Project Management

Team using project management software.

When an organization or business undertakes a project outside the usual permanent or semi-permanent processes which allow them to deliver a product or service, special management strategies are necessary for the project to succeed. Projects are usually constrained by three factors: time, scope, and available resources (including money and personnel). Project management strategies focus on successfully completing the goals of the project within those given constraints, through careful initial planning and close monitoring through every stage of the project.

Approaches

As projects often require the input of individuals from several different disciplines and departments within an organization, the ability to plan and control the direction of a project is key to ensuring that it successfully meets its objectives. All approaches, regardless of whether they are specifically tailored to certain industries, share key traits: they consider the limited availability of resources; they attempt to break projects down into manageable stages; and they are agile enough to take into account changing variables or setbacks. Some approaches, such as the PRINCE2 process model, are specifically designed to work in environments where there is a well-defined project framework; and provide procedures to coordinate and efficiently control resources, while allowing for close monitoring of each step of the process. Other approaches, like the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) method, begin by planning for uncertainty, while pinpointing critical tasks which must have first priority for limited resources, such as labor, time, and money. CCPM seeks to identify system processes which are bottlenecks, and plans accordingly to maximize throughput while minimizing inefficiency. Other processes, such as Agile Project Management, provide frameworks for research activities or creative industries where there may not be a thoroughly defined final product; and break the project down into small segments, which maximizes versatility and minimizes waste if the project requirements change in mid-stream.

Processes

Regardless of the specific approach taken, all projects share five fundamental project management features: initiating processes; planning and design; execution; monitoring and controlling; and closing or completion. The initiating stage is the most crucial: it determines the scope and goals of the project, the time-line for completion, the physical and human resources available, and the budgetary constraints placed on the project. The planning and design stage takes into account the physical and budgetary constraints of the project and designs the processes needed to successfully complete each stage of the project. This includes allocating resources to different parts of the project, designing work instructions for each activity, developing a logical schedule for task completion that takes into account the material and temporal needs of each subsequent stage of development, attempting to control for risk, and the formal approval of the project by senior management. The execution stage involves the performance of the processes and activities created at the planning stage, with the expectation that each process yield the results necessary to move to the subsequent process in the overall plan. The monitoring and controlling phase takes place throughout the life of the project. Through the measurement of time, cost, inputs and outputs, it seeks to determine the current status of the project and whether the project is meeting the requirements laid out in the initial plan. This process is on-going, and data is often measured on a regular basis. If the project is not meeting the overall project requirements, this phase attempts to determine corrective actions that can be undertaken to get the project back on track. If the project has been successfully completed, it moves to the closing stage. At this point, the project is considered to be finished, and if the project was completed as part of a contract, any outstanding open issues or clauses in the contract are settled and the contract is closed. If the contract included provisions for continued support or maintenance, the contract is entered into the appropriate phase.