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Project management 102

by Anton van den Berg

project-managementOnce you understand the basics of project management, you may be ready to begin a project. But between the start and the end of the project lie many pitfalls that will prevent you completing your project, and many approaches that will help you move forward.

This article is about the approaches and standards used to manage projects, and the typical phases you will need to go through to complete a project.

There are many standards and approaches that are used to manage projects. These include:

Project management approaches and methodologies

  • The traditional approach.
  • PRINCE2.
  • PRiSM (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods).
  • Critical chain project management.
  • Event chain methodology.
  • Process-based management.
  • Agile project management.
  • Lean project management.
  • Extreme project management.

You can read more about these approaches on Wikipedia.

Project management standards

Project management is like a game of snakes and ladders. Project management standards act as ladders, helping you to achieve project success.

There have been several attempts to develop standards for project management. Some of the most popular include:

  • Capability Maturity Model from the Software Engineering Institute.
  • GAPPS, Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards – an open source standard describing COMPETENCIES for project and program managers.
  • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge from the Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • HERMES method, a Swiss general project management method, selected for use in Luxembourg and international organizations.
  • The ISO standards ISO 9000, a family of standards for quality management systems, and the ISO 10006:2003, for Quality management systems and guidelines for quality management in projects.
  • PRINCE2, Project s In Controlled Environments.
  • Association for Project Management Body of Knowledge[33]
  • Team Software Process (TSP) from the Software Engineering Institute.
  • Total Cost Management Framework, AACE International's Methodology for Integrated Portfolio, Program and Project Management.
  • V-Model, an original systems development method.
  • The Logical Framework Approach, which is popular in international development organizations.
  • IAPPM, The International Association of Project & Program Management, provides guidelines for project auditing and rescuing troubled projects.

For clarity sake we will only delve into one of these "flavours" of project management - Project Management Institute (PMI). The most important next step in your discovery of what project management is revolves around phases.

The phases of project management

Between the start and end of a project there are five phases we need to go through. The phases are intended to allow us to group things together logically so we have the greatest chance of succeeding. We have to remember that some learning and bitter experiences have contributed to the knowledge that constitutes the groupings. The five major phases are:

1. Initiation

You have to know a few things before you really start a project. These things are absolutely vital to the success of the project.

  • What MUST the project achieve (not from the project's view, but from the client's view).
  • How much funding is available to achieve what (and how will you be able to get it – what does the project have to do)?
  • Who are the people involved (For example, use the list of stakeholders you identified in Project Management 101.)
  • Get written signed approval of your understanding of what the project has to achieve (The project charter).

2. Planning and Design

Project planning is used to manage project risk by estimating the time, resources, cost and other factors needed to deliver the project successfully.

We have discussed planning before, why again now? In Project Management 101 we used planning to define the project. In this phase you will have to plan to achieve the results. You have to plan to an "appropriate level of detail" to allow you to manage project risk by estimating the time, resources, cost and other factors that will affect the chances of delivering the project successfully.

3. Executing

Do the work that you said that you were going to do in the planning phase. This is where the tyre hits tar, things get serious and things will have to happen…

Team interventions
  • People will have to know who does what when, why and for how long…
  • They have to work hard (I can almost guarantee you that you will not have enough time or people to get all the stuff done).
  • They will have to work as a team and support one another.
  • They will have to be accurate and precise. (There is no time to redo work.)
  • People will expect you to do things more cheaply than is realistically possible.

4. Monitoring and Controlling

You have to constantly evaluate what people are doing…

  • Is it in line with what has been specified?
  • How do we overcome this unanticipated problem?
  • If we lose time doing this, how do we get it back?
  • If one aspect of the project costs more than what we were told, how do we recover the extra expenditure?
  • If we pay more for a better person, will we save enough time to make it worth our while?
  • How does the client perceive all the activity?

5. Closing

One of three things will cause a project to close:

  • You have achieved all of the project deliverables. (YAY….. )
  • The project was stopped due to a shift in requirements. (The reason why the project existed has changed or disappeared)
  • It has been agreed that the project will never reach the project deliverables. (Many reasons within and external to the project can cause this to happen.)

If your project ended because you achieved all your deliverables - take time to celebrate.

Anton van den BergAnton 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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