To understand project management, you first need to understand the difference between an organization’s routine operations and a project. In order to be a true project, it must be temporary in nature, with a defined beginning and end, and therefore be defined in scope and resources. It must also be unique, differing from routine operations in that it is comprised of a specific set of activities designed to accomplish a singular goal. Since a project is not a routine operation, a project team is usually made up of resources that don’t work together regularly, sometimes across multiple departments. Since projects are not routine by their nature, formal project management is critical to maximizing their chances of measurable success.
Unlike routine operations, a project is distinct in two ways. A project is both temporary and unique.
Projects take many forms. It’s building a new office building, running a campaign for political office, developing software, or even an organization’s relief effort after a natural disaster. All of these examples must be formally managed to be delivered successfully on time and on budget. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), project management is the application of knowledge, skills, and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It is a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals – and thus, better compete in their markets.
Project management can be broken down into five process groups. These groups describe the activities that should be focused on through various phases of a project. These process groups are
All process groups are just as important as the rest, though the amount of effort (man-hours) applied to each is not equal. Through a normal project life-cycle, the amount of the effort increases gradually until it peaks during the Execution phase when most of the project activities are underway.
Project Initiation pulls together the key foundational documents that define the project. Within Initiation, the project charter authorizes the existence of the project, defines project sponsorship and governance, describes the business needs and business case to justify the project, and authorizes the Project Manager to apply organizational resources to deliver project activities.
During project Planning, the Project Manager begins development of the project management plan, which outlines how the project will be managed. The plan indicates how the entire project will be planned, executed, monitored, controlled and closed. During this phase, you must also collect requirements and define project scope as well break down the work into smaller work packages. Activities are then sequenced, resources are assigned and estimates for effort and duration are gathered to begin developing the project schedule. Other important considerations during the Planning phase are to plan for cost, risk, quality and communication.
During project Execution, processes are performed to implement what is described in the Project Management Plan. Since this is the process group where most of the work takes place, it is the most time consuming and costly phase of the project. Throughout all phases of the project life-cycle, there is a requirement to manage quality by monitoring that the project is on time and within budget, as well as to controlling change as it relates to project requirements, scope, and stakeholder expectations.
It is during Monitoring and Controlling that change requests, defect fixes, changes to the project scope and plan, and ultimate project deliverables are reviewed and approved or rejected.
Once all of the deliverables of the project have been created they must be formally delivered to the client. This occurs during the Closing process group. In addition to project delivery, there may be other administrative and/or contractual procedures that must be closed out, such as updating systems to take into account a newly developed product or compensating third-party vendors that contributed to the project. The ultimate output of project Closing is the formal acceptance and sign-off of the project deliverables by the client.
With so much going into the making of a successful project, it’s no wonder that so many projects fail in the real world. This is why so many leading organizations across the world have been turning to formal project management within their organization as an effective way to control spending and improve project results. So, why project management? The value: greater efficiency, lower costs, more reliable business outcomes, and increased client and stakeholder satisfaction. It is for these reasons that Project Management delivers.