Understanding Project Management

In order to understand project management, one must begin with the definition of a project. A project can be considered to be any series of activities and tasks that:

• Have a specific objective to be completed within certain specifications

• Have defined start and end dates

• Have funding limits (if applicable)

• Consume human and nonhuman resources (i.e., money, people, equipment)

• Are multifunctional (i.e., cut across several functional lines)

Project management, on the other hand, involves project planning and project monitoring and includes such items as:

• Project planning

• Definition of work requirements

• Definition of quantity and quality of work

• Definition of resources needed

• Project monitoring

• Tracking progress

• Comparing actual outcome to predicted outcome

• Analyzing impact

• Making adjustments

Successful project management can then be defined as having achieved the project objectives:

• At the desired performance/technology level

• While utilizing the assigned resources effectively and efficiently

• Accepted by the customer

The potential benefits from project management are:

• Identification of functional responsibilities to ensure that all activities are accounted for, regardless of personnel turnover

• Minimizing the need for continuous reporting

• Identification of time limits for scheduling

• Identification of a methodology for trade-off analysis

• Measurement of accomplishment against plans

• Early identification of problems so that corrective action may follow

• Improved estimating capability for future planning

• Knowing when objectives cannot be met or will be exceeded

Unfortunately, the benefits cannot be achieved without overcoming obstacles such as:

• Project complexity

• Customer's special requirements and scope changes

• Organizational restructuring

• Project risks

• Changes in technology

• Forward planning and pricing

Project management can mean different things to different people. Quite often, people misunderstand the concept because they have ongoing projects within their company and feel that they are using project management to control these activities. In such a case, the following might be considered an appropriate definition:

Project management is the art of creating the illusion that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts when, in fact, it was dumb luck.

Although this might be the way that some companies are running their projects, this is not project management. Project management is designed to make better use of existing resources by getting work to flow horizontally as well as vertically within the company. This approach does not really destroy the vertical, bureaucratic flow of work but simply requires that line organizations talk to one another horizontally so work will be accomplished more smoothly throughout the organization. The vertical flow of work is still the responsibility of the line managers. The horizontal flow of work is the responsibility of the project managers, and their primary effort is to communicate and coordinate activities horizontally between the line organizations.

Figure 1-1 shows how many companies are structured. There are always "class or prestige" gaps between various levels of management. There are also functional gaps between working units of the organization. If we superimpose the management gaps on top of the functional gaps, we find that companies are made up of small operational islands that refuse to communicate with one another for fear that giving up information may strengthen their opponents. The project manager's responsibility is to get these islands to communicate cross-functionally toward common goals and objectives.

The following would be an overview definition of project management:

Project management is the planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of company resources for a relatively short-term objective that has been established to complete specific goals and objectives. Furthermore, project management utilizes the systems approach to management by having functional personnel (the vertical hierarchy) assigned to a specific project (the horizontal hierarchy).

The above definition requires further comment. Classical management is usually considered to have five functions or principles:

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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