~ By Duncan Haughey
In its modern form, project management dates back to the early 1950s, although its roots go further back to the latter years of the 19th century. As businesses realised the benefits of organising work around projects - recognising the critical need to communicate and co-ordinate work across departments and professions - a defined method of project management emerged.
Many organisations today don't employ full-time project managers. Indeed, it's common to pull together a project team to meet a particular need, one that usually involves producing an end product or service that benefits the organisation or effects change. The end result can be tangible or intangible.
Getting to that end result, successfully, is what project management is all about. At its core, then, project management centres on the planning and control of everything involved in delivering the end result - and it's a process that every person on a project team needs to embrace, understand and execute, no matter the experience level.
Even if you lack academic skills in a project methodology, taking a role in a project team provides an excellent learning opportunity, one that can improve your career profile.
Even if you're an experienced manager or team member, a review of the critical - and most basic - elements of project management can inform and improve how effectively you take projects from concept to concrete plan and through to completion.
With that in mind, here's an overview of all that project management encompasses.
A simple definition of project management includes a handful of key premises:
Often, a triangle, commonly called the "triple constraint", is used to summarise project management (see Figure 1). The three most important factors are time, cost and scope. These form the vertices with quality as the central theme.
In words, the triple constraint has four core elements:
More recently, the project management triangle has given way to a project management diamond - with cost, time, scope and quality as the four vertices and customer expectations as a central theme (see Figure 2).
No two customers have the same expectations. You must ask, explicitly, about each customer's expectations. If you don't know what those expectations are, you have no hope of meeting them.
A project goes through six phases during its lifecycle:
The role of the project manager is one of great responsibility. The project manager's job is to direct, supervise and control the project from beginning to end. Project managers should not carry out project work - managing the project is enough. Here are some of the activities a project manager undertakes:
No project ever goes quite as planned. Project managers must learn to adapt to and manage change.
A project manager must have a range of competencies:
Project managers bear ultimate responsibility for making things happen. Traditionally, they have carried out this role as mere implementers. To do their jobs they needed to have the necessary administrative and technical competencies.
Today they play a far broader role. In addition to the traditional skills, they need to have business skills, customer relations skills, and political skills.
Psychologically, they must be results-oriented self-starters with a high tolerance for ambiguity because little is clear-cut in today's tumultuous business environment. Shortcomings in any of these areas can lead to project failure.J. Davidson Frame
Many things can go wrong in project management. Any barriers, risks and issues can affect every phase and process of project management. Here are just some of the things that can possibly go wrong:
A good project management discipline will not eliminate all risks, issues and surprises - but it will provide standard processes and procedures to deal with them and help prevent the following:
Project management is all about creating an environment and conditions in which to achieve a particular goal or objective - in a controlled manner with a team of people.
When you're familiar with what project management entails, from the process to mitigating all that can possibly (and often does) go wrong, you affect the end result - whether you're engaged in a project methodology for the first time or a seasoned pro.
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