What is Project Management?
Before getting into the processes, you may be wondering what exactly it is that a project manager does. The title sounds basic enough, but the position is far simpler.
If a company wants to run an ad campaign, they need a project manager. If they want to develop an app for an existing system, they need a project manager. If they want to build a residential development, they need a project manager.
Project managers are responsible for organizing and gathering information in order to build teams that can execute plans, within budget and on time. They communicate with a variety of people, administrative staff, vendors, workers, stakeholders, and the companies that have hired the team for the project.
A project manager is the captain of the ship. They hold it all together and if things go wrong, it’s their responsibility, not just to make it right, but to know that it may have gone wrong from the beginning.
That may seem like a lot for one person to handle, and it is. But good project managers, professional project managers, have the ability to oversee the entire scope and produce the results expected.
Defining the Project
Companies, organizations, governmental agencies, all work with each other in order to take a project from idea to reality. Projects are created in order to meet a need, whether the need grows from another project, or requires a whole new approach, each project recognizes and articulates the need.
A land contracting company has a piece of property. That property is located in an area that is expanding the edge of the township. The land contracting company recognizes the land they have would be best suited for a residential development. A project is born.
Every project has a start date, and most importantly an end date. Schedules are there to make sure the work is done in the time allotted with the resources available.
By the time the project manager gets involved the sponsors and the advisors have already determined what outcome they want to have. Project managers are there to make it happen.
Before assigning the “need” to the project manager, the scope of work. The scope of work is the shared vision of all of the participants. The project manager steps in to initiate a plan to execute the processes necessary to manage and control the outcome.
Each of the five process groups:
- Monitoring and Control
Enable the project manager to anticipate problems in order to keep the project on course. All of the process groups gather from the 10 knowledge areas in the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The 47 processes combine allowing each step to be accomplished on time and on budget.
The project manager is the one to take the overall idea and come up with the plan to execute the project within the project’s life cycle.
Project Life Cycle
Each stage of the project, from beginning to end, goes through the 5 process groups. While the names of the groups may change based on the organization or the industry, the project always starts, there is always preparation on how the goals will be accomplished and in what order. The resources are gathered in order to work towards the end of the goal and controls and tests are done throughout to keep the scope of work in line with the best practices of the industry.
1. Initiation – Plotting the Course
Once the need is determined and the sponsors and advisors have determined the desired outcome, it’s time for the project manager to initiate the project.
The project manager gathers resources to create teams. Each team works within the business case in order to determine the viability of the project as a whole.
In some cases the project manager is part of the team not in charge of compiling the team, however, they are always there to focus on the value of the project to the organization.
The Business Case will
- Provide the reasons for the project
- Produce the considerations for the project
- Establish the measurable benefits
- Supply a summary of the potential risks that could affect the project
- Outline the costs and milestones and
- Produce an appraisal analysis of the long term goals and benefits of the project
Once the business case is compiled the sponsors and advisors have the information necessary to determine if the project should move forward.
When the value to the organization is determined the project charter is provided. A concise outline of the project that provides the team members with the goals, tasks, timelines, resources, and stakeholders.
A Project Charter will
- Define the purpose and objectives of the project
- Establish the basic requirements of the project
- Provide a brief description of the project
- Determine known risks for the project
- Schedule the various events start and end dates
- Set up milestones
- Create a budget for the project
- Confirm the approval process
- Identify key players or stakeholders
- And introduce the project manager, and project sponsor.
The charter assigns the captain. It assigns the team members accordingly so they are all on the same course.
2. Planning – Boarding the Ship
The project charter gives everyone a brief overview of the project. Once that’s done, everyone is on the same page and the project manager can compile the management team in order to start planning the project in earnest.
The master plan is self explanatory. It is the document that starts the plan in motion.
The master plan document:
- Identifies and combines the short term and long term goals of the project
- Allows for identifying future investments
- Engages the team as well as the vendors, resources, and governmental agencies
- Gathers all relevant data
- Identifies options
- Prepares for future strategies
- Prepares the tools that will track and monitor progress
The Master Plan is a roadmap to the entire scope of work. Each stage of the project is broken down in order to assign resources where they are needed and produce the schedule to effectively and efficiently come to the final Process group. The Master Plan focuses on the Knowledge Areas in the PMBOK:
- Integration management
- Scope management
- Schedule management
- Cost management
- Quality management
- Risk Management
- Human Resource Management
- Communications Management
- Procurement Management, and
- Stakeholder Management.
