Project Management Topics

What is Project Management?

Project Management is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. It is a methodical approach to planning and guiding project processes from start to finish. According to the Project Management Institute, the processes are guided through five stages: initiation, planning, executing, controlling, and closing.

Project management can be applied to almost any type of project and is widely used to control the complex processes of software development projects. A project is a finite endeavor--having specific start and completion dates--undertaken to create a unique product or service which brings about beneficial change or added value.
A typical project starts with someone having an idea, which then gains acceptance from a wider group: probably informally through discussion with colleagues and then through a more formal process involving senior management, the management committee or board. This leads to a fund-raising process, which usually causes significant delay, and then if the funding bid is successful the project can start, staff can be appointed and work can begin. This work has to be planned and managed, problems dealt with, until the project concludes, hopefully successfully, and is wound up.

Formal methods of project management offer a framework to manage this process, providing a series of elements templates and procedures to manage the project through its life cycle. The key elements consist of:

-Defining the project accurately, systematically clarifying objectives
-Dividing the project up into manageable tasks and stages
-Controlling the project through its stages using the project definition as a baseline
-Highlighting risks and developing specific procedures to deal with them
-Providing mechanisms to deal with quality issues
-Clarifying roles to provide the basis for effective teamwork.

The need to provide accountability and effective communication is implicit throughout. This finite characteristic of projects stands in sharp contrast to processes, or operations, which are permanent or semi-permanent functional work to repetitively produce the same product or service. In practice, the management of these two systems is often found to be quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and the adoption of separate management philosophy, which is the subject of this article.
The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while adhering to classic project constraints--usually scope, quality, time and budget. The secondary--and more ambitious--challenge is to optimize the allocation and integration of inputs necessary to meet pre-defined objectives. A project is a carefully defined set of activities that use resources (money, people, materials, energy, space, provisions, communication, motivation, etc.) to achieve the project goals and objectives.

History of project management

As a discipline, project management developed from different fields of application including construction, engineering, and defense. In the United States, the forefather of project management is Henry Gantt, called the father of planning and control techniques, who is famously known for his use of the Gantt chart as a project management tool, for being an associate of Frederick Winslow Taylor's theories of scientific management, and for his study of the work and management of Navy ship building. His work is the forerunner to many modern project management tools including the work breakdown structure (WBS) and resource allocation.

The 1950s marked the beginning of the modern project management era. Again, in the United States, prior to the 1950s, projects were managed on an ad hoc basis using mostly Gantt Charts, and informal techniques and tools. At that time, two mathematical project scheduling models were developed:

- The "Program Evaluation and Review Technique" or PERT, developed by Booz-Allen & Hamilton as part of the United States Navy's (in conjunction with the Lockheed Corporation) Polaris missile submarine program; and
- The "Critical Path Method" (CPM) developed in a joint venture by both DuPont Corporation and Remington Rand Corporation for managing plant maintenance projects. These mathematical techniques quickly spread into many private enterprises.
At the same time, technology for project cost estimating, cost management, and engineering economics was evolving, with pioneering work by Hans Lang and others.

In 1956, the American Association of Cost Engineers (now AACE International; the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering) was formed by early practitioners of project management and the associated specialties of planning and scheduling, cost estimating, and cost/schedule control (project control). AACE has continued its pioneering work and in 2006 released the first ever integrated process for portfolio, program and project management(Total Cost Management Framework).

In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed to serve the interest of the project management industry. The premise of PMI is that the tools and techniques of project management are common even among the widespread application of projects from the software industry to the construction industry. In 1981, the PMI Board of Directors authorized the development of what has become
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), containing the standards and guidelines of practice that are widely used throughout the profession. The International Project Management Association (IPMA), founded in Europe in 1967, has undergone a similar development and instituted the IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB). The focus of the ICB also begins with knowledge as a foundation, and adds considerations about relevant experience, interpersonal skills, and competence. Both organizations are now participating in the development of a ISO project management standard.

Project management activities

Project management is composed of several different types of activities such as:

- Analysis & design of objectives and events
- Planning the work according to the objectives
- Assessing and controlling risk (or Risk Management)
- Estimating resources
- Allocation of resources
- Organizing the work
- Acquiring human and material resources
- Assigning tasks
- Directing activities
- Controlling project execution
- Tracking and reporting progress (Management information system)
- Analyzing the results based on the facts achieved
- Defining the products of the project
- Forecasting future trends in the project
- Quality Management
- Issues management
- Issue solving
- Defect prevention
- Identifying, managing & controlling changes
- Project closure (and project debrief)
- Communicating to stakeholders
- Increasing/ decreasing a company's workers

The Project Manager
A successful Project Manager must simultaneously manage the four basic elements of a project: resources, time, money, and most importantly, scope. All these elements are interrelated. Each must be managed effectively. All must be managed together if the project, and the project manager, is to be a success.

- Resources: people, equipment, material
- Time: task durations, dependencies, critical path
- Money: costs, contingencies, profit
- Scope: project size, goals, requirements

Most literature on project management speaks of the need to manage and balance three elements: people, time, and money. However, the fourth element is the most important and it is the first and last task for a successful project manager.