What is project management? At root, it is a management process that can be applied to any initiative large or small that must deliver within a certain timeframe and cost, in order to meet specific objectives.
Project management and strategy
What is project management within the context of an organisational strategy? It is the dynamic management process that utilises the appropriate resources of an organisation in a controlled and structured manner, to achieve clearly defined objectives and to deliver a capability to meet an identified strategic need.
Project management and change management
In the context of a change initiative - what is project management? It is the delivery of the capability that with careful Programme Management will lead to the realisation of the business benefit envisaged in the organisational strategy.
It is important to stress that in a change management context, that whilst project management is crucially important, good project management alone will not guarantee success. There are more components.
Project management and programme management
What is also needed is a more holistic perspective – that takes in the bigger picture. This is what programme management provides via a supplementary framework that takes the longer and wider view of the management of any and all other activities that are necessary to ensure the realisation of the business benefits.
It is important to stress that it is the benefits and not the capabilities that fulfil the strategic vision. But to realise these business benefits we first need the capabilities that are delivered via successful project management and from the benefits are derived.
My own approach to change management goes even further than programme management and includes:
Project Management/Change Management: Bridging The Gap
A recent webinar featuring Daryl Conner
What is project management maturity?
What is project management in today's business environment? It is recognised as an essential capability for organisations to maximise value and reduce costs, and it has developed considerably in the past 20 years. It is now also recognised as a key component of change management skills and tools.
It is a professional discipline with a body of knowledge, a set of skills and competencies and professional certification bodies.
The origin of the concept of what is project management in terms of a maturity model, is lost in the mists of time.
With evidence of project management skills as far back as the time of the building of the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China and other great wonders of the world - it is quite logical to assume that there could have been an early project management maturity model to map the progress of developing project management skills.
After all, for an ancient project manager the price of failure came high!
In more recent times the concept of a project management maturity model has evolved considerably from the software industry with the need to understand and measure many variables, manage great complexity, obtain consistent results and achieve stringent delivery targets within budget.
The basic principles of what is project management
There are a number of significant principles that determine success in any project, and whilst they are simple and well known principles, they are difficult to apply and frequently ignored in practice. They are as follows:
Precise Business Needs
Successful projects are business driven and address the ‘why’ of the project. This is known as the business case and is important in that it provides the basis for all decision making.
Projects are about translating the business need into the business benefit which is derived from the new capability delivered by the project. N.B. Programme management will impose the disciplines to define and quantify and management the realisation of these benefits via benefit profiles and benefit management.
Effective planning, allows people to work together in a co-ordinated way in order to achieve the project objectives, and is dependent on the appropriate level of granularity and presentation.
Quite simply a ‘deliverable’ is an unambiguous way of defining responsibilities in terms of outputs rather than inputs. Each phase, area and task within the project plan should have a tangible deliverable associated with it - something that can be seen, and physically validated.
Pro-Active Decision Making
Project work has little momentum of its own, unlike routine work. All parties involved are therefore required to take the initiative and actively look for ways of driving and improving the project outcome.
Single Point Responsibility
In business tasks are only completed successfully when people have unambiguous accountabilities. ‘Single point responsibility’ for results is of the very essence. The Project Manager is ultimately responsible for making the project happen.
Plans have practical value only when they are used to help people do their daily work. They are similarly used as a means of identifying problems while there is still time to overcome them. Plans must therefore be used throughout the entire project in order to allocate tasks and monitor achievement.
Time must be invested in communication as it is the key to a successful project. By effectively communicating the project and issues everyone involved has the opportunity to take the initiative and contribute fully with ideas and decisions.
Teamwork in projects is absolutely critical but does not happen automatically. Project work involves people from different parts of the organisation, often with competing priorities and different perspectives, which can make teamwork all the more difficult to achieve. Teams must therefore be actively developed by the Project Manager.
Successful projects are usually led by an individual who is committed to the project objectives, and who has a completely clear view of where the project is going and how they intend to get there. The leadership qualities of the Project Manager are as important as their technical management skills.
What is project management benefit?
In order to apply project management principles it takes time and effort, disciplines and techniques. Project management adds value in quite a number of ways, some of which are detailed below:
(1) Maximises the benefits of the project by focusing the efforts, of everyone involved, on the business need while working to improve the value of the result.
(2) Advances the benefits by minimising the time taken for the project and wherever possible, achieving a phased delivery of business results.
(3) Optimises resources by ensuring that everyone knows what they have to do.
(4) Minimises costs by ensuring that only essential work is completed, and that work does not have to be redone.
(5) Avoids wasted time simply by communicating extensively, and running effective meetings which result in agreed actions, which are completed.
By using project management principles and practices millions of dollars can be saved on projects. It can dramatically accelerate the introduction of beneficial change, and greatly increase the satisfaction of everyone involved, alleviating enormous frustration usually involved in projects.
When applied with sensitivity and adjustment the benefits of project management provide an excellent return on the time and energy invested.
What is project management methodology?
A methodology is a set of defined methods, processes and practices that are repeatedly carried out to successfully deliver projects. A core concept here is replicability – the same steps can be repeated for every project undertaken, thus maximising efficiencies.
The biggest mistake in project management is not using a methodology. Here is what you will gain from using a project management methodology:
Create a project roadmap
Monitor time, cost and quality
Control change and scope
Minimise risks and issues
Manage staff and suppliers
Here are 5 things that should be included in any definition of what is project management methodology
(1) A core set of processes to follow for delivering projects.
(2) A set of templates to help you build deliverables quickly.
(3) An option for customizing the methodology provided.
(4) The ability to import your existing processes into it.
(5) A suite of case studies to help you learn from past projects.
No methodology will be 100% applicable to every type of project. So you will need to customise any methodology you use to ensure that it perfectly fits your project management environment.
An acknowledgement and a highly recommended resource
I am not a project manager. I have worked with many over the years and have nothing but respect for the skills and focus that project managers bring to the business of change management. I gratefully acknowledge the support and assistance of Linky Van Der Merwe, Founder Virtual Project Consulting for material and advice in the preparation of this section on project management
Linky is a former Project Manager at Microsoft Consulting Services and an IT Project Manager with 13 years IT industry experience and 10 years Project Management experience.
She consults with small-medium business owners and service professionals about project management and project processes, best practices and successful delivery through projects. She is most experienced in corporate infrastructure (upgrades, migration, deployment) and process optimisation.
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