Define Project Management Basics

A project is a temporary work endeavor that creates a unique product, service, or result.  It has a clearly defined beginning and end.  The end of a project is reached when either its objectives are met, the need for the project no longer exists, or it is determined that the objectives cannot be met.  Progressive elaboration is the process of development in which additional layers of detail are defined over the course of a project.

A project:

  • Is undertaken to create a lasting outcome
  • Has clearly defined beginning and end points
  • Has a finite time frame to produce the expected outcome
  • Has resources allocated according to need.

A project creates unique deliverables.  It can:

  • Produce products or artifacts that become the end item or a component item
  • Deliver services to business function supporting production or distribution.
  • Produce results as outcomes or documents

A subproject is an independently manageable component of an existing project.  A project can have multiple subprojects, and they in turn can have even smaller subprojects.  Usually, a subproject is given on contract either to an external enterprise or to another functional unit in an organization.

Project management is defined by the PMI as ‘the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.” Managing projects typically involves scheduling, identifying requirements, establishing objectives, balance quality, scope, time, and cost, and addressing the concerns and expectations of the stakeholders.

Effective project management teams are expected to draw upon a comprehensive working knowledge of five recognized areas of expertise, including:

  • The project management body of knowledge
  • Application area knowledge, standards, and regulations
  • Project environment knowledge
  • General management knowledge and skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Project management is an iterative, cyclical process.

It is the responsibility of a project manager to communicate cross-functionally, manage efforts of resources who are external or internal to the company, and deliver work on time within the allotted budget and specifications for quality.

Projects are often sued as a means of achieving the organization’s strategic plan.  Some of the strategic considerations that authorize a project are market demands, organizational needs, customer requests, technological advancements, or legal requirements.

A program is a set of related projects that may have a common objective.  It offers great control over the constituent projects and delivers benefits that the organization can use to meet its goals.  A program is managed by a program manager, and the individual projects are managed by a program manager, and the individual projects are managed by project managers who work for the program manager.  However, all projects need not be part of programs.  Projects that do not have a common objective but are still managed in a group are generally known as ‘multiple projects’.

A portfolio is a collection of projects, programs, and other operational work to achieve the strategic business objectives of an organization.  The projects in a portfolio may or may not be independent, but they are grouped to give management a broader view of the organization’s projects and their adherence to organizational objectives.  For a project to be part of a portfolio, its attributes such as cost, resource requirements, timelines, strategic goals, and benefits should be in line with other projects in the portfolio.  Portfolios are generally managed by a senior manager or senior management teams.  While program management includes releated and interdependent projects, a portfolio is a collection of several unrelated projects that support a significant product line or major goals.

Operations are ongoing and repetitive tasks that produce the same outcome every time they are performed.  The purpose of operations is to carry out day-to-day organizational functions, generate income to sustain the business, and increase the value of organizational assets.  Operational processes are aligned with the business requirements of the organization.  Therefore, when organizations update or adopt new objectives based on organizational needs, customer requirements, or market demand, these processes are continuously revised to accommodate the changes.  Such process revisions can be considered an internal project.

A project management office (PMO) is a centralized, permanent, ongoing administrative unit or department that serves to improve project management performance within an organization.  The people in the PMO provide support on project management concepts, tools, training, and mentoring to project managers; they may or may not actually do hands-on project management themselves.  The PMO will try to maintain standards across projects and improve efficiency.  It has the authority to make key decisions in the projects.  In some organizations, the project managers are provided or assigned by the PMO.

PMOs function differently in different organizations, depending on the business needs.  Unlike programs, the projects supported by the PMO may not be related to each other.  The structure and function of the PMO depends upon the respective organizational requirements.  The PMO may be referred to in some organizations as the ‘project office’, ‘program office’, ‘central project office’, ‘project management center of excellence’, or ‘program management office’.  Functions of the PMO include:

  • Maintaining project historical information
  • Managing shared resources across projects managed by the PMO
  • Monitoring project timelines, budget, and quality at an enterprise level
  • Identifying and implementing new project management methodologies
  • Creating effective project policies and templates
  • Helping project managers develop estimates and schedules
  • Managing communication across projects

A project stakeholder is a person who has a business interest in the outcome of a project or who is actively involved in its work.  Stakeholders take on various roles and responsibilities; their participating in the project will have an impact on its outcome and its chances for success.  Stakeholders may have competeing interests, needs, priorities, and opinions.  They may have conflicting visions for the project’s successful outcome.  Project managers must identify the internal as well as external stakeholders as early as possible, learn what their needs are, and secure their participating in defining the project’s parameters and success criteria.  While it may be difficult to negotiate to a consensus early in the project, it is far less painful and costly than getting to the end of the project only to learn that someone’s needs were not met or were misunderstood.

