Project Management - Overview
Common misconceptions about Project Management
Here are some questions we hear
frequently that demonstrate a misunderstanding of project
- What does the project
- Why doesn't the project
manager do some of the work?
- Why don't we make our top
specialist the project manager?
- Why does the project
manager need a support team?
- Isn't this all an
unnecessary overhead for the project?
Project management is a
specialist discipline. In a well run project, there is a constant
array of management issues to deal with, as well as a challenging
routine of project management processes.
360o Responsibility of the Project
Project Manager is responsible for everything that is required to
make the project a success - whether directly or indirectly. It
is not like a typical hierarchical line management role. The
Project Manager is at the centre of everything relating to the
project. Controlling the contributions of seniors and peers is
just as important as managing the work of the team.
- The Project Manager needs to manage upwards - ensuring
that the inverted hierarchy comprising the organisation's
leadership and the project sponsors are doing all that is
required to guarantee the success of the project.
- The Project Manager is also the main focal point for
liaison with other departments, projects and initiatives
within the organisation, taking into account the needs
and contributions of other internal groups.
- The Project Manager is equally the main point of contact
for aspects requiring co-operation and co-ordination with
external parties such as the project's suppliers and
contractors, customers, suppliers, regulatory bodies, and
other third parties - making sure everything is in place
to guarantee success.
- The Project Manager has direct responsibility for the
activities of all project participants, all project tasks
and all deliverables.
Bear in mind that the Project Manager needs to achieve this without direct control
over the participants. The Project Manager will not have power over the leadership, nor the
internal and external contributors. Even in the project team there may be
loaned staff, part-timers and sub-contractors who will have their prime
The Project Management process
Project management is a complex
undertaking, with many stages and processes. It should follow the
full business lifecycle, from definition and justification of the
project, through to delivering demonstrable benefits for the
The project manager's skills
are essential from the beginning. The defined approach and its
business case will rely on a good understanding of the project
process along with reliable estimating and carefully considered
As well as the project
manager's prime objective to deliver the results, there are many
supporting disciplines and processes. These should ensure that
the project will deliver a valuable result without surprises. The
foremost need is to monitor the anticipated level of benefits and
make adjustments to deliver optimum results. The leadership team
should also actively identify and manage risks, issues, changed
requirements, quality standards, plus a host of other side issues.
Not all these processes follow
the traditional development lifecycle. In particular, it is wrong
to consider the project has finished when the new system goes
live. That way you will never know whether it delivered the
planned benefits and you will probably not achieve them!
Management attention must be retained to deliver the benefits -
through to the Post-Implementation Review (PIR) and beyond. Some
of the project management processes will migrate into continuing
line management processes to be used throughout the life of the
Here is a summary of the processes:
- The concept, objectives, approach and
justification of the project are properly defined,
agreed and communicated.
planning maps out an overall
management plan from which resources, acquisitions and
sub-contracts can be identified, costed and put in place.
The business case will be re-assessed to ensure the
original assumptions and justification hold true. At this
stage, many of the detailed management processes will be
defined and instigated.
- A project will pass through several stages
or phases, each with a different objective and
deliverable. Typically the phases will require different
skills, structures and resource levels. It is normal to plan,
resource each phase
separately (albeit overlapping the preliminary work to
benefits will be
assessed and monitored throughout the project -
optimising benefit should be the prime goal of the
requirements and approaches will be defined and
agreed during the project start-up. Typically there will
be rules that apply to the routine work of the team plus
quality audits at the
end of the phases.
will be assessed at the start of the project.
Contingency plans and avoiding action will be defined as
appropriate. The risk management process will pro-actively
monitor risks throughout the project. Risk assessments
and plans will be modified as appropriate.
- All participants will be encouraged to
issues for resolution.
The issues management process will ensure they are
considered and addressed.
scope of the project
and specific changes to the solution will be controlled
through a management process with appropriate balances
and controls - focused on achieving optimum overall
- Versions of all deliverables will be
controlled (whether temporary working papers or permanent
outputs) through a
process will ensure all information is
available to all those who require it, and is subject to
careful control over authorship, reviews and updates.
- An effective
team will be nurtured
through appropriate initiation, training, communications,
and social events.
change issues will be assessed
early in the project, leading to a course of
communications, events and other activities to ensure all
parties affected by the change are ready and willing to
- The needs to communicate
outside the team with other parts of the
organisation, customers, suppliers, and other parties
will be assessed. A course of communications will be
defined and actioned.
- Large projects inevitable require a
process to handle expenditure on subcontractors,
equipment, software, and facilities. Project accounting
will monitor and control expenditure - both as
a routine management activity and as part of the overall
focus on delivering optimum benefits.
involved, there will be a management process to agree and
- At the end of the project, there will be
several activities to transition work, processes and
deliverables to line operation. The team also need to
ensure filing and documentation is in good order, leaving
behind sufficient detail for the operation of the system,
audits concerning the project, and as a baseline for
future maintenance and development. People, equipment and
facilities need to be demobilised.
- After the live solution has settled down,
it is normal to organise a
Post Implementation Review
to measure the success of the project, to see
what further improvements can be made, and to learn
lessons for the future.
The Project Office
In a well-run project there is a lot going on.
The routine project management processes require a combination of
special skills and administrative resource. Rarely is it enough
just to appoint a project manager. To do the job properly
requires time and resources.
It is common to put in place a small project office
team to deal with the administrative tasks of the
project, freeing up the project leadership and project resources
to get on with their jobs. A project office team might comprise
roles such as project manager, project planner, progress tracker,
financial controller, process administrator (change control,
risks, issues, configuration, documentation management), quality
controller, communications manager, organisational change
manager, and administrative support.
It may be beneficial to use an integrated set
of support tools.
Project information can be shared among the team
members from a single data source. Modern tools enable effective
communication of project information through existing user
interfaces such as web browsers and eMail. Typical uses would be
- make the detailed calculations concerning
scheduling, costs and progress etc,
- publish progress information,
- publish individuals' task details,
- manage the workflow for submitting and
handling changes, risks, and issues,
- enforce controls, for example in the
"checking in" and "checking out" of
Put in place the project
management people, processes and technology
Few organisations get the most out of their
programmes and projects. Intelligently adapting a company's
current approach to adopt the features of best-practice
management approaches can lead to considerable benefits. It will
ensure your objectives are realistic and will produce optimum
benefit. It will seek to deliver the goals with no surprise. It
will ensure everything is done to optimise the overall benefit to
the organisation, despite changes to the business, changes in the
economy and the inevitable snags along the way. In these
uncertain times you need to be able to answer the following
questions with assurance.
- Do I have confidence in the timescales,
costs and net benefits?
- Do I understand all the risks to achieving
- Am I certain this is the best investment
we can make with our limited resources?
Each project should have a proper definition,
for example: objectives, budget, performance measures,
accountabilities and timescale. It should follow well-defined
project management processes, designed to ensure it stays on
track to deliver optimum benefit. To have any degree of
confidence in the outcome of a project you need to put in place
the right people with the right combination of skills. They
should work with the best practice processes and tools to make
sure the project is properly defined and run. This needs to be in
place before the work starts.
To have any degree of confidence in the outcome
of a project you need to put in place the right people with the
right combination of skills. They should work with the best
practice processes and tools to make sure the project is properly
defined and run. This needs to be in place before the work starts.