What is Project Management?
Project Management is the systematic approach to delivering a project from start to finish. Using predetermined objectives such as scope, quality, time and cost, the outcome of successful project management is determined by the equal satisfaction of all those involved.
For successful project management it is essential that project managers carry out the following in their execution of the project:
Successful Project management – Item One – Business Need
Before any project begins, it is essential that it is proven that there is a real business need. The business need must be clear in the required deliverables and these must be documented before a project manager begins to commit resources. By adopting this approach the project manager is more likely to have guaranteed project management success.
Successful Project management – Item Two – Stakeholder involvement
Stakeholder and Sponsors must be actively involved in the project and not just passive customers. They must be involved early on in the project to help define deliverables. They are a key element in moving the project forward and where Project managers are having difficulty in obtaining cooperation or resources, they should assist. It is essential that they are available at regular review intervals – maintaining project momentum.
Successful Project management – Item Three – Focus on Deliverables
Focus on the three main areas of project management success – these are completing deliverables on time, within budget and at a level of quality that is accepted by sponsors and stakeholders alike. Also it is essential that projects are completed safely – this especially applies to construction where man hours worked without incident are a key measure of success. It is down to the project manager to ensure that the project team remains focused on achieving these goals, so it is essential that they are clearly identified from the start.
Successful Project management – Item Four – Planning
Planning is the key to successful project management. Every project manager worth their salt will tell you that detailed, logical plans are the key to a successfully managed project. The whole team must buy in to the plan and be aware that external events to the project may impact upon it, so planning and more planning is key to project management.
Successful Project management – Item Five – Communication
Projects are finite and timely delivery is key. It is therefore essential that project managers manage their project and their project team accordingly. It is essential that the project has momentum, moving it towards completion. Projects have limited time, money and other resources and often team members have a number of other responsibilities. The project manager, through regular status meetings and complying with the stage gate process, can ensure that team members are focused on project deliverables and the deadline.
Successful Project management – Item Six – Project Lifecycle
Successful project management relies on a frame work called the project lifecycle. This is a model that ensure that best practice is integral to project plans. The project lifecycle aids the quality of work by minimising shortcuts which are often resultant in re-work.
Typically project lifecycles involve the broad headings of: Project Initiation, Project Planning, Project Execution and Project Closure.
Successful Project management – Item Seven – Clear Direction
Early on in the project, project managers and the project management team must have a clear understanding on the finished deliverables that they are aiming for. This is to ensure that everyone is focused and moving in the same direction as vague descriptions will only spell trouble. It is essential that everyone knows where the project is heading and agrees to it.
Successful Project management – Item Eight – Stakeholder Buy-in
For successful project management, it is essential that the project manager obtains clear approval and sign off’s by sponsors and other key stakeholders. It is essential that anyone who has sufficient power to reject or impose a change to deliverables after project completion must be required to examine and approve deliverables as they are being completed.
Successful Project management – Item Nine – Right first time
Project management is all about getting it right first time. Successful project managers must upwardly manage and demonstrate to sponsors and senior management why it is necessary to invest the time to do things properly – resulting in quality deliverables. This is of particular importance when budgets are tight and management are looking to maximise value for money.
Successful Project management – Item Ten – Authority with Responsibility
Project managers, must be given the authority to execute the project. All too often project managers are held to project outcomes, but they are at the mercy of others for resources. They must have enough power to ensure that they are truly in control of the project deliverables, through access to plant for example and the allocation of resources etc.
Successful Project management – Item Eleven – Selling the Project
Market your project. The project manager must act as the sales person for the project. It is essential that commitment to the project is maintained; therefore the project manager must remind the stakeholder of the business need behind the project ensuring that they are committed to help the project move to completion.
Successful Project management – Item Twelve – Continuous Assessment
Project management is all about evolvement – there is no point tearing off in one direction to find that all the resources have been invested in something that is not going to work. Progress the project incrementally and review at every stage to check that the project really is answering the business need.
Successful Project management – Item Thirteen – Continuous Improvement
Finally the project manager must learn from what they and the team have done. After project completion, they must perform a project review. What has gone well and what has not – making sure that this is documented, so that next time round they do not fall into the same pit falls. It is important to use the lessons learnt so not to waste time and money in “re-inventing the wheel.”