Customers – may be multiple individuals or companies with varying requirements and specifications.  Some of their responsibilities include:

  • defining the needs for the project output,
  • taking delivery of the project output
  • paying for the project output.

Sponsors may be individuals or groups that provide financial assistance to the project.  If the sponsor is outside of the company, such as a customer, the duties listed here may be the responsibility of the project manager:

  • Facilitates the financial resources for the project
  • Signs and publishes the project charter
  • Has ultimate responsibility for the success of the project
  • Signs off on all planning documents and change requests
  • Authorizes team to use resources
  • Champions and supports the project manager and team
  • Reviews progress and quality
  • Cuts through red tape and expedites activities.

Portfolio managers or the executives in the portfolio review board are a part of the project selection committee and belong to the high-level project governance side of the organization.  Their review considerations may include:

  • Gauging the return on investment (ROI) of the project
  • Identifying the value of the project
  • Analyzing the risks involved in taking up the project
  • Identifying the factors that may influence the project

Program managers in coordination with project managers monitor related projects in a program to obtain maximum benefits.  They also provide guidance and support to every individual project.

A PMO is an administrative unit that supervises and coordinates the management of all projects in an organization.  It focuses on providing:

  • Administrative support services such as processes, methodologies, policies, standards, and templates.
  • Training and mentoring support to project managers and project team members
  • Support and guidance in managing projects and usage of tools
  • Support for resource allocation
  • Assistance in better communication among project managers, sponsors, and other stakeholders.

Project managers are individuals responsible for managing all aspects of the project.  The project manager:

  • Works with stakeholders to define the project
  • Plans, schedules, and budgets project activities with team input
  • Works with the team to carry out project plans
  • Monitors performance and takes corrective action
  • Identifies, monitors, and mitigates risks
  • Keeps the sponsor and the stakeholders informed
  • Requests and documents scope changes
  • Provides timely report on project metrics

Project management teams are resources who perform project management activities.

The project team comprises the manager and team members.  The team members perform project work and may not be involved in the management side of the project.  The team contains resources from different groups who possess knowledge on specific subjects or have unique skill sets to carry out project work.

Functional managers are individuals who are a part of the management in the administrative or functional side, such as human resources, finances, accounting, or even procurement of the business in the organization.  They sometimes act as subject matter experts or may provide services needed for the project.

Operations managers manage the core business areas such as the design, manufacturing, provisioning, testing, research and development, or maintenance side of the organization.  Some of their functions include:

  • Directly managing the production and the maintenance of the final products and services that the organization provides
  • Handing off technical project documentation and other records to the operations management group upon project completion.

Sellers are external parties who enter into a contractual agreement with the organization and provide components or services needed for the project.  Business partners are external to the company and provide specialized support in tasks such as installation, customization, training, or support.

Positive stakeholders usually benefit from the successful outcomes of a project, while negative stakeholders are keen on the negative outcome of a successful project.  A good example of positive stakeholders is business leaders from a community who benefit from an industrial expansion project because it involves economic growth for the community.  The negative stakeholders in this scenario would be the environmental groups who are more concerned about the harm this project might cause the environment.

Project managers are responsible for meeting project objectives and their job role is different from that of a functional or operations manager.  Based on the organizational structure, a project manager may report to a portfolio or program manager.  The project manager works in tandem with his or her manager to meet the project objectives and ensure that the project plan is in alignment with the overall program plan.  A project manager should have the following characteristics:

Knowledge – an in depth knowledge of project management

Performance – performing well in projects through the application of project management practices

Personal Effectiveness – Includes the project manager’s attitude, personality, and leadership skills.

Enterprise environmental factors are the internal or external factors that can have a positive or negative influence on the project outcome.  These factors can either support or limit the project management options and act as inputs for planning processes.  Examples of enterprise environmental factors may include organizational culture, the human resources pool, marketplace conditions, stakeholder risk tolerances, political situations, and project management information systems.  Other factors include external factors such as industrial standards or government regulations, commercial databases, and internal factors such as infrastructure, personnel administration, work authorization systems, and communication channels established within the organization.

© 2012, Within this mind. All rights reserved.

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About Kinda Strange

I am a student at the University of Phoenix majoring in information technology. This is where I come to babble incoherently…err…make notes, talk about things that catch my interest, share ideas, etc...
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