PROJECT MANAGEMENT

WHY IT IS NEEDED

Every project can be characterized by various levels of complexity and have different aims, scope or limitations. An example of a project may be the market introduction of a new product or service, development of a strategy to gain new customers or simply the organization of training or a conference. Regardless of the goal or complexity of a project it needs to be properly managed.

Correct project management increases the probability of success and enables the achievement of significantly better results with lower costs and reduced effort in less time. Through appropriate project management the risk of delays, need for costly corrections or withdrawal from project realization are significantly reduced.

The successful completion of a project requires the carrying out of subsequent phases of its realization. On account of the unique character of as well as varying complexity of projects it is difficult to define one, universal process of achieving this goal. Despite all that we would like to show certain procedures which are common to all projects.

1. Define and plan a project

Prior to the start of every project you should know that many projects usually fail because of poor team engagement, insufficient resources, unrealistic expectations, insufficient support from management, changes to requirements and specifications, insufficient planning, loss of business need. Keeping that in mind could help you manage your project successfully.

At the very beginning you have to define the project or find answers the following questions:

  1. What needs to be done?
  2. How will we do it?
  3. What do we need it to get it done?
  4. Who is going to do it?
  5. When will it be done?
  6. How much will it cost?
  7. What is the risk of failure?

To find answers to the questions posed above just follow the steps listed below.

  • Step 1. Define the idea behind the project – consider the reason for implementing the project or what it is that you are trying to do. Try to create a working concept (description) of the project even if it is only a few sentences or drawings.
  • Step 2. Determine the scope of the work – think about the work schedule, identified tasks and actions essential to the realization of the project. Then divide it up into small “pieces”.
  • Step 3. Plan for project resources – identify resources which will be necessary to realize the project. Depending on the type of undertaking you will need material resources (such as real estate, machines, equipment, office materials) as well as financial, human and organizational resources. You have to specify their types, amounts and qualities as well as the moment in the project’s schedule when they will be needed.
  • Step 4. Select your team – make a decision as to who will become the project’s supervisor and people who will make up the project realization team. Then organize a meeting initiating the project, so-called kick off meeting, where you will have the opportunity to meet one another and talk about the project. Make sure that every member of the team possesses appropriate competencies in regard to project realization and understands the project guidelines. Additionally, define the responsibilities and goals of every team member.
  • Step 5. Develop a schedule – plan the deadlines for the realization of individual tasks. The tasks should be arranged chronologically with dates of their initiation and completion. It is also necessary to assign each task to people who will be responsible for their realization. The tool which we recommend to visualize the planned time of project realization is the Gantt chart about which we have already talked about in the New product development schedule.  Remember to consult your schedule with the team. Together consider whether the deadlines are realistic and if some tasks can be worked on simultaneously.
  • Step 6. Plan your budget – estimate the project realization costs. To do so you must identify various types of costs. To make project’s budget clear and understandable outline it in a form of a table. Costs connected with the following should not be neglected:
    • work of team members,
    • realization of tasks by outside companies
    • materials,
    • training, business trips, etc.,
    • office operations, accounting, marketing, etc.,
    • other undertakings realized as part of the project.
  • Step 7. Determine risk levels – consider potential dangers which could appear during the realization of individual stages of the project. Then perform an analysis assessing risk and its eventual effects. Establish ways in which it will be monitored and controlled. Develop an emergency plan or a description of actions which will be taken when identified setbacks occur.

 

During the phase of defining and planning a project you must come to understand the relations between three project parameters forming the so called project limiting triangle: project cost, project scope and project duration. The influence of all of these factors is key because it is impossible to change one without changing the others and if one is altered than it is necessary to optimize the others to keep the triangle in balance. The combination of these attributes should be understood in the following manner: a decrease in project realization time will cause a rise in costs and a decrease of its scope. Reduction of costs will increase completion time and a reduction of scope. Increase of the project’s scope will cause a rise of costs and lengthen completion time.

2. Initiate and control a project

If you followed the steps presented above, project management will be pure pleasure. Now all you have to do is to:

  • stick to the plan but stay flexible. Be prepared to change the plan if you encounter unexpected events. Try to record all changes occurring during work on the project, determine their causes and the effects which they have on the project.
  • monitor and control – especially (1) incurred costs in respect to the budget, (2) work quality, (3) adherence to deadlines, (4) changes to the project plan and (5) availability of resources.
  • react to maintain the project within predetermined time, budget and quality constraints – if you notice any deviations from the plan norms implement corrective action.
  • communicate with your team – organize short gatherings which can take the shape of supervisory (discussing project progress), creative (developing solutions or ideas) or decision-making (presentation of various options for acting) meetings. Additionally try to visualize the tasks of individual team members. You can prepare a task board which anyone can inspect and that displays cards with tasks to be completed, ones that are being realized as well as finished ones.