Project Management – Project Lifecycle
Project Initiation – this typically involves:
Developing a Business Case
A business case is essential if a project manager wants to gain approval for the project and gain confidence in the solution from stakeholders – especially sponsors.
Within the business case, the project manager will want to present all the options, identify the preferred solution, and highlight the risks associated to the solution. The project manager will also present the solution to the appropriate stakeholders to obtain that all important funding.
Carrying out a Feasibility Study
By undertaking a feasibility study – the project manager invests time and resources in fully researching the business problem and identifying the alternatives, identify the benefits and the costs of each solution, and then recommending the preferred solution. The project manager will then document all the results in a feasibility report and issue to the stakeholders. This technique is often referred to as ‘front end loading’ – investing up front to ensure that the project truly does answer the business need.
Appointing the Project Team
Successful project management is largely due to the team that the project manager appoints – it is essential that the team has the right skills for the job. A pre-requisite of appointing the team is to create Job Descriptions for the team members, being clear on the purpose of the role, the key responsibilities and who the job holder will be reporting to. The creation of an organisation chart is important as it outlines how all members of the project team fit. It is essential that the project manager is clear on the skills and experiences that the project team require and the relevant qualifications that are needed. Within the job description the project manager can also identify the success criteria for the project, so ensuring from the start of the project what is expected.
The Project Office
Successful project management is not just about the people, it is essential that you have the right environment too. The project manager needs to identify the right location for the project team. Ideally the team should sit in close proximity- this will encourage communication and will prevent the silo effect. It is essential that you have the right infrastructure to support your project team, Welfare and IT being key. The project manager must ensure that they have procured that right equipment and tools. Under the banner of the “Project Office”, the project manager should define the project roles, so that all team members know their remit and responsibilities towards successful project management delivery. The project manager will also ensure that suitable standards and processes are in place in support of the project and its quality delivery.
Project Phase Review
Successful project management relies on reviewing the project throughout the lifecycle. Reviews look at whether the project is currently delivering to schedule, whether allocated budget is sufficient at the review point, whether deliverables have been produced and approved. The project phase review will also will also look at whether risks have been controlled and mitigated, it will highlight any issues and whether they have been properly resolved, along with showing that any changes to the project are properly tracked and overall confirm that the project is on track. The project phase review ensures that the sponsor is keep appraised with progress on deliverables to date and encourages further buy in.
Project Planning, this typically involves:
Every successful project manager works to a project plan and is the most important document, providing the project manager with the roadmap ahead. A project plan will identify all of the phases, activities and tasks required. The project manager’s plan will outline the effort required to complete the tasks and it will document all the project interdependencies. The plan will list all the planning assumptions and constrains and will also contain a detailed schedule.
Successful project management relies on the plan which will contain a defined scope and milestones. It will identify the work breakdown structure and will set out the agreed target delivery dates. The project plan will outline how the project manager plans to monitor and control the allocation of resources and also how the project manager plans to report on the progress of the project to the sponsor. The project manager will refer back to the plan throughout the duration of the project as it will tell them whether they are on track with the project.
The three main types of resources that every project manager must consider are: Labour, Equipment and Materials. Using a Resource Plan will help the project manager to identify the quantity of labour, equipment and materials required to deliver the project.
The resource plan will contain a resource schedule which enables the project manager to plan the consumption of each type of resource; this ensures that the project manager has enough resource to complete every phase of the project. The project manager’s resource plan will outline the types of labour and their key roles and responsibilities, the number of people required to fill each role, the items of equipment required and quantities of materials required.
Financial planning is integral to successful project management. The project manager will set a budget, to which they will measure their expenditure against. For a project manager to deliver a project within budget they will need to produce the project deliverables at a total cost that does not exceed that which is stated in the budget.
The financial plan typically outlines the type of labour costs that will be incurred during the project, the items of equipment and their cost, along with the various materials need to deliver the project. The unit cost per item will be identified, along with other costs such as administration and the amount of contingency needed.
Setting the budget and managing expenditure against this is a skill and successful project managers will spend a high proportion of their planning time in getting the budget right.
Quality Assurance Plan
As part of the project planning phase, the project manager will set a number of quality targets for the project to ensure that the deliverables meet the customer’s needs. Within the quality assurance plan the project manager will have identified the customer’s requirements, listed the deliverables, set and defined the quality criteria and standards. The project manager will need to gain the customers agreement with the standards that have been set. By formally documenting quality and the process it ensures quality assurance throughout project delivery.
