Project management involves the application of appropriate experience, knowledge, skills, methods, and processes to achieve a predetermined set of objectives. The objectives of the project have set parameters that will define the measurable outcomes. The deliverables of a project must be completed within a given time frame and within a designed budget.

Characteristics of a Project

Understanding project management requires an appreciation of the different characteristics of a project. Different authors and management gurus can provide you with different project attributes. However, they do share the following observations.

  • Beneficial

A project brings a much-needed benefit to an organisation or a customer. It can be a new process, a new product, or a new system that will further bolster the customer’s standing in the industry. The benefits should be clear-cut from the very beginning.

  • Transient

A project is only temporary. There is a definite start time that initiates the project and a definite end time, wherein the project is ready to deliver its target outcomes.

  • Various Sizes

A project can be as small as benefiting only a single unit or department in an organisation or as large as it can bring a competitive advantage to the whole organisation. Large-scale projects can also include entire city blocks or even across states.

  • Benefit-Driven

All the resources, knowledge, skills, and other relevant items in any given project are used for the sole purpose of achieving the target objectives and provide the client with the predetermined benefits or deliverables.

  • Budget-Constrained

A project must work within the budget agreed upon by both the client and the project management team. The budget plan lays the foundation for controlling every single aspect of the project process.

Project Balance and Equilibrium Point

Project managers need to strike a balance among the different core elements. This is where the Project Management Triangle can be useful. The three corners of the triangle represent the cost, time, and scope of the project.

  • Scope

A project has very clear objectives and parameters for measuring success. It also prescribes the scope upon which all activities must fall.

  • Cost

Projects operate within a prescribed budget. Working outside the budget can lead to customer dissatisfaction.

  • Time

The transient nature of projects requires a project to provide the deliverables within a predetermined time frame. Exceeding the time frame can increase costs and lead to overall dissatisfaction.

Project managers also must consider the benefit of the project and the inherent risks associated with the different processes involved.

  • Risks

Risks can come in the form of incorrect estimation of project completion, the volatility of project requirements, and unforeseen circumstances. Unclear specifications and neglecting fundamental design processes are also risks that project managers must address.

  • Benefit

Depending on the risks and evolving needs of the customer, project managers need to constantly review the benefits. This will help determine if the project-benefit relationship is still relevant to the client.

The equilibrium point of a project is that instance in the process where the project can produce the deliverables within the prescribed time and budget, while addressing the risks that can impact the different aspects of the project.

Projects vs. Business-as-Usual

Projects and business-as-usual models are two different things.

  • Projects

Projects are temporary, time-bound, and constrained by a predetermined budget. It is a one-off event. Project managers also manage both negative and positive risks to achieve the best possible outcomes. Lastly, project management always involves multidisciplinary teams.

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  • Business-as-Usual

Business-as-Usual (BAU) models are an ongoing event. The primary concern is how to mitigate the risks that can impact ongoing operations. And since the work is ongoing, there are no capitalising costs. BAU models always adhere to a functional type of management.

Benefits of Project Management

A well-executed project management can bring in the following benefits.

  • Facilitates improved efficiency in the delivery of services.
  • Guarantees enhanced or improved customer satisfaction.
  • Ensures enhanced effectiveness in the delivery of services.
  • Promotes improved professional and personal growth and development within the organisation.
  • New opportunities for the expansion of products and services.
  • Allows for improved flexibility.
  • Improves the organisation’s ability to assess and address risks.
  • Guarantees an increase in overall quality of services provided.
  • Allows for an increase in measurable productivity.

Project Management Areas of Difficulty

Understanding the effects of three crucial areas of project management is necessary to ensure a more successful project management process. These three areas are those that many project managers find difficult to balance.

  • People

It is critical to start the project management by identifying and selecting key role players. One must understand the unique attributes that each role player has and how these attributes will contribute to the objectives of the project.

  • Processes

The different steps that project managers need to undertake should be stated in a very clear and objective manner. They can start with the key steps first, before detailing the sub-steps in each critical phase.

  • Technology

The technologies should always support both the people who will use the technology and the processes that will rely on technology for implementation.

The Project Life Cycle

There are four phases in a typical project life cycle. These are the initiation, planning, implementation, and closing phases. Some authors may use different terms to denote the same thing.

  • Conceptualisation

The project management team should draw a conceptual framework that will serve as a basis for the planning of the project. This includes conducting a feasibility study to determine the suitability of the project to the desired deliverables.

  • Definition

This is equivalent to the planning stage of the project life cycle. It includes the identification of appropriate goals and objectives. It also includes the definition of the different criteria and parameters for evaluation. The time, scope, and cost elements also need to be defined at this stage.

  • Implementation

This involves the actual operationalisation of the different interventions identified at the planning stage. Communication and the maintenance of control are essential in this stage.

  • Handover

The completion of the project requires the handing of the deliverables to the client. It also includes the endorsement of all project documents and resources to the customer. Supplier contracts get terminated and the project resources get released.

Project management is a very useful approach to improving organisational systems, products, processes, and / or services. Project managers have an important role in preparing their client for the different phases of project management.

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