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Project Management – Not just a buzz word(s)

Project management is not just a hot new buzz word being used in pop culture. Get introduced to the concepts of Project Management and how you can learn from international standards and apply them in your business.
Written Nov 27, 2008, read 5084 times since then.
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Do you have a dream? Have you ever moved?  Do you need to design a new website?  Have you ever written a book? OR Decorated a room for a child?  If you said yes to any of the above, you have worked on a project.  Today I hear lots of people talk about project management and how they work on projects.  If you ever saw the TV show with Donald Trump called ‘The Apprentice’ then you heard the term project manager used in every episode.  Project management is not just a hot new buzz word being used in pop culture.  Project Management is a profession and I would like to share with you how you can take some of the international standards and apply these practices in your business.  The greatest thing about project management is that it can be used in any industry and any business.  We all do projects and the beauty of applying some discipline means we can get better at what we do.

First, how would you define a project?  Some may say it is a task, others may say it is a dream and yet others may say it is a problem you are trying to solve.  All of that is true!!!   I like to define a project as temporary and unique.  Temporary means that whatever you are doing has a definite start and stop date.  Unique means you have not done it before or it is different than the last time you did it, whatever ‘it’ is.  So based on that definition, virtually everything we do is a project.

The start and a stop date implies that there is a lifecycle.  Just like us humans and all living things have a life span, so do projects.  As a matter of fact, my wife tells me I am her biggest project, but that is an article for a different time.  Every project can be split up into three easy phases:  the start (initial phase), the middle, (intermediate phase) and the end (final phase).  However, a project lifecycle can be defined by the organization, project manager or project team.  It can also be divided into multiple phases to provide better control.

Now that we know what a project is and that each project has a lifecycle, how do we manage this temporary and unique endeavor.  Based on the international best practice and the de facto standard, a project can be managed by using 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas.  A brief introduction to these process groups and knowledge areas is given below.  In follow-up articles, I will explain in more detail how you can apply these process groups and knowledge areas to everyday work.

The 5 process groups are: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling and Closing.  The Initiating process is where you define the project or project phases.  The Planning process is how you define/refine the objectives and plan the course of action required to attain the objectives of the project.  Once you have created a plan, the executing process is about getting things done. This is where most people and organizations start and they skip all the activities related to initiating and planning.  While you are executing your plan, you will also be applying the monitoring & controlling processes.  This means that you will regularly measure and monitor progress to identify variances from the plan, and take corrective action when necessary.  As the project draws to an end, you will begin applying the closing processes.  You will begin formalizing acceptance of the product, service or results and bring the project to an orderly completion.

While all these processes are being used during the lifecycle of a project, you will be considering and managing the 9 knowledge areas: Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communication, Risk, Procurement and Integration.  Scope management is about what’s in, what’s not, and how to do it.  When managing time, you are planning and controlling effort, duration and defining the timeline.  Activities related to cost management are estimating and tracking your budget.  Quality management is all about making sure your service or product is good.  For most businesses, project human resources means getting the right people on the team to do the job, even if it means reaching out to other businesses.  Once you have identified all the right people, you need to communicate with them and make sure you are managing how and when you are communicating.  Once your plan is in place, you need to make sure you can follow that plan. Project risk management is the way to ensure you can get it done by creating alternative plans and options.  Project procurement management is getting what you need when you need it.  All these knowledge areas are a lot to manage and you need a way to tie it all together, which is where project integration comes in.  You need to make sure all parts work together whether it is a knowledge area or a process group. 

The international standard has taught us that in order to get it done right, we need to think about more than scope, time and cost.  I hope this introduction to the profession of project management has piqued your interest.   Look for more articles in the near future when we will begin to outline more details about these process groups and knowledge areas.

Learn more about the author, Nathaniel Quintana.

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