In today's fast-paced developing professional world, every individual should be at par with the most required soft skill i.e. management.
Management comes with a huge umbrella ranging from time management, resource management, skill management, etc. All these aspects converge to cover what is commonly called project management.
Project management is required and the most looked after skill in today's times for all industries. It is required for all the strata’s of professionals from top line management to a trainee in a project team.
Let us now dive in to know more about project management.
What is a project?
A project is defined as “a unique endeavor to produce a set of deliverables within a clearly specified time, cost and quality constraints”.
Projects are different from routine business activities as:
- They are unique in nature. Projects should have a defined quantifiable outcome, which is unique in nature.
- Have a defined timescale. The timeline of the project should be initially defined and mini-goals should be set to achieve them within the set time frame.
- Have an approved budget.
- Have limited resources.
- Involve risks.
-Achieve beneficial change.
What is project management?
Project management (PM) is the practice of applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to complete a project according to specific requirements. It comes down to identifying the problem, creating a plan to solve the problem, and then executing that plan until the problem has been solved.
Project Management (PM) contains all the skills, tools, and management processes required to undertake a project successfully.
The Project Management Triangle (PM Triangle) is used by managers to analyze or understand the difficulties that may arise due to implementing and executing a project. All projects irrespective of their size will have many constraints. There are three main interdependent constraints for every project: time, cost, and scope. This is also known as the Project Management Triangle.
Time is a crucial factor in any project. The timeline of any project should be decided prior to starting up. Deliverables from each phase along with the timeframes should be decided. Completion of any project in the set time depends on various factors such as the number of people working on the project, experience, skills, etc.
Cost or budget is another factor that should be set prior to the startup of the project. Budgets will ensure that the project is developed or implemented below a certain cost.
The scope is the expected outcome of the project or the set of deliverables the project is expected to give upon successful completion. The scope along with the other two aspects- time and cost should be set prior to the start u of the project.
The above-stated aspects are considered as the corners of the triangle with the central goal being the quality.
As seen, these three aspects are called the vertex of the PM triangle. This implies that change in any one aspect would lead to change in the other two. In other words, all three are interrelated.
Irrespective of the structure of the organization, any project will have personnel who would have the following roles
1. The Project Stakeholders
Stakeholders are individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution of the project. They may also exert influence over the project and its deliverables. The project management team must identify the stakeholders, determine their requirements and expectations, and manage their influence in relation to the requirements to ensure a successful project.
2. The Project Sponsor
The project sponsor is responsible for securing the financing and overall resource budget approval and owns the opportunities and risks related to the financial outcome of the project. An effective sponsor will be someone with the authority and personal drive to overcome major obstacles to completing the project. The role of the project sponsor is to approve and fund the project, but not to get involved in day-to-day management.
3. The Project Manager
The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to achieve the project objectives. The project manager has the authority to use cash and other resources up to the limit set in the project charter. A project manager should have experience in the project domain and should also be familiar with the processes that make up project management.
Regardless of what kind of project you’re planning, every project goes through the same stages, more or less. The project lifecycle is the sequence of phases that a project goes through from the beginning to its end. A project typically has four major phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, and Closure.
The first phase in the project is the Initiation Phase. The goal of this phase is to define the project and develop a business case for it.
Once a business problem or opportunity has been identified, a Business Case is prepared. This includes an executive summary, a detailed definition of the challenge or goal, and an analysis of the potential solution options available. For each option, the potential costs, benefits, risks, and issues are documented. The Business Case also includes the recommended solution and a generic execution timeline. The Business Case is approved by the Project Sponsor and the required funding is allocated to proceed with the project.
At any stage during (or after) the development of a Business Case, a Feasibility Study may be commissioned. The purpose is to assess the likelihood of a particular solution option’s achieving the benefits outlined in the Business Case. The Feasibility Study will also investigate whether the forecast costs are reasonable, the solution is achievable, the risks are acceptable, and/or any likely issues are avoidable.
At this point, the scope of the project has been defined in detail and the Project Team is ready to be appointed. Although a Project Manager can be appointed at any stage of the project, he/she will need to be appointed prior to the establishment of the project team. The Project Manager documents a detailed Job Description for each project role and appoints a human resource to each role based on his/her relevant skills and experience.
The Planning Phase is the second phase of the project life cycle. It involves creating a set of plans to help guide your team through the next phases of the project.
Once the project receives the green light, it needs a solid plan to guide the team, as well as keep them on time and on budget. A well-written Project Plan identifies the project timeline, including the phases of the project, the tasks to be performed, and possible constraints. The plan should be agreed upon and approved by the project team and its key stakeholders.
The Project Plan is the most important document created in the planning phase and typically includes the following detailed sub-plans:
-A Resource Plan identifies the types of resources (labor, equipment, and materials) and quantities of each resource type needed for the project.
-A Quality Plan defines what quality means in terms of this project, lists clear quality targets for each deliverable, and identifies the techniques used to control the actual level of quality.
-The foreseeable project risks are then documented within a Risk Plan and a set of actions to be taken formulated to both prevent each risk from occurring and reduce the impact of the risk should it eventuate.
-A Communications Plan identifies the types of information to be distributed, the methods of distributing information to stakeholders, the frequency of distribution, and the responsibilities of each person in the project team for distributing information regularly to stakeholders.
