Project management is the process and activity of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources, procedures and protocols to achieve specific goals in scientific or daily problems. A project is a temporary endeavour designed to produce a unique product, service or result1 with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables)2,[ undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives,3 typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations),4 which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.
The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals5 and objectives while honouring the preconceived constraints.6 The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget.7 The secondary — and more ambitious — challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives. There are a number of approaches to managing project activities including lean, iterative, incremental, and phased approaches.
Regardless of the methodology employed, careful consideration must be given to the overall project objectives, timeline, and cost, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all participants and stakeholders.
The traditional approach
A traditional phased approach identifies a sequence of steps to be completed. In the “traditional approach”, five developmental components of a project can be distinguished (four stages plus control):
Typical development phases of an engineering project
2. Planning and design
3. Execution and construction
4. Monitoring and controlling systems
Not all projects will have every stage, as projects can be terminated before they reach completion. Some projects do not follow a structured planning and/or monitoring process. And some projects will go through steps 2, 3 and 4 multiple times. PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management released in 1996 as a generic project management method.8 It combines the original PROMPT methodology (which evolved into the PRINCE methodology) with IBM’s MITP (managing the implementation of the total project) methodology. PRINCE2 provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework.
PRINCE2 focuses on the definition and delivery of products, in particular their quality requirements. As such, it defines a successful project as being output-oriented (not activity- or task-oriented) through creating an agreed set of products9 that define the scope of the project and provides the basis for planning and control, that is, how then to coordinate people and activities, how to design and supervise product delivery, and what to do if products and therefore the scope of the project has to be adjusted if it does not develop as planned.
In the method, each process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out to deliver a project’s outcomes as defined by its Business Case. This allows for continuous assessment and adjustment when deviation from the Business Case is required.
PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project. The governance framework of PRINCE2 – its roles and responsibilities – are fully described and require tailoring to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organisation.10
While talking about project management knowledge areas we mean: Integration management – making choices about where to concentrate resources and effort; anticipating potential issues; addressing these issues before they become critical; coordinating work; making trade-offs among competing objectives and alternatives. Scope management – the process required to ensure that the project includes all of the work required, and only the work required, completing the project successfully. Scope planning – how the project scope will be defined, verified, controlled. Scope definition – developing a detailed project scope statement as the basis for future project decisions. Create a plan – major project deliverables into small more manageable components. Scope verification – acceptance of the completed project deliverables. Scope control – controlling changes to the project scope.
Cost management – the process involved in planning, estimating, budgeting and controlling costs. Cost estimating – developing an approximation of the costs of the resources needed to complete project activities. Cost budgeting – aggregating the estimated costs of individual activities or work packages to establish a cost baseline. Cost control – controlling changes to the project budget.
Communications management – the process required to ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval and ultimate disposition of project information; provides the critical link between people and information. Communication planning – determining the information and communications needs of the project stakeholders. Information distribution – making needed information available to project stakeholders in a timely manner. Performance reporting – status reporting, progress measurement, and forecasting.
Manage stakeholders – managing communications to satisfy the requirements of and resolve issues with project stakeholders. Quality management – process to determine quality policies, objectives and responsibilities. Quality planning – identifying which quality standards are relevant to the project and determining how to satisfy them. Perform quality assurance – applying the planned, systematic quality activities to ensure that the project employs all processes needed to meet requirements. Perform quality control – monitoring specific project results to determine whether they comply with relevant quality standards and identifying ways to eliminate causes of unsatisfactory performance.
HR management – process that organize and manage the project team HR planning – identifying and documenting project roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships, as well as creating the staffing management plan. Acquire project team – obtaining the human resources needed to complete the project. Develop project team – improving the competencies and interaction of team members to enhance project performance. Manage project team – tracking team member performance, providing feedback, resolving issues and coordinating changes to enhance project performance. Procurement management – process to purchase and acquire the products, services or results needed from outside the project team to perform the work.
Plan purchase and acquisitions – determining what to purchase or acquire and determining when and how Plan contacting – documenting products, services and results requirements and identifying potential sellers. Request seller responses – obtaining information, quotations, bids, offers or proposals. Select sellers – reviewing offers, choosing among potential sellers and negotiating a written contract with each seller Contract administration – managing the relation between buyer and seller. Contract closure – completing and settling each contract.
Risk management – the process of conducting risk management planning, identification, analysis, responses and monitoring and control on a project. Risk management planning – deciding how to approach, plan and execute the risk management activities for a project. Risk management planning inputs
Enterprise environmental factors – risk and risk tolerance – expressed in policy statements or actions Organizational process assets – predefined approaches – risk categories; common definitions; standard templates; roles and responsibilities; authority levels Project scope statement
Project management plan
Risk management planning outputs
Risk management plan
1. Methodology – approach
2. Roles and responsibilities
5. Risk categories
6. Revised stakeholders tolerances
7. Report formats
Risk identification – determines which risks might affect the project and documents their characteristics. Risk identification inputs
Enterprise environmental factors – published information, commercial data bases, industry studies. Organizational process assets – information on prior projects Project scope management – project assumptions
Risk management plan –roles and responsibilities
Project management plan – schedule, cost, quality management.