Flowing With the Changes
As you go through the planning process, you will find there are changes that need to be made. Each area of the project has different requirements, resources and demands. Some may overlap. You may find that some can’t begin until others are completed. The key to project management is being able to modify the plan, to address risks, internal and external in order to evaluate and anticipate. It’s better to begin over schedule than it is to end up over schedule. It’s easier to overestimate costs than it is to find money when it’s all been spent.
While you will execute a change management plan in this part of the process you will only be able to work through the first three steps:
- Identifying Potential Change
- Validating Potential Change, and
- Determining the impact of Potential Change.
Your team will be key in all aspects of this change management part of the master plan and as the project manager, you will be key to identifying what changes are valid and what the impact of the overall project will be.
3. Executing the Master Plan: Getting underway
Every detail has been thoroughly thought out and written out. Every person has their individual assignments. You have prepared for all possible contingencies, weather, broken equipment, illness. It’s time to move forward and get this ship on the way.
The Scope of Work
The scope of work or project scope is outlined in the project scope statement. It addresses the schedule, budget, and resources required for the project. Each of these has their own risks and the scope helps the project manager determine what course of action is required in order to address the risks.
A well defined scope of work will provide you with the tools necessary to control the project’s progress. If it isn’t complete, or not planned and controlled, it can break the project, causing cost overruns and delays.
Each resource should be carefully analyzed in order to respond and communicate without exclusion. This avoids further risk, keeping one resource from taking away from the others.
Detected risks must be handled as soon as they are identified.
Risk associated with costs can cause you to exceed the budget. They can come from poor budget planning, bad cost estimation or scope creep.
Risk associated with schedule can be caused by bad estimation or planning when the master plan is created. Extegent circumstances can also factor in, weather, equipment breakdowns, and personnel resources can all figure into delays.
Risk associated with performance may be due to poor planning, however, in many cases it may be that the project itself doesn’t seem to be feasible. This is a risk that is usually not anticipated until certain parts of the project are in the works.
PMI define’s project risk as “the effect of uncertainty on the project as a whole”. To address these risks, especially those that were unanticipated, you need to re-visit the master plan’s risk assessments with each project milestone.
As project manager, you are the captain. You need to know how and when to change course.
You need to:
- Rely on the team you have developed
- Trust them with brainstorming to recommend changes, devise preventive and corrective actions
- Keep an open line of communication with the stakeholders
- Work with the team to cultivate good morale
- Keep the project on track through constant review.
Each of the ten knowledge areas in the PMBOK come into play:
- Integration Management
- Scope Management
- Schedule Management
- Cost Management
- Quality Management
- Resource Management
- Communications Management
- Risk Management
- Procurement Management, and
- Stakeholder Management
during the execution stage. You set the course.
Whether tactic, implicit, or explicit, knowledge management is key during the execution stage. While most of the knowledge creation was done in the planning stage, gathering and identifying all of the materials necessary, in the execution stage, you are tasked with storing the additional information that’s been created, as well as sharing that information with the various teams, stakeholders, and board or sponsors.
By ensuring the knowledge is managed you will be able to:
- Identify skill gaps
- Make more informed decisions
- Retain information gathered by past team members, and
- Increase collaboration and cooperation.
All of these will assist you in maintaining the quality of the project as well as utilizing best practices throughout the scope of work.
4. Monitoring and Controlling: Navigating and weathering the storms
Small projects are easier to manage and control, but all projects require this step. During planning you determined whether to address the project with the waterfall or agile approach. While the waterfall approach to this stage allows you to predict from the planning stage through the different milestones, the agile approach lets you adapt throughout the project as necessary to achieve the same outcome.
During the Monitoring and Controlling stage of the project you will need to:
- Analyze the cost in relation to the budget and cash flow. Value management can be applied to find suitable solutions and maintain project quality.
- Keep track of the budget to adjust additional costs as well as apply savings.
- Identify changes in the instruction and the impact. Whether this impact is too the schedule, budget, or resources, it is imperative to be vigilant.
- Ensure the quality of the work. Beware of side stepping as well as gold plating. Both can negatively impact and affect the project scope.
