Project Integration Management

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The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) views project integration management as one of the most important knowledge areas because it coordinates the other eight knowledge areas and all of the project management processes throughout the project's life cycle. It is up to the project manager to ensure that all of the activities and processes are coordinated in order for the project to meet or exceed its MOV. All of these knowledge areas and processes must come together to support the development of the project plan, its execution, and overall change control. As Figure 3.3 illustrates, project integration management includes: (1) project plan development, (2) project plan execution, and (3) overall change control. This section describes how these processes and various knowledge areas interact with each other.

Project Plan Development

The purpose of project plan development is to create a useable, flexible, consistent, and logical document that will guide the work or activities of the project. In addition, the project plan provides a control mechanism for coordinating changes across the entire project.

As you will soon find out for yourself, project planning is an iterative process. A first cut or draft of the project plan is developed based on the business case and any other information as it becomes available. Historical information from past projects can be a useful resource for understanding how these project plans fared in terms of the accuracy and completeness of their estimates. They can also serve as a source for drawing upon new ideas and lessons learned.

In addition, the policies and procedures of the organization must be taken into account when developing the project plan. For example, formal accounting procedures may have to be followed for the disbursement of funds for such things as travel, training, or payments to vendors. On the other hand, an organization may have either formal or informal policies for such things as hiring and firing employees or conducting performance and merit reviews. Internal project teams may be familiar with these organizational policies, while outside consultants may have to learn them as they go along. Regardless of whether the project team is internal or external to the organization, it is important that the project manager and team learn, understand, and follow these policies, because they can impact the project plan estimates.

Various constraints and assumptions must also be taken into consideration and documented when developing the project plan. Constraints are things that can limit the project and usually can have an impact on scope, schedule, budget, or quality. For example, the project may have to be completed by a specific date or within a predefined budget. On the other hand, assumptions can be thought of as things that must go right in order for the project plan to be completed as planned. Assumptions can be, for example, a skilled and experienced programmer being available by a specific date or a vendor delivering hardware and/or software in time for a development activity to begin. Constraints and assumptions are closely related to risk. The development of a risk management plan should be part of the project plan.

A method for project planning is a critical element for developing a project plan, all projects should follow a structured process. Various software tools, such as Microsoft Project, can be useful for developing the project plan.

A software tool, however, cannot create the perfect project plan by itself. The project manager should engage various stakeholders throughout the planning process. These stakeholders can be managers or subject matter experts (SME) who can contribute valuable knowledge or expertise to refine the project plan. In short, the project plan should also consider who will be needed, when they will be needed, and how they will be needed to help create the product of the project.

Project Plan Execution

The purpose of the project planning process is to create a document that can be carried out in order to achieve the project's MOV. It is important to have a realistic and usable project plan because the project will expend the majority of its assigned resources executing it. It is, therefore, necessary that the plan be used not only to coordinate the resources that will perform certain scheduled activities, but also to gauge the project's progress towards its goal.

Today, most organizations use some type of project management software tool such as Microsoft Project to manage and control the project. Project management software tools not only help to create and track a project's progress, but also act as an information system for reporting project performance and making decisions.

The project's product will directly determine the skills and knowledge areas needed by the project team members. The project manager must ensure that specific team members either have specific skills or knowledge coming into the project or that they will acquire them in due time through training.

The execution of the project plan must also have some type of work authorization system in place. A work authorization system is just a way of sanctioning or authorizing project team members to perform a specific activity or group of related activities to ensure that the right things are done in the proper sequence.

Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the work authorization system can be either formal or informal. For smaller projects, a work authorization system may be nothing more than the project manager giving a project team member verbal approval to begin working on a specific activity outlined in the project plan. On the other hand, activities on larger, more complex projects may require a more formal approval because each team member may be working on a piece of the application system. In turn, their activities may depend upon the activities of someone else or some other group. The project manager must have the larger picture in mind, and specific activities must be verified as being complete before other activities can begin. For example, one set of activities for an IT application system may be the gathering and documenting of requirements during the systems analysis phase. Several individuals or groups may work on this activity together. Design and programming activities should not begin until the information requirements are complete and verified; otherwise, time and resources will be wasted if changes must be made later. Experience has shown that the cost of making changes or correcting errors in the later stages of a project is more expensive.

Status review meetings are a useful tool for coordinating the project processes and activities. Status review meetings are regularly scheduled meetings that the project manager and project team members have with key stakeholders. The purpose of these meetings is to keep everyone informed as to the status of the project. Project status meetings can be formal or informal and can include different levels of stakeholders. Regularly scheduled status meetings not only keep everyone informed, but help focus the project team's attention on meeting key deadlines for deliverables. Meetings with project stakeholders tend to go more smoothly when the project is progressing as planned.

Overall Change Control

Status review meetings provide a catalyst or at least an opportunity for change. For instance, a project stakeholder may introduce an idea that would change or expand the scope of the project. Regardless whether this change increases or decreases the project's value to the organization, the project must have controls in place to manage change. Overall change controls must: (1) ensure that a process is in place to evaluate the value of a proposed change, (2) determine whether an accepted change has been implemented, (3) include procedures for handling emergencies—that is, automatic approval for defined situations, and (4) help the project manager manage change so that change does not disrupt the focus or work of the project team.

Many organizations have a Change Control Board (CCB) made up of various managers responsible for evaluating and approving change requests. If an organization does not have an overall change control process in place, the project manager should develop one as part of the project charter.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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