Risk identification tools and techniques
Document reviews – plans, projects files, specifications
Information gathering techniques – brainstorming, SWOT ( strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ) Checklist analysis
Diagramming techniques – flow chart
Risk identification outputs
Risk register – list of identified risks; list of potential risks; root causes of risk; updated risk categories Risk identification template (below)
(how can the risk occur)
(what is the impact of the risk occurring)
Risk response planning – the process of developing options, and determining actions to enhance opportunities and reduce threats to the project’s objectives. Risk response planning inputs
Risk management plan – roles and responsibilities; risk thresholds Risk register – priority list of project risks.
Risk response planning tools and techniques:
Negative risks – avoid; transfer; mitigate
Positive risk – exploit; share; enhance
Threats and opportunities – acceptance
Contingency response strategy
Risk response planning outputs
Risk register – identified risk; risk owner and assigned responsibilities; agreed upon response strategies Project management plan – updates
Risk-related contractual agreements – insurance.
Risk monitoring and control – the process of identifying, analysing and planning for newly arising risks, keeping track of the identified risks and those on the watch list, reanalysing existing risk. Risk monitoring and control inputs
Risk management risk – assignment of people
Approved change requests
Work performance information
Risk monitoring and control tools and techniques:
Variance and trend analysis
Technical performance measurement
Risk monitoring and control outputs
Risk register (updates)
Recommended corrective actions
Recommended preventive actions
Organizational process assets (updates)
Project management plan (updates)11
How to identify and work with a project manager?
The project manager is the focal point of any project and a vital link between staff, stakeholders and the project steering group – also sometimes referred to as the project board. The project manager is responsible for making sure that a project is planned, developed, implemented, controlled and closed. It is becoming more and more common for professional project managers to be used outside their traditional industries of construction, architecture and IT. In many smaller businesses an existing member of staff can also take on the role of a project manager alongside their existing duties. When looking to appoint a project manager, it is important to consider the needs of a project and how much time is likely to be required to manage it.
Bear in mind that a project manager does not usually directly participate in the activities which produce the end result, but drives progress and manages the processes of the project instead. Therefore, a gifted designer may not be a good choice to manage a design project as this may not be where their strengths lie. As well as having generic management skills, a good project manager should be: confident and able to engage with and build relationships both internally and externally flexible and able to balance and prioritise often conflicting project constraints such as time, quality and cost well organised and diligent when it comes to time management and paperwork
If a project is fairly small, then it is common for an existing manager to take on the temporary role of a project manager, either as a secondment for an agreed amount of time, or alongside their day-to-day role. If the desired skill set is not readily available to a business either from existing staff or through the training of staff, then you should consider hiring a project manager either for a specific project or on a longer-term basis. This could be a on a freelance or fixed-term contract if you’re not likely to require a full-time position. For a more in-depth look at sourcing and recruiting new staff, see our section on finding new people. The project management sector has developed processes, tasks and terminology that you may not be familiar with. If you’re new to working with a project manager, make sure you ask them to explain any unfamiliar terms or even to avoid using such jargon from the outset.
Checklist – project management
There are many things to balance when managing a project and every project will have its own issues and procedures that need to be considered. This checklist outlines some key things to think about. It’s important to keep any planning, documentation and processes proportionate to the size and complexity of the project. Start-up and initiation
Is there a project mandate, brief and business case?
Have you checked the ‘lessons learned’ from previous projects? Have expectations and required outcomes been agreed between all relevant parties? Has an approach been defined?
Have the project objectives and scope been stated?
Have weaknesses, constraints and risks been identified and recorded so that measures can be taken to reduce or remove them?
Is there a need for a project board or project group and if so, have roles been identified and duties agreed? Is there a project manager? Do you have the necessary skills in the business or do you need to think about taking on someone new? Is any training required?
Have the roles of any external parties – suppliers – been clearly identified and discussed?
Planning and review
Is there a project plan?
Have any assumptions and timelines been compared to previous, similar projects and confirmed by everyone involved on the project to make sure they are realistic? Has time and effort been factored in to analyse any project issues arising during the project and to manage the project itself? Are checkpoints or milestones being met on time and is progress being reviewed on a regular basis? Is there a need for a document and/or audit trail and if so, has this responsibility been agreed and a system put in place?
Is there a need to hand over work and responsibilities once the project is closed? If so, have the relevant people been identified and made aware of the ‘what, when and how’ they will inherit? Has a method of making information available once the project has closed been identified and agreed? Have you carried out a project review or ‘lessons learned’ exercise? 12 Just as it is important to formally kick off a project, it is also important to successfully close the project. The value of having a planned project termination is in leveraging all of the information and experience gathered throughout the project. If the solution is implemented and the team immediately disbands, you don’t have an opportunity to wrap up the loose ends, do staff evaluations, document key learnings or ensure that appropriate deliverables are transitioned to support. Of course, a project can end unsuccessfully as well. Even in this case, there are key learnings, team evaluations and other wrap-up activities to make the most of what was done on the project.
Projects represent a method of organising work which is particularly useful to introduce innovations, address new challenges or find solutions for problems. Project success depends on the quality of planning. A good quality project plan provides a basis for adequate follow-up and evaluation and increases the visibility and sustainability of outcomes. Warning signs during project implementation should be taken seriously and be addressed timely. Evaluation and dissemination should be planned from the onset.
“My personal philosophy is not to undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible” – Edwin H. Land (polaroid camera inventor)