During the Planning Phase, you break down the larger project into smaller tasks, assign them to team members, and prepare a schedule for the completion of assignments. Make sure to create smaller goals within the larger project!
The third phase, the Execution Phase, is usually the longest phase in the project lifecycle and it typically consumes the most energy and the most resources.
This phase involves the execution of each activity and task listed in the Project Plan. In this phase, you will build the physical project deliverables. The Project Manager monitors and controls the activities, resources, and expenditures required to build each deliverable. This constant vigilance helps keep the project moving ahead smoothly. If you developed a good plan in the previous phase, executing the project will be much easier.
The Closure Phase is the last phase of the project life cycle. In this phase, you will formally close your project and determine the success of the project.
Project Closure involves undertaking a series of activities to wind up the project, including:
-Analyzing whether the project’s goals were met (tasks completed, on time, and on a budget) and the initial problem solved using a prepared checklist.
-Evaluating how team members performed, including whether they met their goals along with timeliness and quality of work.
-Conducting a final analysis of the project, taking into account lessons learned for similar projects in the future.
-Communicating closure to all stakeholders and interested parties.
A Project Closure Report, created by the Project Manager, is the final document that assesses the success of the project and also catalogs project deliverables, and officially ends the project. The primary objective of a project closure report is to provide a complete picture of the successes and failures of a project.
Selecting the right approach to manage a project is essential for the successful delivery of projects.
1. Work breakdown structure (WBS)
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a project management tool to visualize the scope of work by breaking a project into individual components that can be effectively scheduled. Such a structure defines tasks that can be completed independently of other tasks.
The WBS is a tree-style structure with the overall task on the top; followed by project sections and further into individual tasks.
The WBS enables a team to estimate time and/or cost for each task, then tally the numbers to arrive at an overall project estimation.
2. Gantt Chart
A Gantt Chart is one of the most popular ways of showing activities (tasks or events) displayed against time. The bar chart is named after its inventor Henry Gantt, who designed the first chart in 1917. It is a bar chart with all the activities at one axis and a time scale at the other.
A Gantt Chart shows what has to be done (activities) and when (schedule).
3. PERT Chart
PERT is an acronym that stands for Program Evaluation Review Technique.
It’s a primary project management tool used to schedule, organize, and coordinate tasks within a project. The PERT Chart can show task division, time allocation, and starting and ending dates.
The layout of a PERT Chart makes it easier to see the relationships between different activities.
On the downside, however, this chart can become quite confusing with complex projects that feature many dependencies and tasks.
4. Critical Path Model
Critical Path Model (CPM) is another important project management technique that requires you to construct a project model that includes a list of all tasks, the duration to complete the tasks, dependencies between tasks, and deliverables for the entire project.
The CPM calculates the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project and the earliest and latest that each activity can start and finish without increasing the overall project duration.
There are various frameworks to facilitate the project management activity.
We will go through three models - agile, scrum, and kanban in detail
Agile development is based on an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of the project, Agile methodologies are open to changing requirements over time and encourage constant feedback from the end-users.
Advantages of agile
-Change is embraced. Since the planning cycles are short, it is easy to accommodate and execute changes at any time during the project.
-Continuous improvement. Due to shorter cycles and continuous input from the users/customers/teams, the scope for improvement is more.
-Faster, high-quality delivery. Breaking down the project into iterations allows the team to focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration.
-Strong team iteration. Agile highlights the importance of frequent communication and face-to-face interactions.
Disadvantages of agile
-Planning can be less concrete. Due to short planning cycles and continuous improvement, the plans are not as concrete as compared to the waterfall technology.
-Final product can be different. There is a high chance that the final product may be different to the initial plan due to a lack of clarity at the earlier stage.
Scrum is a subset of Agile and one of the most popular process frameworks for implementing Agile. It is an iterative development model used to manage complex software and product development.
Fixed-length iterations, called sprints lasting two weeks long, allow the team to ship software on a regular cadence. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders and team members meet to plan the next steps.
Certain roles and accessories of scrum areas
Daily scrum meetings
Sprint review meetings
Working with scrum often means changing the team's habits. They need to take more responsibility and boost their performance. Hence, personnel management and training also play a major role in scrum.
Advantages of scrum
-More transparency and project visibility - The whole team knows about the end goal and where they are going. The daily meeting creates better communication and clarity amongst the team.
-Increased team accountability
-Easy to accommodate changes
Disadvantages of scrum
-Risk of scope creep - “Scope creep” refers to uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, since stakeholders may be tempted to keep requesting additional functionality.
Kanban strives to better coordinate and balance work with the capacity and bandwidth among workers. The framework does not require a certain setup or procedure.
It was originally a visual system of cards shown to reflect that their team has more capacity to produce.
Waterfall works best for projects completed in a linear workflow.
Agile focuses on adaptive, simultaneous workflows since the method breaks projects into smaller, iterative periods.
Scrum is concerned with getting more work done faster.
Kanban is primarily concerned with process improvements.
In today's business world need for project management is growing continuously. And along with the above-mentioned tools and flow scholars and project management experts are working continuously to make project management better.
Hope this was an enriching read