THE BASICS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Project management 101
by Anton van den Berg
Ok, so someone that you know knows someone that did a project once and you have just inherited something that everybody calls a project…
What do you do, where do you start?
This article on the basics of project management covers three basic elements of project management:
- What is a project?
- What are the most important things to know?
- What are the most important things to do?
1. What is a project?
Ignoring all the well-defined definitions about what projects are, let us look at what it means to me and you…
- Is this a one-time occurrence? (does not happen often or regularly)
- Is there an agreed or understood set of outcomes or results?
- Is there a time limit on achieving the result?
- Is there funds or money (budget) allocated specifically to achieve the results?
- Has a group of people been specifically tasked to achieve the results? (outside normal working situation)
- Is there someone specific or a specific group that would receive the results?
If you can tick more than three of these, you have probably been infected by the project bug…
2. What are the most important things to know?
Obviously there are some things you should know or have:
Project management is about getting other people to help you achieve results.
- List of results or outcomes (deliverables)
- Know when the outcomes should be delivered or completed (end date)
- Understand how you can get your hands on the money (budget)
- Know who is involved with the project (stakeholders)
- Some knowledge of how these results can be achieved (content expertise)
The most important rule of all is:
People = Results
Contrary to popular belief, projects are not about schedules, milestones or cost analysis. They are about managing people effectively.
3. What are the most important things to do?
Have a meeting – ha-ha got you… Actually… it’s not that far off…
Look out here it comes… the most dreaded word in business today…
Who should I communicate to? (Sorted in what I think represents an order of importance)
What does the client really want?
How does that fit in with what the sponsor has asked you to deliver?
Does the team understand what needs to be done?
- People that will receive the outcome, results, deliverables or benefits. (project clients)
- People or person who hired or tasked you to do the project (project sponsor)
- People who will assist you in achieving the deliverables (project team)
- People not on the project that you will have to use to achieve the results e.g. Human Resources, Procurement (Project Stakeholder)
- People who will make sure the project is on the right track e.g. Auditors, Steering Committee (Project Stakeholder)
- Other people who are affected by the project OR can have some influence in achieving success (Project Stakeholder)
If you can simply get these communications bedded down, the project will immediately start going in the right direction.
So now that we have done the communications, we can simply sit back and watch the action… Where is my remote?
I’m so sorry… NO…
There is this other thing…
Planning is a way of figuring out the following: (a sequence that would work under the majority of conditions)
- What do we need to achieve? It is very important to understand what you are expected to do and what you are not expected to do? What would fall “outside the project”? (project scope)
- If there is a lot of work, chop it up into logical or sensible pieces. Arrange these pieces of work in a way that makes sense to all the people involved in making sure the project is a success (work breakdown structure – WBS).
- Look at these pieces of work and decide which will have to be done first, because some pieces will need it to be in place before others can occur e.g. house walls must be erected before you can put a roof on. (sequential or logical arrangement)
- Try and get an accurate understanding of how long (duration) each of these pieces of work will take to complete.
- Now we can add people to these pieces of work (human resource management). Remember to include the people that you will have to hire in for expertise, workforce or any other reason.
Consider when the project has to be completed (end date) and try to work backwards from there. (scheduling)
- We have a big pot of money (overall budget) that we should now divide between the work packages. Include what you have to buy (procurement), who or what you have rent (procurement and services management) as well as the people that will be working on the project’s salaries and wages. Add the unusual stuff like travel cost, hotels, visa’s, food, venue hire, insurance, furniture, …(Preliminary and General – P&G)
- Making sure that each of the work packages delivers a usable and functional output is obviously important. How you and the project team will ensure that this is going to happen is called quality assurance.
- If the project team can come up with a list of things that can go wrong (risk analysis), it would help a lot because you will then know what to look out for.
- Amazing as it may sound the stakeholders will want to know how the project is doing. So we will need to find a way to communicate to all these people in a way that THEY can understand, on a regular basis…
Because you only have a certain amount of money (budget) to hire people and stuff (resources) to achieve the goals within a specific amount of time (duration), it is almost inevitable that there will not be enough of one these elements (constraints).
Congratulations… You have completed a project plan…
But wait… some stuff doesn’t fit together… we don’t have enough people, money, time… OH MY GOODNESS…
Now you need to find a way of managing the constraints. You have gone beyond the basics of project management.
Welcome to the real world of project management!
Anton van den Berg is a professional program and project management practitioner with several years of management experience on various levels and in different capacities in a range of industries and disciplines.
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