What is Project Management?

The purpose and benefits of project management.

As I describe in my Bio my second Bachelors degree was in Project Management.
Not only did I learn and was challenged more than originally planned, I was most struck by how of my knowledge related to it was incorrect and even dangerous to apply within technical
management.
Thankfully, the Project Management Institute (PMI) via their Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), helped me to unlearn and begin anew to correctly understand project
management.

So, what is Project Management?

In short, it’s the art of ensuring a project (defined below) is completed on time, within budget, and meets scope and quality requirements.  Scope refers to a set of promised features.
Quality refers to the finished result and may also includes the approach such as in manufacturing which may require quality management approaches defined by ISO.
Notice I didn’t use names of any software or websites. People who define or think of project management using such terms should be avoided, no, ran from!
Defining project management by software is similar to attempting neurosurgery by learning “scalpel.”

Now that we’ve defined project management, what is a project?
One of the biggest misconceptions about projects is that most if not all work done during the course of a day falls under “projects” or may be managed using project management.
While there are many theories of management that may be used for work that doesn’t qualify as a project such as Six Sigma (for ongoing, systems work), attempting to misuse management
theories on work for which they are not intended, is in fact not “better than nothing.”
“Crowbar-ing” work into a management discipline for which it was not designed wastes valuable resources in time, money, and people.

Project Management was meant only for work that:

  • Is a Temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end.
  • Will meet unique/specific goals and objectives.
  • Will deliver beneficial change or business value.

Project Phases

Initiating Phase

There are several phases to each project: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, Closing.
Initiating represents the beginning of a project and might also be the most important.
The primary purpose of this phase is to identify primary stakeholders and ensure team unity regarding the project’s purpose.
Since misconception invariably arise during the course of the project, resolving them during this phase is the last point during the project where they will require more resources and
possibly delay project delivery.
Initiating prepares a successful project – when it’s decided and explained what the project will deliver, how, and when the customer may expect completion, as well as what criteria will constitute its success. Also, it’s important that such criteria be linked to the business value of the project.

Planning Phase

Once the Initiating phase is completed, the iterative “doing” part of the project begins: Planning, Executing, and Controlling.
Planning provides a clearer understanding of the project.
Large units of work should be identified along with any dependencies.  Deliverables will rise from the list as well as time estimations and necessary contingency plans for risk mitigation.
How the project will be approached must be communicated to all team members.
Also, the method for tracking progress should be agreed upon.

Executing Phase

Executing represents the core of this “doing” portion of phases and unfortunately what some feel is the only or at least the most important of the project.
In reality, if the previous two phases aren’t completed correctly, this phase is almost certainly doomed to fail or at the very least, will consume exponentially more resource
to complete.
Ownership represents one of the most important aspects this phase. Team members must assume responsibility for delivery of each deliverable.

Controlling Phase

Once work has begun, Controlling tracking the project’s progress and adaptability to changes.
When measuring progress, the customer and project team must agree when a deliverable is complete.
In addition to measuring deliverables which relates to the project’s scope, time, cost, and quality within the project must also be tracked.

Closing Phase

During the first phase of the project, the criteria for the project was defined to indicate when it would approaching the end.
The important most aspect of closing the project is not fixating on a particular date as much as gaining customer agreement that the criteria for success has been met and the final details of the project may be covered such as transitioning, releasing resources, training, etc.

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