3. Keep an eye on all areas of project management

Always remember that the project management should be approached as an integrated whole and none of the areas requiring management should be neglected. Keep in mind the following areas of management occur during project realization[1]:

  • Management of human resources. The idea behind human resource management is the effective utilization of project participants through the planned organization of a project team, employee recruitment or the establishment of a group for project implementation.
  • Communication management. Management of communication has as its aim the appropriate flow of information within the project team. This process is based upon the planning of communication, dissemination of information to every project participant and reporting or administration of activities during project realization.
  • Project quality management. The correct project management realizes the expectations of project recipient through the planning of quality characteristics, guaranteeing that they are met as well as the controlling the quality properties of completed project activities.
  • Cost management. Cost management ensures that the project remains within planned financial constraints. It consists of: the assessment of financial, human, material and informational assets required for project realization, estimation of project realization costs and finding funding for those costs as well as monitoring the adherence to the planned budget.
  • Risk management. Risk management aims at the recognition of dangers, analysis and the assessment of risk, planning of prevention activities and making sure that they are carried out. Risk management is a part of every stage of project realization, from its beginning all the way to its conclusion.
  • Time management. Management of time ensures that all activities are realized within a defined time frame. It consists of determining which tasks must be carried out, their order and the time frame within which they must be completed, assessment of the time necessary for the realization of all work, scheduling and monitoring of that schedule. To assess the time necessary for the completion of particular project tasks it is possible to use[2]:
    • the project task realization time assessment method which comes down to comparing the realization time of planned tasks with completion times of similar tasks realized under similar conditions;
    • the analysis of historical data which is based on assuming that the task’s completion time will be similar to that of analogous activities of past projects;
    • the technique of using the advice of experts. This method relies on the gauging of task completion times on the basis of the knowledge and experience of experts;
    • the Delphi method which uses the knowledge possessed by the members of the project team.

In managing project time frames it must be remembered that regardless of the technique which we are using the estimated time may change and differ from the one that was assumed. To avoid problems resulting from schedule changes a certain tolerance for possible deviations should be accepted.

[1] J. Klimiuk, The role of project supervisor and the project team in project management, “Fire safety and technology” 2009 no. 3, pgs. 40-42.

[2] B. Barchański, Selected aspects of assessing time of project activities, in: J. Szynal, Management Sciences, Wroclaw University of Economics Press, Wroclaw 2014, pgs. 12-19.

4. Consider specific methods in case of more complex projects

Above we have presented you with a general outline of how to act during project realization which can be successfully utilized to manage a project with any level of complexity. If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge in this matter we suggest that you become familiar with the various methods of project management.

In literature it is possible to identify over 40 different methods of project management. Ones which are most common as well as the most universal include: the PRINCE2 and the PMBOK methods. We will not describe them exactly here, but we want to signal their existence.

PRINCE2 (Project In Controlled Environment) was created in 1989 in Britain by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency.  PRINCE2 is a licensed product and it helps to successfully deliver projects of any size or complexity.
Built from a wealth of experience and knowledge PRINCE2 provides the essentials for managing any project. The PRINCE2 method is based on four integrated elements of principles, themes, processes and the project environment (fig. 1).


Figure 1. The Structure of PRINCE2 Source

Further information regarding the PRINCE2 method you can find on the official website of the Axelos company at: https://www.axelos.com/best-practice-solutions/prince2.

 

The PMBOK Guide (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) is a set of standards and solutions concerning project management published by the Project Management Institute. The PMBOK standards provide a foundation for project management knowledge and represent the four areas of the profession: project, program, portfolio and the organizational approach to project management. They are the foundation on which practice standards and industry-specific extensions are built. According PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition, project management is based on 47 logically grouped project management processes categorized into five process groups: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, closing.

More information concerning PMBOK you can find on the official Project Management Institute website at: https://www.pmi.org/.

5. Conclude and assess the project

Once you have successfully completed a project, it’s not fully finished until you conclude and assess it. You still have to tackle the following tasks:

  1. Make sure that the project documentation is complete – if it is not, complete it.
  2. Evaluate project team members.
  3. Compare the actual results of the project with the project plan.
  4. Prepare the final report containing its realization time, costs, quality/results and exploitation of resources. It should also include a description of work done as part of the project as well as problems encountered during its realization.
  5. Organize a project team meeting to summarize the project. Don’t forget to thank all team members for their effort and involvement in the project’s realization.

Finally you’ve deserved to go home, get comfortable in your favorite armchair and… be proud of having concluded the project.

THE RESULTS

After finishing this topic you have the full background to be able to define, plan, monitor and control a project. You know what areas of project management you should keep your eye on. You understand what are the relations between project costs, scope and completion time and even got acquainted with few most popular methods for project management.