- Check and keep deadlines
- Maintain control and availability of resources. In particular, personnel resources need to be constantly monitored. The team you are relying on may be working on more than one project. Make sure they are focused when you require their focus.
You and your management team need to be in constant communication to keep the project on course by reviewing the plan, between milestones and adjusting the approach with the predictive changes you anticipated or adapting to overcome the possible changes to the master plan.
Every change in the project can’t be anticipated. You and your team need to be able to control changes throughout while maintaining the budget, schedule, and quality of the work.
Change Management allows you to approach each change order with a specific control. Some changes require sponsor or board approval and some can be made within the parameters set in the master plan.
Remember, each change may negatively affect the project, so monitoring and controlling is key to keeping on course.
Data analysis relies on various techniques:
- Alternative Analysis,
- Cost-Benefit Analysis,
- Earned Value Analysis,
- Root Cause Analysis,
- Trend Analysis, and
- Variance Analysis.
Expert judgment is employed when the situation requires validation or interpretation of the existing knowledge.
Units within the organization, consultants, stakeholders, or other professionals may be employed to assess change and impact of changes in order to present options to the project management team.
5. Closing: Arriving at the destination
The project is complete, on time and under budget. That’s it, right?
Once you’ve arrived at the destination you will need to formally close out the trip, disembark the passengers and their luggage and clean up the mess.
Proper project closure allows you to transfer control of the ship to the next group, those who will make the project a continued success.
1.Transfer all deliverables
Transferring the end product to the client is the first step. Go through the master plan and make sure that all of the steps have been completed, change orders have been worked through and risks eliminated.
2. Confirmation of project completion
Step two is verifying the closure. Each team leader and project team member should agree that the steps are complete. Client’s, sponsors, even boards can continue to request changes if the formality of having each person sign off on the project isn’t done. This will continue to increase your budget and your schedule, so getting written confirmation and signatures of the team is better sooner than later.
3. Contracts and Documentation Review
When you’ve handed off the project to the client, after getting all of the approvals, it’s time to begin buttoning up. Close your contracts with vendors and external resources. Review all of the documentation to make sure you haven’t missed anything, payments, or reports that you should have received and filed.
4. Release your resources
After review and closure, take the time to contact the vendors, suppliers, contractors, etc. All parties involved in the project need to confirm final payment and completion of obligations. This will allow them to go forward with other projects and keep you from incurring any additional costs and liabilities.
5. Conduct a project review
A project review is the best way for projects in the future to see what they can do to complete the process stages listed throughout this document. It will allow them to initiate, plan, execute, and monitor and control their projects by seeing how you proceed when combatting risks, keeping on task, staying within or below budget, and working through issues.
Your challenges and even your failures are all part of compiling the next master plan. Communication within the team, client satisfaction, and client feedback, negative and positive should all be included in the “post-mortem” of the project.
The goal is not to assign blame but to document, with the help and guidance of the project management team, the course that the project took and how it reached the destination.
6. Finalizing the documentation
Cataloging and indexing the project documentation is the next step. It’s imperative that future projects know where to look for that contract with the heavy equipment contractor, or the plan for the bathroom in the convention hall. Each cost and every schedule should be labeled for future reference.
This should be easy, as you’ve been recording throughout all of the process stages.
7. Get off of the ship!!!
After all of the time, the aggravation, the drunken passengers, it’s time for the captain and crew to get off the ship!
Celebrate!! You’ve budgeted that end of project get together, the formal dinner, the afternoon barbeque, or the outing to the amusement park. Take your people and show them the project’s appreciation.
Not only is it a great way to unwind and get ready for the next big cruise, it’s a way to keep the valued members of your team ready to work with you on future projects.
The Process Groups
Each of the process groups is taken from Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The Process Groups combine the 49 processes within the PMBOK. If you’ve gone through PMP certification, these processes are just another part of the equipment on the bridge of the ship. They are here to help you navigate through the waters and get you to the final destination.
The process groups help you focus on the clients needs. They allow you to determine the feasibility of the project from the initial spark to the end of the pier.
Set the course and head out on the journey.
Have you led projects and are looking to earn a project management certification? You might be interested in learning about how lucrative this can be. Check out these articles.
No experience leading projects but still want to get into project management? No problem! Check out these articles.