April 23, 2014

Project Management

The traditional approach

In the traditional approach, we can distinguish 5 components of a project (4 stages plus control) in the development of a project:

  1. project initiation (Kickoff)

  2. project planning

  3. project production or execution

  4. project monitoring or controlling

  5. project completion

Not all projects will visit every stage as projects can be terminated before they reach completion. Some projects probably don’t have the planning and/or the monitoring. Some projects will go through steps 2, 3 and 4 multiple times.

Many industries utilize variations on these stages. For example, in bricks and mortar architectural design, projects typically progress through stages like Pre-Planning, Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Drawings (or Contract Documents), and Construction Administration. While the names may differ from industry to industry, the actual stages typically follow common steps to problem solving–defining the problem, weighing options, choosing a path, implementation and evaluation.

Project management tries to gain control over five variables:

  • time – The amount of time required to complete the project. Typically broken down for analytical purposes into the time required to complete the components of the project, which is then further broken down into the time required to complete each task contributing to the completion of each component.

  • cost – Calculated from the time variable. Cost to develop an internal project is time multiplied by the cost of the team members involved. When hiring an independant consultant for a project, cost will typically be determined by the consultant or firm’s hourly rate multiplied by an estimated time to complete.

  • quality – The amount of time put into individual tasks determines the overall quality of the project. Some tasks may require a given amount of time to complete adequately, but given more time could be completed exceptionally. Over the course of a large project, quality can have a significant impact on time and cost (or vice versa).

  • scope – Requirements specified for the end result. The overall definition of what the project is supposed to accomplish, and a specific description of what the end result should be or accomplish.

  • risk – Potential points of failure. Most risks or potential failures can be overcome or resolved, given enough time.

Three of these variables can be given by external or internal customers. The value(s) of the remaining variable(s) is/are then set by project management, ideally based on solid estimation techniques. The final values have to be agreed upon in a negotiation process between project management and the customer. Usually, the values in terms of time, cost, quality and scope are contracted.

To keep control over the project from the beginning of the project all the way to its natural conclusion, a project manager uses a number of techniques: project planning, earned value, risk management, scheduling, process improvement….

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