The concept of an integrated monitoring system illustrates integrated project management. Integrated planning encourages the joint assessment of impacts of various project scenarios on cost, schedule, quality, customer satisfaction, corporate competency, and growth. But regardless of how well project plans are put together and integrated, it is in monitoring that integration produces its most effective results. This is because the "system" as described in the project plan, rarely plays out in actual performance.
Monitoring project performance requires trade-offs, and trade-offs are an application of integration. For instance, trading off cost and time requires the project manager to see time and cost as a whole—and both in the context of risk. Rather than simply looking at the "burn rate" of the project and making decisions on cost based on rate of expenditure, an integrated approach requires looking at both cost and schedule. As cost variance from an original plan is positive, that is, as the project is able to produce to its milestones at lower than expected costs, the schedule implications of positive cost variance must be viewed at the same time. Thus integration of cost, risk, and time is achieved. Thus, as cost variance becomes more positive, it is quite possible that reductions in cost are at the expense of time.
Integration gets more complicated when three or more variables are being viewed and traded off. For instance, as time and cost variances are more positive, it is possible that potential impacts on product quality are being sacrificed. Substantial variances in cost and time either suggest that the baseline estimates are incorrect or that achievement of a quality deliverable is affected. Cost and time efficiencies could suggest skipping important quality processes, such as testing, and overages suggest that quality standards are coming at unexpectedly high costs and schedule.
Real integration during the project cycle is even more complicated when internal variables are added to the integration mix, such as company profit margins or resource efficiencies. Thus, at the same time when the project manager is keeping tabs on cost, time, and quality, the dynamics of the project may be having unexpected impacts on the business itself. Here we see that picture of the project perhaps doing well but using valuable resources that are needed elsewhere to achieve the company's overall strategic plan. This means that integration now occurs not only at the deliverable, process, and project team level, but also importantly at the business level. Trade-offs at the company level may result in reversing decisions made for fully integrated rational reasons at the project level. For instance, a project doing well in terms of budget and time and likely to satisfy a customer may be negatively impacted or even terminated for "bigger picture" issues, such as marketing, company finances, or acquisition and merger. Thus one expects that top management will integrate at a different level than the program or project manager; a company that generates respect for upper management is more likely to be able to resolve this built-in tension than one that ignores the potential of it happening.
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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.