MBA management

Meaning and Definition of 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.

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time and budget. The secondary- and more ambitions- 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.

According to Project management institute, “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations.”

The PMBOK (A Guide to the Project Management body of Knowledge) definition of Project Management is “application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to achieve project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the application and integration of the project management processes of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing.”

Project management is a carefully planned and organized effort to accomplish a specific (and usually) one-time effort, e.g., constructing a residential complex or implementing a new computerized banking system. Project management includes developing a project plan that includes defining project goals, specifying how the goals will be accomplished, what resources are needed and relating budgets and time for completion. It also includes implementing the project plan, along with careful controls to ensure that the project is being managed according to the plan.

Functions of Project Management

Setting realistic expectations, fostering agreement among all parties and then delivering the product is frequently challenging and always requires a wide array of techniques, from a high level, these techniques can be grouped into three project management functions:

1) Project Definition: Project definition lays out the foundation for a project. There are two activities involved in this groundwork:
i) The project manager must determine the purpose, goals and constraints of the project. He or she must answer questions like, “Why are they doing this”? and “What does it mean to be successful?” The answers become the foundation for making all project decisions because they describe the cost-schedule – quality equilibrium and connect the project to the mission of the organization.
ii) The manager must establish basic project management controls. He or she must get agreement on which people and organizations are involved in the project and what their roles will be. The manager also needs to clarify the chain of command, communication strategy and change control process. The documented acceptance of these decisions and strategies communicates expectations about the way the project will be managed. It also becomes an agreement to which they can refer to keep everyone accountable to their responsibilities in the project.

2) Project Planning: Project planning puts together the details of how to meet the project’s goals, given the constraints. Common estimating and scheduling techniques will lay out just how much work the project entails, which will do the work, when it will be accomplished and how much it will cost. Along the way, risk management activities will identify the areas of greatest uncertainty and create strategies to manage them. The detailed strategy laid out in the plan becomes a reality check for the cost- schedule- quality equilibrium developed during project definition.

3) Project Control: Project control includes all the activities that keep the project moving toward the goal. These activities include.
i) Progress Measurement: Measuring progress frequently identifies any problems early, making them easier to solve Progress measurement is also a feedback mechanism, validating the estimates in the plan and the cost- schedule- quality equilibrium.
ii) Communication: Communication is critical in controlling a project, because it keeps all the participants co-ordinated and aware of project progress and changes.
iii) Corrective Action: This consists of the day-to-day responses to all the obstacles and problems a project may encounter.

These functions sum up the responsibilities of the project manager. The functions are sequential; a project must begin with definition, then proceed to planning and finally to control. And the functions must be repeated time and again, because planning will inevitably lead to modifications in the definition and controlling actions will require constant changes to the plan and, occasionally, changes to the definition. During an ongoing project, a manager may spend time everyday defining, planning and controlling the project.

Importance of Project Management

Project management is no longer a special- need management. It is rapidly becoming a standard way of doing business. An increasing percentage of the typical firm’s effort is being devoted to projects. Thee future promises an increase in the importance and the role of projects in contributing to the strategic direction of organizations.

1) Compression of Product Life Cycle: One of the most significant driving forces behind the demand for project management is the shortening of the product life cycle. Time to market for new products with short life cycles has become increasingly important. A common rule of thumb in the world of high-tech product development is that a six-month project delay can result in a 33 per cent loss in product revenue share. Speed, therefore, becomes a competitive advantage; more and more organizations are relying on cross- functional project teams to get new products and services to the market as quickly as possible.

2) Global Competition: Today’s open market demands not only cheaper products and services but also better products and service. This has led to the emergence of the quality movement across the world with ISO 9000 certification a requirement for doing business. Quality management and improvement invariably involve project management. For many, their first exposure to project management techniques has been in quality workshops.

Project management, with its triple focus on time, cost and performance, is proving to be an efficient, flexible way to get things done.

3) Knowledge Explosion: The growth in new knowledge has increased the complexity of projects because projects encompass the latest advances. For example, building a road 30 years ago was a somewhat simple process. Today, each area has increased in complexity, including materials, specifications, codes, aesthetics, equipment and required specialists. Similarly, in today’s digital, electronic age it is becoming hard to find a new product that does not contain at least one microchip. Product complexity has increased the need to integrate divergent technologies. Project management has emerged as an important discipline for achieving this task.

4) Corporate Downsizing: The last decade has seen a dramatic restructuring of organizational life. Downsizing and sticking to core competencies have become necessary for survival for many firms. Middle management is a skeleton of the past. In today’s flatter and leaner organizations, where change is a constant, project management is replacing middle management as a way of ensuring that things get done. Corporate downsizing has also led to a change in the way organizations approach projects. Companies outsource significant segments of project work and project managers have to manage not only their own people but also their counter- parts in different organizations.

5) Increased Customer Focus: Increased competition has placed a premium on customer satisfaction. Customers no longer simply settle for generic products and services. They want customized products and services that cater to their specific needs. This mandate requires a much closer working relationship between the provider and the receiver. Account executives and sales representatives are assuming more of a project manager’s role as thy work with their organization to satisfy the unique needs and requests of clients.

