You have just been asked to manage a new project. Where do you start?
First, let's start with the definition of a project. A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge, Project Management Institute). A true project is not just a set of tasks to be performed. By viewing the project in terms of a process that will achieve a desired end goal, the project manager breaks down the effort into a series of tasks. The completion of the tasks leads to the final solution (the product) of the project.
Next, what are the roles and responsibilities of a project manager. The project manager has total responsibility for the overall project and its successful completion. To succeed in this responsibility, the project manager must work closely with the sponsor to ensure that adequate resources are applied. The project manager also has responsibility for planning and ensuring that the project is successfully completed on time, within budget, and to the client's scope.
Having the proper skill set within a project manager is important to the success of the project. A project manager must have:
- Integrative Skills - holistic philosophy, systems approach thinking, flexibility and cultural awareness
- Project Management Skills - planning, organizing, controlling, and monitoring
- People Skills - leadership, communication, facilitation, motivation, and team building
- Technical Skills - engineering and scientific ability, mathematical competence, specialized expertise
- Business and Management Skills - organizational operations insight, general business management, and fundamentals of planning, budgeting, and finance
What other people are involved in projects? Typical project personnel include: project team, project sponsor, and business owner.
Now that you know what a project is, know the roles and responsibilities of a project manager, have the attributes set to be a skilled project manager, and know what people are involved in your project, it's time to move to the project.
A project is divided into five phases: initiation, planning, execution, control, and closeout. Each of these phases is described in additional details below.
- Initiation - Project Initiation is the conceptual element of project management. Accordingly, the purpose of the Initiation Phase is to specify what the project should accomplish. Questions to ask yourself during this phase are: Who is the project client? What are the overall project objectives? What is the statement of work? What are the high-level project requirements?
Documents to be completed for this phase include a Project Charter. A Project Feasibility and Project Concept may also be prepared.
- Planning - Project Planning is considered to be the most important phase in project management. Time spent up front identifying the proper needs and structure for organizing and managing projects saves countless hours of confusion and rework later in the project. The purpose of this phase of the project is to establish business requirements, to establish precise cost and schedule of the project (including a list of deliverables and delivery dates), to establish the project team and to obtain management approval.
Documents that can be included during Project Planning include: Project Plan, Project Scope Statement, Critical Success Factors, Work Breakdown Structure, Organizational Breakdown Structure, Cost Benefit Analysis, Resource Plan, Project Schedule, Risk Management Plan, Procurement Plan, Quality Plan, Communications Plan, Confirmation Management Plan, and Budget.
- Execution - Once a project moves to Project Execution, the project team and the necessary resources to carry out the project should be in place and ready to perform the project activities. The Project Plan should have been completed and baselined by this time as well The project team and the project manager now focus on participating in, observing and analyzing the work being done.
Key activities for this phase include monitoring performance and providing project status. The major document for this phase is the Project Status Report.
- Control - Project Control is a formal process in project management. This phase involves comparing actual performance with planned performance and taking corrective action (or directing or motivating others to do so) to yield the desired outcome when significant differences exist.
Documents to complete during the Control Phase include: Change Control Request and Issue Document.
- Closeout - The last major phase of a project's life cycle is Project Closeout. This phase is performed once all defined project objectives have been met and the client has accepted the project's product or service. Project Closeout includes: redistributing resources, closing out any financial issues, completing, collecting and archiving project records, documenting the success and issues of the project, conducting a lessons learned session, and celebrating project success.
The Post-Implementation Evaluation Report is the key document used for Project Closeout.
The State of Michigan uses the Project Management Methodology to manage and monitor Information Technology projects by establishing formal project management practices. This methodology provides procedures and sample templates for large complex projects. Various types of project management training are available for the novice or experienced project manager.