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Introduction to Project Management
A project is a set of activities that need to be performed to acheive something within defined constraints. The constraints can be scope, cost, time, or quality. This generic definition of a project means that even some of the daily activities you perform, such as cooking a meal for four, is a project in itself. When the project is complete there is some concrete output in the form of deliverables, enhanced capability, process improvement, or a product. Every project follows a project management process.
Some examples of projects that use the project management process are:
- Cooking a meal for 4
- Planning a holiday
- Developing the latest iPhone
- Creating a research paper
- Organizing a birthday party
- Implementing a value engineering initiative
All these are examples of projects. As you can see, projects need not be from the corporate world. Let's explore what all projects have in common and the project management process, regardless of the terminology or project management methodology being used.
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Project Management Process - An Example
Let's now take a simplistic example to learn the project management process.
Each project has a project definition, that contains the objectives of the project. For example, suppose you are planning a holiday for your family to Tibet. The objective of the holiday is to relax, learn about Tibeten Buddhism, and have a good time. After you have set the objective, you will then need to know how to measure its success. In this case, you could say the measure of success is going for the holiday within budget and coming back feeling completely relaxed.
The next item in a generic project management process is identify the activities that need to be completed in order to acheive this holiday in Tibet.These activities are also known as the scope of the project. For example, some items in the scope would be booking a ticket, booking a tour, and attending a course on Tibet Buddhist meditation. After you have the entire list of activities, you'll have a fair idea of what needs to be done.
The scope will help you decide on the project cost implications. Generally, every project has constraints. In this case, the constraint could be cost and timeline. For example, the cost would dictate where you stay and how much you budget for the holiday. The activities in the scope also help you determine if you need extra resources. For example, you may want to retain some memories of the holiday by creating a video. For this, you would need a camcorder. If you don't already have one, then you would need to include the purchase of a camcorder in your holiday budget. Next in the project management process is activities sequence.
The sequencing of the activities that need to be performed is also important. This sequence helps you determine which activities need to be done first, and which activities can be done in parallel. This is also known as a Project Network Diagram. For example, approaching your boss for leaves must happen before bookling tickets. Or, purchasing a camcorder and woolens can occur are the same time (parallel). To learn more about project network diagrams, read the Constructing a Project Network Diagram article. The project network diagram also helps you create a project schedule.
After you created the project schedule, you'll perform the activities in the scope. This is known as project execution or project implementation. It is critical for you to keep an eye on project risks that can hinder project progress. Risk management is critical in the project management process.
To ensure all activities are being completed in the project management process, you'll need to monitor and control project progress. This may lead to refining the scope items list and the project network diagram. You can also monitor the expenses and compare it to the budget. The last phase in the the project management process is closing the project.
When you return from holiday, you can review the holiday and see how it matched with the expectations of stakeholders. This phase ends the project and the project management process.
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More Information on Project Management Process
The simplistic project management process described above is applicable to all projects. There are, however, project management methodologies defined. Some of these frameworks have been defined by the PMI and the Prince 2. To read more about the framwork defined by the PMI, refer to the Fundamentals of the Project Management Process Groups articles. For more on Prince 2, refer to the Prince 2 Project Management Methodology article.