Introduction to Project Management

In this lesson, you’re expected to learn:
– the basics of project management
– the importance of project management
– criteria to ensure success of a project

Many projects fail for various reasons—some valid and some invalid. It is important for a project manager to understand what makes a project a success.

The ultimate benefit of implementing project management techniques is having a satisfied customer. Usually, a contractor is hired by a customer to perform a project. Completing the full project scope in a quality manner, on time, and within budget provides a great feeling of satisfaction. For a contractor, it could lead to additional business from the same customer or from new customers referred by previously satisfied customers.

Project Management Defined

A project is the result of a plan of action to achieve a specific goal within defined resource parameters (e.g., time, cost, materials, quality, and people). Projects must be well managed for them to be successful in utilizing resources.

Many organizations apply a variety of project management techniques to optimize project success and enhance the likelihood of meeting project-specific as well as organization-wide goals.

These techniques include monitoring project performance, establishing incentives to meet project goals, and developing a project management team with the right people and the right skills.

This can help avert cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance problems common to many organizations.

[Optional] What is Project Management?
Many organizations today don’t employ full-time project managers. Indeed, it’s common to put together a project team to meet a particular need, one that usually involves producing an end product or service that benefits the organization or effects change.

Getting to that end result, successfully, is what project management is all about. At its core, then, project management centres on the planning and control of everything involved in delivering the end result – and it’s a process that every person on a project team needs to embrace, understand and execute, no matter the experience level.

Performance Measures

It is important to develop performance measures and link project outcomes to business unit and strategic goals and objectives.

The key is monitoring project performance and establishing incentives for accountability and using cross-functional teams to involve those with the technical and operational expertise necessary to plan and manage the project.

Importance of Project Management

Project management has been proven to be the most effective method of delivering products within cost, schedule, and resource constraints.

The Triple Constraint

Often, a triangle, commonly called the “triple constraint”, is used to summarize project management (see figure below). The three most important factors are time, cost and scope. These form the vertices with quality as the central theme.
The triple constraint has four core elements:

1) Projects must be within cost.
2) Projects must be delivered on time.
3) Projects must be within scope.
4) Projects must meet customer quality requirements.

Customer Expectations

More recently, the project management triangle has given way to a project management diamond – with cost, time, scope and quality as the four vertices and customer expectations as a central theme (see figure below).

No two customers have the same expectations. You must ask, explicitly, about each customer’s expectations. If you don’t know what those expectations are, you have no hope of meeting them.

Baseline

baseline establishes a standard to decide whether a project is a success or failure. The criteria should be derived from standards.

The key in determining the success or failure of a project, program, or function is establishing its current state before any changes are considered or implemented. This is the baseline.

The baseline is used in a variety of areas. Gap analysis, for example, uses the baseline to show the difference between the current state and the target goal or objective.

Performance measures, regardless of type, must have a baseline measurement to show the changes or improvements a project undergoes as it achieves its goal. Establishing a baseline measure is essential in establishing the validity of a performance measure.

A baseline measure is usually the first measure taken of a system or project. Subsequent measurements may be defined as the new baseline if substantial changes to the system make the earlier baseline obsolete or reduce the effectiveness of the particular performance measure.

Each project manager and functional area manager must choose those performance measures that clearly indicate achievement of goals and mission for their area of responsibility.

Some examples of performance measures include customer satisfaction, speed of response, quality, percentage of availability, mean-time-between-failure (MTBF), and percentage of initial budget expended.

An initial baseline document is prepared once as part of the project planning process. This identifies milestones, costs, and schedules that are planned for each project for the next fiscal year.

While it is understood that milestones sometimes do run over fiscal years, for accurate reporting purposes, a milestone should be broken up to explain what is being accomplished by fiscal year. After developing the initial baseline, the baseline data should be updated periodically, say monthly or quarterly.

Initial vs. Updated Baseline Data

The initial baseline data include project description with milestones, planned start date, planned end date, planned duration hours, and planned cost.

The updated baseline data include actual start date, actual end date, actual duration in hours, percent complete, and actual cost.

Project Critical Success Factors

The outcome of any project can be either a success or a failure. There are certain factors leading to success; and not following these success factors can lead to failure.

Below are critical success factors useful to project managers, functional managers, and senior managers alike:

• Planning and communication are critical to successful project management. They prevent problems from occurring or minimize their impact on the achievement of the project objective when they do occur.

• Taking the time to develop a well-thought-out plan before the start of the project is critical to the successful accomplishment of any project.

• A project must have a well-defined objective — an expected result or product, defined in terms of scope, schedule, and cost, and agreed on by the customer.

• Involve the customer as a partner in the successful outcome of the project through active participation during the project.

• Effective and frequent personal communication is crucial to successful project management.

• A high degree of face-to-face communication is important early in the project to foster team building, develop good working relationships, and establish mutual expectations.

• Body language and customs reflective of cultural diversity must be considered in communications. Be careful not to use remarks, words, or phrases that can be construed to be sexist, racist, prejudicial, or offensive.

• The heart of communication is understanding — not only to be understood, but also to understand. Half of making communication effective is listening. Failure to listen can cause a breakdown in communication.

• Communication should be straightforward, unambiguous, free of technical jargon, and not offensive.

• Achieving customer satisfaction requires ongoing communication with the customer to keep the customer informed and to determine whether expectations have changed. Regularly ask the customer about the level of satisfaction with the progress of the project.

• Keep the customer and project team informed of the project status and potential problems in a timely manner.

• Project status meetings should be held on a regular basis. Discuss meeting guidelines at a project team meeting at the beginning of the project, so everyone understands what behavior is expected during project meetings.

• Do not confuse busyness and activity with accomplishment when communicating project progress.

• The key to effective project control is measuring actual progress and comparing it to planned progress on a timely and regular basis and taking corrective action immediately, if necessary.

• Reports must be written to address what is of interest to the readers, not what is of interest to the person writing the report.

• Make reports concise. Pay as much attention to format, organization, appearance, and readability as to the content.

• Early in the project, agreement should be reached regarding how changes will be authorized and documented.

• When documents are updated, they should immediately be distributed to all team members whose work will be affected.

• After the conclusion of a project, performance should be evaluated to learn what could be improved if a similar project were to be undertaken in the future. Feedback should be obtained from the customer and the project team.

[Optional] Introduction to Project Management
Jim Rohn