Project Management

What is a project?

At its most basic level, for the purposes of our website content, the Oxford English Dictionary describes a project as being “a planned or proposed undertaking; a scheme”.

To develop this definition further, in terms of business management, a project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case.

Projects exist to deliver benefits and we shall focus on both these definitions to provide the foundation of our work with projects.

What is project management?

Project management describes the discipline of managing business change using a planned, structured methodology which focuses on:

  1. Planning
  2. Delegation
  3. Monitoring
  4. Control

Management involves motivating the project team to achieve the project objectives within agreed performance targets for:

  1. Time – completion of tasks in a timely manner.
  2. Cost – delivery of products within an agreed budget.
  3. Quality – the project’s products must be fit for purpose.
  4. Scope – delivering agreed products only.
  5. Risks – understanding and managing risks throughout the project.
  6. Benefits – understanding what the project will deliver.

How should we manage projects to ensure success?

PRINCE2™ (or PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is the methodology used extensively throughout more than 150 countries around the world, to deliver successful projects. The guidance was developed by the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and is aimed at helping organizations and individuals manage their projects, programmes and services consistently, efficiently and effectively.

The methodology concentrates on a number of defined principles, themes and processes.

The PRINCE2 principles can be summarized as:

  1. Continued business justification – documented in a Business Case.
  2. Learn from experience – throughout the each project stage.
  3. Defined roles and responsibilities – split within business, user and supplier stakeholder interests.
  4. Manage by stages – allows the project status to be evaluated at the end of each stage.
  5. Manage by exception – governance defines responsibilities for directing, managing and delivering the project.
  6. Focus on products – these define the scope of the project; a successful project is output-orientated.
  7. Tailor to suit the project environment – in terms of environment, size, complexity, importance, capability and risk.

In addition to focusing on these seven principles, the project manager should also be aware of a number of themes that must be continually addressed:

  1. Business Case – outlines why the work is being done.
  2. Organization – describes who is responsible for different aspects of work within the project team.
  3. Quality – explains what is being done as part of the project delivery so all participants understand the attributes of the products to be delivered.
  4. Plans – describe how, how much and when steps need to be done in order to keep the delivery of work on schedule; they are an essential tool in the monitoring and control of project delivery.
  5. Risk – addresses the management of uncertainties and outlines scenarios relating to the ‘what if‘, before rather than after, any trouble strikes.
  6. Change – involves identifying, accessing and acting upon the occurrence of issues as they impact the project delivery.
  7. Progress – addresses the ongoing viability of the plans in terms of where we are, where we are going and accesses whether we should carry on.

As PRINCE2 is a process-based approach to project management, it includes a structured set of activities (or processes) which are designed to accomplish specific objectives throughout the stages of project delivery.

The project stages are:

  1. Pre-Project
  2. Initiation Stage
  3. Subsequent Delivery Stage(s)
  4. Final Delivery Stage

Throughout these stages, whilst focusing on directing, managing and delivering the project, the following processes are shared; responsibility for implementation being allocated between the team members:

  1. Starting up a project
  2. Initiating a project
  3. Directing a project
  4. Controlling a stage
  5. Managing a stage boundary
  6. Managing product delivery
  7. Closing a project

These are the key principles, themes and processes that make up the PRINCE2 methodology. Look out for a more advanced and in-depth analysis of project delivery or go straight to the official PRINCE2™ website at: APMG INTERNATIONAL

What are BIG’s tips for running a successful project?

The golden nugget behind every truly successful project is quite simply – appropriate communication – in fact, we cannot stress this point enough! This is true on so many different levels as good communication is the most important ingredient when it comes to:

  1. Identifying your clients requirements;
  2. Motivating the project team;
  3. Understanding and resolving risks, issues and disputes;
  4. Line management: resolving any short-comings in performance and giving recognition for good work;
  5. Gathering and cascading progress reviews within the project team;
  6. Delivering news – good and bad – to the project sponsor and senior management teams;
  7. Keeping everyone involved and feeling connected to the project delivery.

Put another way, if you deliver a project but fail to communicate appropriately, then your team are likely to finish work demotivated and with a sour taste in their mouth; equally, the project sponsor is likely to be dissatisfied even if you have physically delivered what was required. Conversely, if you communicate well with all parties then, even when delivering bad news (such as a slippage in timescales), matters can often be resolved in such a way that all parties are left feeling happy with the revised situation or schedule.

Notice that the golden nugget is appropriate rather than simply being good communication. This is because as a project manager you deal with a wide variety of people; this may even range from the most low paid cleaner to the most high paid company executive. Whilst each of these people will undoubtedly have an important role within your project, it will not be appropriate to communicate in the same way with each party – so make sure you tailor your communication, in terms of what is said, how it is said and how it is delivered, to meet the individual needs of those concerned.

For further tips, in-depth information about related topics and regular updates relating to project management, please refer to the Information Articles menu which can be found in the right-hand margin of this webpage.

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