Introduction to Project Management
Introduction Project management is concerned with ensuring that all of the complexities of project work are planned, coordinated, integrated and executed effectively, so that the finished work is delivered on time, to the client's satisfaction, and within budget or cost.
Project work is carried out in all sectors, and includes:
- building and civil engineering projects and ventures
- engineering development work and new capital product development
- defence and military projects and ventures
- chemical, biological and biotechnology ventures
- computer and information systems projects
- design and development projects for new products, services and ventures
- marketing and product and service development projects
- the start up aspects of new ventures, product and services development activities
The nature of project management approach clearly varies between projects; and this in turn is made more complicated still according to the content of the project itself, the client or commissioner of the work, and financial and other operational and environmental constraints.
Feasibility Studies and Pilot Programmes and Prototypes Anything that is being tried for the first time, or in a new location, requires an initial judgement as to whether it is truly going to feasible in its finished form. It is therefore usual to pilot or test a prototype approach, or to try out initial developments on a small scale (this is especially important with information systems and computer projects).
Derived Project Work Derived project work arises when it becomes apparent that, in order to complete the main project, additional equipment, technology, software and capital machinery is required. The creation and completion of these items constitute 'derived projects'. Derived projects may come with their own constraints and needs for research, piloting, testing and evaluation.
Project Finance and Economics The core of project finance and economics is the decision about what is to be included, and what is not. Different organisations take different approaches. Whichever approach is taken, it is essential to be able to make the financial projections as certain and accurate as possible. It is normal for there to be contingency funds to cope with unexpected and unforeseen circumstances. Funding acquired from backers and loan makers normally comes with constraints, and the influence of these constraints requires assessment and evaluation at the outset. In general, securing adequate finance at the outset of the project is essential. In practice, finance is normally apportioned in blocks and/or at regular intervals; and in many cases the next tranche of finance is dependent upon the outcome of activities to date.
Schedules Project work is based on schedules. Schedules drive both the whole and also the parts. In this context, it is essential to know and understand how activities relate to each other, the order and sequence of activities, and the need to coordinate particular contributions to the whole that are required along the way. It is usual to identify a critical path, and this is the scheduling of activities to identify the slowest speed at which each of the activities and elements can be integrated and conducted. It is additionally usual to identify the quickest at which activities can be completed. Sub-schedules and non-critical and peripheral paths are normally identified for non-core or non-critical activities.
Investment Appraisal In general, all projects come with financial strings attached. Companies and organisations invest in project work with specific outcomes and returns desired and required. Investment in project work is also to be seen in terms of the specific and wider contributions that the finished works are expected to make in the particular set of circumstances. In many cases therefore it becomes necessary to conduct
- cost benefit analyses, which require balancing the costs (financial and non-financial) of going into particular ventures, with the returns (financial and non-financial) that are expected to accrue
- opportunity cost assessment, requiring choices to be made from the point of view that, because resources are (invariably) limited and finite, going into one venture will probably mean that other opportunities have to be let slip
- net present values assessments, in which the projected final costs of the project are assessed at today's values in order to gain an informed estimate of the total cost of the venture and the implications for future activities
Project Team and Group Management Project teams and groups are normally constituted of those who have overall responsibility for the completion of the work, and specific responsibilities and expertise in particular aspects. At given points during the work, particular persons will be holding the driving or dominant influence, in spite of the fact that these persons will not normally be responsible for the overall completion of the project. Project teams and groups need to meet regularly; and they need also to have the means of calling up emergency and crisis meetings at very short notice. Ideally, all members have complete confidence in the professional and expert capabilities of everyone involved.
Client Relations and Liaison Effective client relations are founded on a combination of enduring professional confidence and mutuality of interest. Relationships are developed and enhanced through a combination of regular meetings, progress checks, early identification of problems, and a mutual commitment to resolve quickly any issues that do arise. It is vital to recognise that, if mutuality of interest and confidence are either not present, or are lost along the way, it is certain to lead to detrimental effects on the work itself.
Subcontractor Relations and Liaison Larger projects invariably require the use of subcontractors and specialists, and the scheduling, delivery and quality of their work has to be managed. This is again dependent on a series of meetings and contacts designed to monitor and review progress, and to ensure that problems and issues are raised and dealt with early. It is normal for contingency funds to be held for the express purpose of replacing critical expertise or specialisms at short notice if a key subcontractor can no longer deliver.
Project Adjustments and Modifications It is very unusual for any project to run exactly as planned. If and when adjustments are required, these need to be raised early with the client or commissioner, and agreement reached on the way forward.
The Project Process Individual projects all have their own beginning, middle and ending, and at completion are handed over to the client or work commissioner. However, project work always takes organisations in new directions, opening up new opportunities and potential (and additionally closing off other things). From a managerial point of view, therefore, it is essential to see all project work as a form of strategic organisation and expertise development.
Management Development All forms of project work represent a major opportunity for developing expertise and experience in managers at all levels. The sheer complexity and variety of task and the pressures under which the work is normally carried out ensure exposure to strategic and operational issues, a range of different operating and developing environments, and the opportunity to identify, address and resolve problems and issues as these become apparent.
Creativity As project work unfolds and as problems and issues do become apparent, managers are invariably required to demonstrate their capability in creative ways. The need to identify, address and resolve issues to the satisfaction of all parties or stakeholders without compromising the quality or integrity of the project, or its cost, quality and deadlines for completion, requires a fully developed professional creativity as well as high and developing levels of managerial expertise.
Professional and expert presentation Professional and expert presentation is required at all times in dealings with client issues, client liaison and meetings. Professional and expert presentation is required also in dealings with sub-contractors, specialists, backers and staff; and may also be required in managing lobbies and vested interest groups who have particular concerns and issues around specific ventures and projects. At the core of professional presentation is the capability and willingness to meet with anyone required on a professional expert and human basis; and this has to be supported by the capability in turn to address particular problems and concerns openly and effectively.
Conclusions Project management requires the capability and willingness to apply and develop the full range of managerial and professional expertise to the particular matter in hand. Project management requires a high level of personal as well as professional involvement and commitment. For those who are running either the project as a whole, or else particular parts in the schedule, this must be an issue of personal pride, in delivering the venture and its component parts, on time, and within cost and quality constraints. This is the driving force for effective and expert project management; and it requires the ability to apply both overall management expertise, and also each of the elements indicated above, in the context and within the pressures, of the particular venture in hand.