Risk Management Plan
A Risk Management Plan ensures that the project manager identifies the risks associated with the project, categories them and calculates the impact on the project if risk occurs. By creating a risk management plan the project manager can monitor and control risks effectively and increase the likelihood of project management success.
Key to project management success is informing stakeholders of the project’s development. A successful project manager needs to ascertain each stakeholder’s communication needs and determine a schedule outlining the frequency and method of communication – ensuring that key stakeholders are kept informed of the projects progression maintains customer buy in and commitment to successful project completion.
Project managers, need to be aware of the project items that are to be procured for the project and ensure successful project delivery. Through developing a procurement plan, the project manager will define their procurement requirements.
Contract the Suppliers – Tender Management
Successful project management relies on getting the right skills for the job. Therefore if part of the project relies on the skills of an external supplier it is essential that the project manager ensures that they research the suppliers thoroughly. Through a tender management process the project manager can assess the supplier and appoint the best choice as preferred supplier.
The following items are typically created / carried out during the tender management process
Statement of work:
Successful project management is aided by using Statements of Work – this is a process of clearly defining the outsourcing requirements to the supplier and provides a mark against which they will be measured. The statement of work helps the project manager manage performance of the supplier, ensuring that they receive what they pay for. It also ensures that terms and conditions for payment are set out.
Request for Information
A request for information is created when a business is to purchase the goods or services from an external supplier. The project manager would use this as a means of telling prospective suppliers how they go about registering their interest in supplying goods or services to the project.
Within the request for information document, the project manager would define their organisations procurement management process; specify rules and timescales with regard to engagement. The project manager would also provide the information required from the suppliers, this typically includes company background, products and services and pricing information.
The request for information documentation, once complete is released publicly to attract the interest of a number of suppliers and for them to set about meeting the needs of the project manager’s organisation.
After the project manager has received the information from the interested suppliers, he or she would review this information and decide upon a preferred supplier for the project.
Selection of preferred supplier
Contract the supplier
The project manager, through the supplier contract, would outline the deliverables that are to be provided by the supplier. The supplier contract will outline the responsibilities of the supplier and the project team, the performance criteria and formal review process, along with pricing schedules, the invoice process and contractual terms and conditions of the agreement. It is essential that the project manager is thorough in this process as it can often become the make or break of a successful project – no-one wants to be arguing over terms of business and cost once the project is finished or even worse part completed.
Project Phase Review
As the project manager did at the end of the initiation phase, he or she also carries out a Project Phase Review at the end of the planning phase – as above it checks that the deliverables are in line with the schedule, that the budget is realistic and ensures that the sponsor is kept appraised of progression, ensuring continued buy-in.
Project Execution is the third phase in the project life cycle and this is where the project manager will build the actual project deliverables and present them to their customer for sign-off. Typically the project execution phase is the longest phase in the lifecycle and it will be where the majority of the resources are consumed. The project manager will need to implement a number of management processes assisting him or her in monitoring and controlling the project. The management processes will typically involve the managing of time, cost, quality, changes to the project and risk as well as the procurement, customer sign-off and project communications.
For example if the project manager wishes to manage time spent on the project, using timesheets would ensure that time spent is captured and can be closely monitored. The information that the approved timesheets provided could then be fed back into the project plan and it updated accordingly.
Project Closure – this typically involves:
At the end of the project, it is essential that the project manager carry out the project closure process, this is the formal process of wrapping up the project and the manner in which this is carried out can have a major impact in determining the projects overall success.
Within this process the project manager identifies the project completion criteria, creates a snagging list, creates a handover plan to pass the deliverables on to the customer and plans the handover of project documentation. The project manager during this process will also cease supplier contracts and agreements, release project resources to the business and communicate the closure of the project to the business.
Post Project Review
As soon as the project is finished, the project manager should carry out a post project review. This involves identifying project successes, deliverables, achievements and any lessons learned. The post project review is a critical step in the project lifecycle providing opportunity to validate the success of the project and give confidence to the stakeholders that it has achieved the business objective.
Typical elements of the post project review include measurement of the benefits and objectives, determining whether the project was within scope, assessing the projects final deliverables, reviewing the project against the schedule and comparing spend against the budget. Successful project management would usually mean that the project is delivered on time, on budget, to the accepted quality and if applicable in line with required safely levels.