Project Management as a practice is not new. In fact, in the past project management helped create various wonders of the world. However, the armed forces further developed this concept and applied it in practice. Moreover, civilian organizations also adopted this technique and implemented it in their business activities. As a matter of fact, the project management concepts that we use today have evolved over a long period. The intent of this post is not to cover the history of project management but to present an overview to the readers. Hence, the post, project management guide for beginners describes all the essential aspects of this subject.
Table of Contents
What is a project?
In general, a project is a one-time activity that an organization initiates to achieve a definite goal over a fixed period. Moreover, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines a project as.
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or a result.
The following are the key project attributes that characterize a project.
It is important to realize that the temporary nature of projects indicates a definite start and end date. The performing organization may decide to close a project even if the project fails to meet its objectives. Pre-mature closure of projects may result due to insufficient funds or changes in the requirements of end users. Even though projects are temporary, their deliverables exist beyond the end of the project.
The following is PMBOK definition of project objectives
An objective is defined as an outcome toward which work is to be directed.
To put it differently, a project creates deliverables which in turn help achieve project objectives.
Further, PMBOK defines project deliverables as;
A deliverable is any unique and a verifiable product, result or capability to complete a service that is required to complete a process, phase or a project.
In other words, A project deliverable is a sub-set of project objectives. Moreover, deliverables are both tangible or intangible. Some examples of intangible deliverables include goodwill, brand recognition, and strategic alignment.
Though the desired outcome may have been achieved elsewhere, but they are unique to the performing organization. Factors such as design conditions, location, and product features, add uniqueness to project deliverables.
In general, projects may be performed as a stand-alone activity. Occasionally the outcome of an ongoing project is linked to other projects, programs or operations. Hence, understanding the concept of a program clarifies this concept. A program is a group of related projects or programs managed in a coordinated manner. It is important to note that in a program projects are grouped to achieve benefits not available if managed individually.
Because of the unique nature of projects, time constraints, and interdependencies risk is an inherent part of any project. A risk is an uncertain event, that if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on project outcomes. Risk is a negative effect whereas opportunity is a positive effect on project outcome.
Timely completion of any activity needs men, materials, and machinery. In this regard, projects are not different. However, projects do not receive resources permanently. Mostly, it is the functional department that provides resources on a temporary basis. Occasionally, agencies outside the performing organization also provide resources. The demand for competing resources often leads to conflict. The sum total of all resources that a project needs is called the project budget.
The Triple Constraints
Another key point and by far the most cliched aspect of the project is the presence of triple constraints. A project necessarily has to monitor the three critical aspects namely, schedule, scope, and cost. In general, an equilateral triangle represents the triple constraints. It is important to note that neglecting any one dimension adversely impacts project performance.
Why Initiate a Project?
The following list enumerates the reasons for initiating a project
- Market demand
- Strategic alignment
- Business needs
- Customer request
What is Project Management
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to achieve project outcomes. Project management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of the project management processes identified for the project.
Importance of Project Management
Another key point is that project management helps organizations implement projects effectively and efficiently. The following lists key benefits of project management.
- Achieve business objectives
- Fulfill stakeholder needs
- Enhance predictability of project outcomes
- Increase chances of project success
- Deliver the right projects at the right time
- Optimize the use of organizational resources
- Respond to project risks in a cost-effective way.
- Identify, recover, or terminate failing projects.
- Manage project changes effectively
- Manage project constraints such as scope, schedule, costs, quality, and resources.
The Project Life Cycle
PMBOK 6th, edition defines project life cycle as the series of phases that a project passes through from its start to its completion. A project phase is a collection of logically related project activities that culminate in the completion of project deliverables. The phases may be sequential, iterative, or overlapping. The project life cycle provides the basic framework to manage the project regardless of the specific work involved. According to the PMBOK, a generic project life cycle consists of the following generic phases:
- Starting the project (Initiating)
- Organizing and preparing (Planning)
- Carrying out the work (Executing)
- Ending the project (Closing)
Also read: Project Phase Understanding its Nuances
Project Life Cycle Characteristics
The following enumerates essential characteristics of a generic project life cycle.
- The project cost and resource requirements are low at the start of the project.
- The project costs and resources increase as the work is carried out.
- As the project draws to a close costs and resource requirements drop considerably.
- Risk is greatest at the start of the project.
- Risk decreases over the life of the project as decisions are reached and as deliverables are accepted.
- Factors that influence project risk decrease as the project progresses.
- The impact of project change is low at the initial stages of the project.
- The cost of introducing any change is highest towards the end of the project.
The Development Life Cycles
Following are the two types of project life cycles
Within a project lifecycle, there are one or more phases associated with the development of a product, service or result. These are called development life cycles. The development life cycle can be of the following types.
Project Management Processes
The project life cycle is managed by executing a series of project management activities known as project management processes. Every project management process produces one or more output from one or more inputs by using appropriate project management tools and techniques. As a matter of fact, PMBOK 6th edition has identified forty-nine project management processes. These processes are grouped under five process groups and divided among the 10 PMBOK knowledge areas.
Also read: Project Management Process Simplified
Tools & Techniques
The following post enumerates all essential tools and techniques.
PMBOK Process Groups
Project Management Process Group is a logical grouping of project management processes to achieve specific project objectives. Process Groups are independent of project phases. The PMBOK Guide groups them into the following five groups.
- Monitoring & Controlling
Also read: Project Management Process Groups
Project Management Methodologies
A methodology is a system of practices, techniques, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline. As a matter of fact, the PMBOK guide explicitly states that PMBOK is not a methodology but a guide. Following are some of these methodologies.
- Earned Value Management
- Critical Path Method
A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge
PMI defines the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) as a term that describes the knowledge within the profession of project management. The PMBOK Guide includes proven traditional practices that are widely applied and innovative practices that are emerging in the profession. The PMBOK Guide 7th edition is available for download at pmi.org.
PMBOK Project Management Knowledge Areas
A knowledge area is an identified area of project management. Further, specific knowledge requirements define these knowledge areas. Also, its processes, practices, inputs, outputs, tools and techniques describe the knowledge area. The following is the list of 10 knowledge areas with a brief description of each.
- Integration – integrates various project management processes and activities.
- Scope – ensures that the project includes all the work and only the work required to complete the project successfully.
- Schedule – manages timely completion of the project.
- Cost – manages project completion within an approved budget.
- Quality – incorporates the organization's quality policy and meets stakeholder's objectives.
- Resource – manages resources for successful completion of the project.
- Communications – ensures effective information exchange for the project and its stakeholders.
- Risk – manages both positive & negative risks to optimize chances of project success.
- Procurement – manages products, services or results needed from outside the project team.
- Stakeholder – develops a strategy to effectively engage with project stakeholders.
Project Management Certification
Finally, a number of certifications such as PMI's PMP, Prince2, and others are available. In fact, PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most popular and sought-after credential. As described on PMI's website there are approximately 1.4 Million PMP certification holders. PMP certification offers numerous benefits. To learn more read PMP Certification Benefits. To know about the PMP application process read PMP Certification Application Process.