Increased customer attention has also prompted the development of customized products and services.

6) Rapid Development of Third World and Closed Economies: The collapse of the Soviet Empire and the gradual opening of Asian Communist countries have created an explosion of pent-up demand within these societies for all manner of consumer goods and infrastructure development. Western firms are scrambling to introduce their products and services to these new markets and many firms are using project management techniques to establish distribution channels and foreign bass of operations. These historical changes have created a tremendous market for core project work in the areas of heavy construction and telecommunications as Eastern European and Asian countries strive to revitalize their inefficient industries and decrepit infrastructures.

Project Management Process

Project management processes can be split into five groups each consisting of one or more processes. They are:

1) Initiation Process,
2) Planning Process,
3) Implementation Process,
4) Controlling Process,
5) Closing Process.

All these processes are interrelated as the output of one process becomes the input for the others. In the central process groups (Planning, implementation and control), all the links are looped. The planning process provides a documented project plan to the implementation process which in turn provides documented updates to the planning processes as the project progresses.

1) Initiation Process: Initiation is the process of formally identifying the presence of a new project or the passing of the ongoing project to the next phase. This phase relates the project to the ongoing work of the project organization.

2) Planning Process: Project planning is one of the most significant activities management because it includes activities that were not included earlier, as a result of which it contains more processes than others. The process of planning is not specific- a single project can get different plans from different teams. There ear two kinds of planning processes:
• Core Process: These are the processes that are interdependent and must be performed in a sequence in almost all the projects.
• Facilitating Process: These are intermittent processes that are performed as and when they are required in the project planning phase.

3) Implementation Process: Implementation process also involves core processes and facilitating processes.

i) Core Process
Project Plan Implementation: It is the process of implementing the project plan. A major portion of the project budget is spent on this process. This process requires the project manager, the top management and the project team to support one another and co-ordinate their activities.

ii) Facilitating Process
a) Scope verification: It is the process of getting the project scope formally approved by the key stakeholders of the project. It ensures the satisfactory accomplishment of all the project deliverables. When the project is terminated before schedule, the scope verification should contain the extent and level of completion.

b) Quality Assurance: It is the process of evaluating the total performance of the project regularly, in order to ensure that the project confirms to thee quality standards. Quality assurance goes on throughout the project life cycle. It is usually conducted by the quality assurance department or any other department responsible for quality. Quality assurance is generally done by the major stakeholders of the project.

c) Team Development: It is the process of making the required information available to project stakeholders’ ability to contribute as individuals and at the same time increasing the efficiency of the tam to function as a group.

d) Information Distribution: It is the process of making the required information available to project stakeholders. It involves executing the communications management plan and also meeting unexpected requests for information.

e) Solicitation: It is the process of gathering information in the form of bids, quotations and proposals from qualified vendors to satisfy the project needs. Usually, it is the vendors who put in a majority of the effort in this process. The process requires procurement documents and a list of qualified vendors.

f) Vendor selection: It is the process of accepting bids, quotations or proposals and evaluating vendors.

g) Contract Administration: It is the process of ensuring that the vendors deliver materials as per the requirements of the contract. When the projects is big and involve more than one vendor, managing communications and interactions among vendors becomes crucial.

4) Controlling Process: Controlling is important in project management because it helps to measure project performance regularly so as to determine the deviations from the plan and rectify the problems. This minimizes cost over-runs, time lapse, schedule slippages and maintains the overall quality of products. Controlling processes too involve core processes and facilitating processes.

5) Closing Process: Closing a project is also a major activity in the life cycle. Every project has to come to an end after it has attained its objectives. Closing has special significance in project management because it marks the formal acceptance of the project by the client and the archiving of the project reports for future reference. The closing process involves administrative closure and contract closure, Administrative closure is the process of generating, collecting and conveying all project related information to formally complete the project. Contract closure of final settlement of contract along with the resolution of any open issues.

Project Management Tools

1) PERT: The program (or project) Evaluation and review Technique commonly abbreviated PERT , is a model for project management designed to analyze and represent the tasks involved in completing a given project . It was developed primarily to simplify the planning and scheduling of large and complex projects. It was able to incorporate uncertainty by possible to schedule a project while not knowing precisely the detailed and durations of all the activities. It is more of an event- oriented technique rather than start and completion- oriented and is used more in R&D type projects where time, rather than cost, is the major factor. It is intended for very large- scale, one-time, complex, non-routine projects.

2) CPM: CPM (Critical Path Method) is another technique closely allied to PERT. The methodology of CPM and PERT are, to a large extent, similar although two techniques are developed independent of each other and their objective are, by and large different. CPM is applied where the activity times are more or less certain, e.g., projects of recurring nature, viz., construction of building or highways, planning and launching of new product, scheduling ship construction and repairs, etc. In case of CPM time for each activity can be ascertained with certainty, no concept “Crashing” is applied in CPM which refers to use of extra resources to shorten the project completion time.

3) Gantt Chart: A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. Gantt charts illustrate the start and finish dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project. Terminal elements and summary elements comprise the work breakdown structure of the project. Some Gantt charts also show the dependency (i.e., precedence network) relationships between activities. Gantt charts can be used to show current schedule status using percent-complete shadings.
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