Have you ever been given the task to install a new system only to find there wasn’t enough time or money to complete the job? Did you have to cut one of the less critical options to save time or money? Did you find that once you started, the simple install became a complex nightmare? As you somehow made it through the project alive, did you look back and say to yourself “next time I will do better”, knowing that next time was probably going to be next week. If these situations sound familiar to you, then you are probably struggling with project management.
Let’s first define what project management is and is not. For instance, just because you can install Microsoft Project software and print a Gantt chart, doesn’t mean you know how to manage a project. Project management has many aspects that aren’t contained in any of the project management software packages. Besides the schedule, budget, and resource allocation (that most software’s help you manage); you must consider other aspects of the project first. Specifically, the scope of the project, the quality characteristics that the customer and/or your boss require, the risk that you are taking for your company, the contract requirements and constraints, and the communication necessary both internal to your organization and externally to the rest of the world. Eventually, each project will go through four phases known as the concept phase, plan phase, execution phase, and closeout phase.
During the concept phase, management is defined as making the decision of whether or not to do the project. The project manager gathers data and identifies needs for the Project. He/she is looking for any major risk that would stop them from doing the project, such as the ability to meet the schedule, Return On Investment (ROI) being very low or nonexistent, or whether the project fits into the company’s strategic business goals. The project manager also questions if the company has the resources available to complete the project. This includes manpower, technical aptitude, and financial resources.
Once the initial decision has been made to proceed with the project, the project then enters the planning phase. The majority of companies (about eighty percent) wait to appoint a project manager until this phase; although it is highly recommended that the project manager be involved at least by the middle of the concept phase. The project manager now creates the project plan. The project schedule, budget, resource responsibility matrix, and risk plan are all located in this plan. The project plan should be the living document and Bible for the project.
When the second phase of the project life cycle is completed, there is a major change in the nature of the work of the project team. The activities in the first two phases were primarily concerned with knowledge-acquisition, conceptualization, and planning. Once the execute phase is reached, the nature of the activities focus on carrying out the project plan that was designed during phases I and II. The project manager uses the project plan to monitor and control the project. The project manager reports the project progress to all stakeholders on a periodic basis. You will also notice that the activity level of the overall organization increases significantly during this phase.
The final phase of the project life cycle, the closeout phase, contains those activities necessary to bring the project to its appropriate end. The closeout phase is where the project manager evaluates how well the team performed, as well as improvements that could be made on the next project. He/she also makes sure the Customer is happy with the project. Remember that the project is only a success when you have a satisfied Customer.
From these brief descriptions you can see that the type of tasks and skills needed change during the course of a project. It is not possible to explain all of the aspects of project management in a short article. However, if you are responsible for managing projects or if the people who manage your projects are not performing as well as you’d like, maybe its because they’ve never been properly trained to manage projects. Even a short overview course can improve the manager’s ability to get a project done on time and on budget. As your projects become bigger and more complex, you will want to take advanced training. Project Masters Inc. offers basic through advanced training, including PMP certification training.
How much money could you have saved on your last project if you or the person managing the project had better project management skills?
Is it important that your customers and/or your boss complete projects correctly, on time, and within budget?
Now is the time to go beyond Gantt charts and improve your project management skills.
For more information visit our Project Management Training page.