Although the need for effectively managing projects has been introduced, we still require a working definition of a project and project management. The Project Management Institute (PMI), an organization that was founded in 1969, has grown to become the leading non-profit professional association in the area of project management. In addition, PMI establishes many project management standards and provides seminars, educational programs, and professional certification. It also maintains the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). The PMBOK Guide (Project Management Institute 2000) provides widely used definitions for project and project management.
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to accomplish a unique purpose (4).
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project (6).
Attributes of a Project Projects can also be viewed in terms of their attributes: time frame, purpose, ownership, resources, roles, risks and assumptions, interdependent tasks, organizational change, and operating in an environment larger than the project itself.
Time Frame Because a project is a temporary endeavor, it must have a definite beginning and end. Many projects begin on a specific date and the date of completion is estimated. Some projects, on the other hand, have an immovable date when the project must be completed. In this case, it is necessary to work backwards to determine the date when the project must start. Keep in mind that your career should not consist of a single project, but a number of projects.
Purpose Projects are undertaken to accomplish something. An IT project can produce any number of results—a system, a software package, or a recommendation based on a study. Therefore, a project's goal must be to produce something tangible and of value to the organization. A project must have a goal to drive the project in terms of defining the work to be done, its schedule, and its budget, and to provide the project team with a clear direction.
Because it sets expectations that will directly influence the client's level of satisfaction, the project's goal must be clearly defined and agreed upon. The definition for project management suggests that project activities must meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations. Expectations and needs, however, cannot be met if the project's goal is not achieved. It is, therefore, important to keep in mind that a project should only be undertaken to provide some kind of value to the organization. Moreover, a specific and measurable project goal can be evaluated after the project is completed.
Ownership The project must provide something of value to an individual or group who will own the project's product after it is completed. Determining who owns this product is not always easy. For example, different groups may fight over who does or does not own the system, the data, the support, and the final cost of imp/ementi'ng and maintaining the system. Although a project may have many stakeholders (i.e., people or groups wfio nave a vested interest in the project's outcome), a project should have a clearly defined sponsor. The sponsor may be the end user, C(f$t6(ftef, or the client who (tag the abttity and desire to provide direction, funding, and other resources to the project.
Figure 1.1 The Scope, Schedule, and Budget Relationship—the Triple Constraint
Resources IT projects require time, money, people, and technology. Resources provide the means for achieving a project's goal and also act as a constraint. For example, the project's scope, or work to be accomplished, is determined directly by the project's goal—that is, if we know what we have to accomplish, we can then figure out how to accomplish it. If the project sponsor asks that an additional feature be added to the system, however, this request will undoubtedly require additional resources in terms of more work on the part of the project team. The use of a project resource has an associated cost that must be included in the overall cost of the project.
In the past, computer technology was relatively more expensive than the labor needed to develop a system. Today, the labor to build a system is relatively more expensive than the technology. As IT salaries increase, the cost of IT projects will become even more expensive. Therefore, if team members must do additional work, their time and the costs associated with time spent doing unscheduled work must be added to the project's schedule and budget. Schedule In other words, if scope increases, the schedule and budget of a project must increase accordingly. If the project's schedule and resources are fixed, then the only way to decrease the cost or schedule of the project may be to reduce the project's scope. Scope, schedule, and budget must remain in a sort of equilibrium to support a particular project goal. This relationship, sometimes referred to as the triple constraint, is illustrated in Figure 1.1. It should be a consideration whenever making a decision that affects the project's goal, scope,
Figure 1.1 The Scope, Schedule, and Budget Relationship—the Triple Constraint schedule, or budget.
Roles Today, IT projects require different individuals with different skill sets. Although these skills may be different on different projects, a typical project may include the following:
• Project Manager—The project manager is the team leader and is responsi ble for ensuring that all of the project management and technical develop ment processes are in place and are being carried out within a set of specific requirements, defined processes, and quality standards.
• Project Sponsor—The project sponsor may be the client, customer, or orga nizational manager who will act as a champion for the project and provide organizational resources and direction when needed.
• Subject Matter Expert(s) (SME)—The subject matter expert may be a user or client who has specific knowledge, expertise, or insight in a specific functional area needed to support the project. For example, if the organiza tion wishes to develop a system to support tax decisions, having a tax expert on the project team who can share his/her knowledge will be more productive than having the technical people try to learn everything about tax accounting while developing the system.
• Technical Expert(s) (TE)—Technical expertise is needed to provide a tech nical solution to an organizational problem. Technical experts can include systems analysts, network specialists, programmers, graphic artists, train ers, and so forth. Regardless of their job title, these individuals are respon sible for defining, creating, and implementing the technical and organizational infrastructure to support the product of the IT project.
Risks and Assumptions All projects have an element of risk, and some projects entail more risk than others. Risk can arise from many sources, both internal and external to the project team. For example, internal risks may arise from the estimation process or from the fact that a key member of the project team could leave in the middle of the project. External risks, on the other hand, could arise from dependencies on other contractors or vendors. Assumptions are what we use to estimate scope, schedule, and budget and to assess the risks of the project. There are many unknown variables associated with projects, and it is important to identify and make explicit all of the risks and assumptions that can impact the IT project.
Interdependent Tasks Project work requires many interdependent tasks. For example, a network cannot be installed until the hardware is delivered, or certain requirements cannot be incorporated into the design until a key user is interviewed. Sometimes the delay of one task can affect other subsequent, dependent tasks. The project's schedule may slip, and the project may not meet its planned deadline.
Organizational Change Projects are planned organizational change. Change must be understood and managed because implementation of the IT project will change the way people work. The potential for resistance, therefore, exists, and a system that is a technical success could end up being an organizational failure.
Operating in an Environment Larger than the Project Itself Organizations choose projects for a number of reasons, and the projects chosen can impact the organization (Laudon and Laudon 1996). It is important that the project manager and team understand the company's culture, environment, politics, and the like.
These organizational variables will influence the selection of projects, the IT infrastructure, and the role of IT within the organization. For example, a small, family-owned manufacturing company may have a completely different corporate culture, strategy, and structure than a start-up electronic commerce company. As a result, the projects selected, the technical infrastructure, and the role of IT for each organization will be different. The project team must understand both the technical and organizational variables so that the project can be aligned properly with the structure and strategy of the organization. Moreover, understanding the organizational variables can help the project team understand the political climate within the organization and identify potential risks and issues that could impede the project.
Was this article helpful?
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.