Project Management Definition and Importance
According to Ohlendorf, project management is a methodological approach to achieving agreed upon results within a specified time frame with defined resources. Project managers will make use of skills, knowledge, different tools and techniques to various activities to meet project requirements. So, the three constraints that project management is concerned of are: time, costs, and performance. Project management is important in businesses for various reasons, such as: compression of the product life-cycle, knowledge explosion, triple bottom line, corporate downsizing, increased customer focus, small projects represent big problems, and others.
Project management is important because one of its purposes is to compress or to shorten the product life cycle. One of the projects that I have been part of was to mount a wind turbine on a field. This way a repeating project that has been implemented for more than 20 years. However, since project management concepts have become wide known we have focused on shortening the implementation of this type of project. Project management has helped in succeeding it. It is interesting that knowledge explosion represents the fact that the growth in knowledge has boosted up project complexity as projects tend to use latest advancements if their budget is appropriate. Take for example the fact that building a hotel 80 or 90 years ago was not so hard given the fact that there have not been so many regulations in this area. In the present days, it is a complex process as the builders and project managers need to take consideration of many building codes and also seismic codes to design and build a hotel. This is why the importance of project management has increased a lot.
Another reason is triple bottom line which is represented by the planet, the people, and the profit. According to Larson and Gray (2011), business can no longer simply concentrate on the maximization of profits to the detriment of the environment and the society as well. Business have to be more socially and environmentally responsible in what concerns sustainability and durability because the preservation of life on earth and the preservation of earth itself has become one of the most important purposes in the past one hundred years.
Project management is important because of the increased customer focus. This means that in the past years, since the competition became bigger and bigger, since more companies from the same industry join the same market, businesses tend to focus on their customers and on their wellbeing, most importantly on increasing the wellbeing for the purpose of reaching competitive advantage.
Project Life-Cycle Management and Its Benefits
According to Larson and Gray, another way to illustrate the original nature of project work is through project life cycle, which is composed of four stages: defining stage, planning stage, executing stage, and closing stage. The first stage of the project is where the specifications are defined and the objectives are established. This is also the stage when teams are formed and responsibilities are assigned to each team member. The second stage of the project life cycle is the planning stage which is when plans are being created with the purpose of determining what the project will include, determining the schedule of the project, the ones to benefit from it, the budget, as well as the level of quality that is needed.
The executing stage is where the work to complete the project takes place. This is when physical and mental work is needed. Most of the physical work is done by less intellectual prepared employees (however, they have good skills), while most of the mental work is done by knowledge base workers such as directors or managers. To make sure that everything goes according to plan, managers implement means of control and evaluation, such as: time measures, cost measures, and specification measures.
The last stage of the project life cycle is represented by the closing stage, which according to Larson and Gray (2011), includes three activities: delivering the project product or service to the customers, redeploying some or all of the resources of a project, and post-project reviews. Through delivery methods we understand transfer of documents or customer training. Through redeploying resources, we understand the ability of using the resources of the project in the completion of other projects. Through post-project reviews we understand assessment of performance and also capturing the lessons learned by getting the project to the completion date.
There was once a project on one of my former workplaces where we had to build a house for someone. We had to create a work team for this project. I was in charge with leading the project. I remember that we used project life cycle to get this project to completion. In the defining stage of the project life cycle we assessed the specifications of the project such as the materials we would need, the time to complete each phase, the papers that we need to get from the authorities, and other specifications that were relevant to the project. We have also established the objectives for the project, we created work teams and we assigned responsibilities to everyone. I remember that the work teams created have been created in a smart way because people with qualities in the same area would be in the same team (for example people good at infrastructure would be in the same team). The planning phase was where we referred to specific details of the project and the level of quality that is desired while in the execution stage we did most of the work to get the house built. Several methods of control have been present and we compared the initial established standards with the results of our actions. This way we tried to keep a good level of quality. Lastly, in the closing stage we evaluate the way the project was undertaken and completed and we kept the results for future use when other similar projects will be needed. In the closing stage we have also delivered the house to the customer along with certain instructions of how to use it.
Leadership and Sponsorship in Project Organizations
Some of the roles of sponsors in projects are: accountability, strategic fit, resources, project financing, lead political change, and own the final product. Some of the specific duties related to these responsibilities are to: keep the project on track, be available when consultation is needed, to make sure that the project is in line with the strategic goals of the company, to provide or located project resources, to provide or locate project funding, to be clear and specific with the end results, and others. Project sponsors are important and they need to be treated accordingly because they are key players for the company as it tries to reach its objectives. Keeping the project sponsor informed and updated is also important because the sponsor has the power to cut or give extra resources and funds to a project.
When it comes to leadership, thinks that a leader can be one or more people to select, to train, to equip, and to influence one or more followers who have different abilities, gifts, and skills, and so on. This may be a quite long definition; however, a leader is someone to inspire other people and the concept of leadership is really important in project management.
Project Team Building and WBS
Creating a project team may be a difficult task; nevertheless, it is an important process that needs to be properly assessed if a company wants to reach positive results when it comes to different projects. According to Larson and Gray there are five stages in creating a good project team. These stages are: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
The first stage of the team creation is when members get to know each other and understand the purposes and scope of the project. This is when they need to identify rules that will be used with the team. The second stage, storming, is usually when members fight with each other as they try to find a way to get along and start working as a team. The third stage of team creation is norming and this is when the team members create closer relationships with each other and they form a cohesive team. The fourth stage is performing and it is when the team is fully operational and the team members have developed tight connections with each other. This is where the team works efficiently. Adjourning is the last stage in team creating and it is when team members prepare to separate from the team. As we can see, team creation is a process consisting of various stages that have to be browsed accordingly. Team building is important in project management because tight teams can provide more efficient parameters for project completion.
To get the work done more efficiently, teams and project managers use work-breakdown structures. Successively subdividing project work into smaller work elements is creating a work breakdown structure which helps project managers in making sure that all work elements and products are identified in order to integrate the project with the organizations and also to determine a control basis.
WBS is important in project management because it helps projects to become more understandable and it helps specific work elements to be assigned to people skilled on a certain area. By breaking down the work into smaller elements, WBS has provided clear and more comprehensive schedules and plans for managers, as well as for the people getting the work done.
Project Management Software in Large Integrated Programs
Along with work breakdown structures, large projects need software to assist them into getting the project to completion. This is also good for project management because it provides ways to better handle the projects and the activities related to them. Take for example software to handle work schedule for employees in a large company. These employees work in shifts and the shifts have to change now and then because some workers cannot work only at night while others during the day. Imagine how hard it is to manage this type of schedule without software to handle it, considering there are more than 1,000 workers to be included into this schedule.
Also, project management software is useful in the areas of cost, time, and performance by trying to find ways to reduce the duration of certain stages in project life, reducing different costs related to these stages, as well as achieving higher level of performances through a better management of resources, a better management of quality, and a better management of human power.