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(1) What Is a Project?
, the Project Management Institute, gives us this answer:
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.
, the International Project Management Association, defines similarly:
A project is a time and cost constrained operation to realize a set of defined deliverables (the scope to fulfill the project's objectives) up to quality standards and requirements.
This means that we differentiate projects from other endeavours: A project is an endeavor undertaken in order to create a result that is unique in terms of scope
, and budget
What is "Project Management"?
- Exchange the stairs in our two-story family home.
- A vacation of two weeks for 4 people on two jeeps in Outback Australia
- Construct a new office building of five stories for 400 employees
According to PMI, project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements
Almost every project needs contributions of experts in different areas. For the duration of the project, these experts form a team, the project team. Consequently, project management comprises all methods, skills, and activities necessary to lead project teams and coordinate and organize the project work.
Thus, each team member (project manager, sub-project manager, team member) has his or her share in project management activities in addition to his or her actual content-oriented contributions.
(2) The Triple Constraint of PM
The triple constraint of project management describes the interdependency between the three cornerstones of a project, as we introduced them in the definition of the term project:
- Scope: all the work we have to do in order to create the clearly specified product.
- Schedule: the time we need in order to create that product.
- Budget: the total amount of money we need in order to create that product.
If we change one cornerstone of the three, we influence the other two.
For example, if we increase the scope - because of additionally required features of the product - then we obviously have to increase the necessary time and amount of money. Similarly, in order to shorten the time we could reduce the scope and consequently reduce the budget of that project. We also could shorten the time by involving more resources and thus, increasing the budget.
(3) The Project Life Cycle
Let us follow the project life cycle of a classical project, like the construction of a house, from the very beginning to the very end, and look at it from a generic point of view.
It all starts with an idea (of the house),
followed by discussions about
and design drafts.
As soon as these are fixed
the project goal is defined,
and we continue with
more detailed design and
planning of time schedule,
budget, and contractors.
After design approval
and contract signatures,
actual work on site and off site can begin:
manufacturing (of frame elements, doors, etc.)
construction (of foundation, walls, etc.)
installation (electrical, plumbing, etc.)
With preliminary acceptance
we wrap up major activities on site,
only minor conclusion work,
like last touch-ups, documentation, etc.
is still to be done.
Handover to the end user
marks final acceptance.
We summarize this in the following graphic, emphasizing major milestones in red.
Looking closer at the project budget or cost
, we observe in most real life projects that we end up with a (much) higher final cost than originally planned before contract signatures.
Major reasons for this cost overrun
- Unclear project goal(s).
- Insufficient plans, because we want to save time and effort for planning in order to quickly start the "real work".
- Necessary changes to the original design or project plan, due to unexpected events after contract signatures.
(4) The Project Management Process
Referring to the generic project life cycle, as we introduced it on the previous page, we define project management as a process
that consists of four phases.
The four phases
- Definition Phase
- Planning Phase
- Implementation Phase
- Closure Phase
This specifies our definition of the term project management from page 1. We consider project management to be the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements, organized in a process of above mentioned four phases
We also recognize five generic milestones
- Project Start
- Project Goal Defined (upon completion of definition phase)
- Contract Signatures or Design and Plan Approval (upon completion of planning phase)
- Preliminary Acceptance (upon completion of implementation phase)
- Final Acceptance (upon completion of closure phase)
(5) SMART Goals
Main task in project definition phase is to formulate a clear project
goal and work out features and requirements the project result shall
How Do We Define a Project Goal?
General criterion is: the goal definition needs to give us enough
information so that we can continue with more detailed planning in
subsequent planning phase.
We achieve this best by setting SMART goals:
- Construction of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home for a family of three.
Specific: the house shall consist of
living room, dining room, kitchen, utility room, two bedrooms, two
bathrooms; on one floor; single car port.
Measurable: overall size 95 to 105 sqm, of approx. square footprint, overall cost under USD 100,000.--
Attractive: comparably low cost.
Realistic: only if future owner has enough skills to contribute minimum 30% of work on site.
Timed: within 18 months, including design and planning.
- Vacation of two weeks in Thailand countryside, for two people.
Specific: the vacation shall go through three smaller cities, exclusivly using public transport.
Measurable: maximum two nights in Bangkok, cost of EUR 500.-- per person, excl. airfare.
Attractive: adventurous, comparably low cost.
Realistic: with some preparation, especially, basics of Thai language.
Timed: within 6 months, including planning.
- Design and build a new wooden desk for our office.
Specific: the desk shall provide enough area for a standard size laptop, small size laser printer, and paper work.
Measurable: lenght 200 cm, depth 90 cm, height 80 cm; total cost less than EUR 500.--
Attractive: doing it ourselves, it comes with comparably low cost and will be a lot of "fun".
Realistic: given the fact that all nessesary skills, tools, and material are available, yes.
Timed: within 2 weeks, including planning.
(We use the third example in later lessons as well.)
(6) Project Stakeholders
The examples of SMART goals show that we need to investigate details in
order to enable a sufficient goal definition, one that really gives
enough information so that we can continue with further planning.
Who Gives Us the Details?
We get the details from those who
- have interest in,
- or are affected by
the project results or project activities.
These are the project stakeholders. Typically, they are:
- Customer: the one who is going to pay for the project result.
- End users of the project result.
- Supplier and sub-suppliers: the ones who create or provide the project result or parts of it.
- Members of the project team.
- Experts who support the project work.
- Executives and managers in the customer's organization.
- Executives and managers in the supplier's organization.
- Project manager.
- Government entities and authorities who enforce law and regulations.
Other sources for details of our project goal definition are
standards, common and best practices, bodies of knowledge in all project
relevant areas of expertise.