management in a nutshell
Broadly speaking, Project Management involves assigning a team dedicated towards achieving certain goals in alignment with specific success criteria within a specified time frame. While we will examine various project management methodologies, to get the ball rolling let’s begin by saying that the Project Manager is responsible for ensuring that the team:
- Controls; and
- Closes off the project
The main challenges inherent in managing any project involve ensuring that all the goals and objectives specified at project inception are achieved within agreed constraints.
To enable any project to be successfully completed four major project elements need to effectively be managed. In project management nothing works in isolation. Hence, when we talk about these elements we are concerned with:
The scope of a project is the actual definition of what the project is meant to accomplish and involves the elements of time and money that have been allocated towards achieving these objectives. Should there be any changes to the scope of the project these will also affect the time, resources and budget. Hence, these elements should reflect corresponding changes.
Project resources encompass such things as people, raw materials, tools and premises needed to complete the project. Successful project management therefore involves the effective management of all resources assigned to the project which includes having the right tools and making sure that everyone is on board and understands what tasks need to be completed and the deadlines involved.
The amount of time allocated to finalise a project involves the deadline for completion as well as the duration of the various tasks and the dependencies of each task upon the other. The critical path analysis (CPA) which is a technique that requires each task to be mapped out involves identifying the time required to complete each activity and the dependency of each activity on any of the others.
Everything should be documented - nothing happens in a vacuum
It cannot be underestimated that one of the most important aspects of successful project management involves ensuring that everything is documented at project inception. That is, in order to effectively control the project certain physical documents pertaining to all tasks must be in place. This enables adequate project tracking, for example:
- Correct documentation enables one to see at a glance whether or not requirements are being met.
- Project documentation allows one to establish what has already been completed.
- Documentation provides a paper trail for reference purposes.
Visual representation tools
Project managers frequently use visual representation tools such as Gantt Charts or PERT charts which determine who is responsible for the various tasks.
By their very nature, projects are temporary
Every project, by its very nature, is temporary. That is to say, it is devised with the intent to produce either a product or service within time and resource constraints in pursuit of specific goals and objectives in line with adding value and bringing about beneficial change.
While applied across all industries, project management is a discipline that is often linked to certain fields
While project management is a discipline that is applied across all industries, it is often linked to the fields listed below since, by and large, projects in these industries are characterised by numerous elements, intricate parts and processes that need to be created and put together according to certain specifications that eventually result in churning out completed products.
- Information Technology (IT)
- Health Care
The role of the Project Manager
The Project Manager’s job description is standard across all industries. The Project Manager’s role therefore involves:
- Defining project goals and objectives
- Determining deadlines (when certain elements need to be completed)
- Defining who is responsible for executing various elements of the project
- Establishing quality control checks that ensure elements completed meet the required standards
Getting acquainted with Project Management Methodologies
Every industry uses appropriate project management methodologies or project management frameworks that are structured according to specific requirements. As we discuss the various project methodologies or frameworks we will see that certain methodologies are more suited to specific industries.
For instance, a marketing project starts off with the idea for a campaign then moves into the creative phase and finally rolls out with all the campaign elements in place ready to launch into the media.
Various methodologies or frameworks are used within the discipline of project management including:
- Project Management Institute (PMI)/Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)
Project Management Institute (PMI) is a not-for-profit membership association, project management certification and standards organization. The Project Management Body of Knowledge refers to the standard terminology and guidelines that characterise project management including best practices, techniques and conventions regarded as the industry standard.
The basis for the Agile methodology originated from the 12 core principles of the Agile Manifesto. Its purpose was to find better ways to develop software using a structure that is clear and measurable and promotes iterative development, team collaboration and change recognition. The computer industry was the first to use this methodology with its focus being on continuous monitoring and improvement of deliverables.
The aim of the Lean methodology is to minimise waste and maximise customer value. By using fewer resources it seeks to create increased value to the customer. Lean has its origins in the Japanese manufacturing industry and its values centre around the premise that ‘as waste is eliminated quality improves while the production time and cost are reduced.’ Lean identifies three types of waste: muda, mura and muri, which are also known as the 3Ms.
Waterfall is one of the more traditional project management frameworks where progress flows downwards in one direction, which resembles a waterfall. It is a linear, sequential design approach. With its origins in the manufacturing and construction industries, the Waterfall framework was first introduced in 1970 and its emphasis is on moving on to the next phase of development once the current one is completed.
- Six Sigma
First introduced by engineers at Motorola in 1986, the objectives of the Six Sigma project management methodology are to improve quality by reducing the number of errors through pinpointing what is not working and eliminating such from the process. Six Sigma uses to major methodologies known as:
‘Define the problem and the project goals
Measure in detail the various aspects of the current process
Analyze data to, among other things, find the root defects in a process
Improve the process
Control how the process is done in the future’
‘Define the project goals
Measure critical components of the process and the product capabilities
Analyze the data and develop various designs for the process, eventually picking the best one
Design and test details of the process
Verify the design by running simulations and a pilot program, and then handing over the process to the client’
Six Sigma has various levels of expertise known as “Yellow Belt” “Green Belt”, “Black Belt” and “Master Black Belt”.