It is important to understand exactly what a project is and what it is not. A project is temporary, meaning it is not part of the organization's everyday business processes. A project is an activity that has a clear ending and produces something that does not already exist. So, building a school is an example of a project, while teaching a class is not.
Once you understand the definition of a project, you can see how important it is to manage these temporary activities. Project management involves breaking a project down into manageable smaller units or tasks. It involves completing temporary activities in a timely manner and within the budget the client or stakeholder has defined. Unfortunately, many projects are not completed on time and within budget. Following the formal processes of project management can help ensure the final outcome or product is delivered as required.
Consider following these processes for the best chance of success:
Project management has been around since human beings began to create structures they wanted to last. For example, when humans decided to settle in one area, they needed to build shelters to protect them from the elements. The management team who built Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids had to have a plan!
Completing these large projects required organizing efforts to meet the exact specifications of the end-users and stakeholders. For example, during the 1800s the U.S. government built the trans-continental railroad which required managing raw materials, human resources, and construction that spanned the width of the nation. The engineers used project management as a technique to complete the railroad: the country needed this infrastructure to transport the goods and services that would drive its development.
Why has project management become so common? Frederick Taylor, the father of scientific management, used scientific reasoning to demonstrate we can complete tasks more efficiently when we break the work processes down into smaller tasks. Henri Gantt built on Taylor's work by creating the Gantt chart, an easy-to-use management tool designed to keep track of multiple tasks in large projects.
Similar tools include the program evaluation and review technique (PERT) and the critical path method (CPM). With scientific management theory as its backbone, and a variety of tools available to keep track of processes, project management methods have expanded across a variety of fields.
Who uses project management today? Business owners, construction managers, educators, engineers, graphic artists, healthcare practitioners, lawyers, restaurant managers, outsourcing services, paralegals, scientists, and software developers all benefit by breaking down small and large, complex processes into manageable units to create an end-product.
Review this material in the sections History and Careers Using Project Management Skills in Project Management: Past and Present, the chapter History of Project Management by Merrie and Andrew Barron.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a global professional organization for project management created in 1969 to further the profession. The PMI regularly updates its guidebook, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), to reflect the most up-to-date best practices for the profession. Project managers refer to the PMBOK to learn how to apply the best project management process to their situation.
The PMBOK describes five process groups: project initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Each step assigns a specific set of actions to ensure project success.
Within these five processes, the 2008 PMBOK delineates nine knowledge areas project managers should incorporate in the planning, execution, monitoring and controlling processes.
These nine knowledge areas include:
Review this material in the sections Project Management Defined in Introduction to Project Management, Introduction to the Project Management Knowledge Areas, and the section Project Phases in Project Phases and Organization.
Project profiling is an evaluation process used to determine whether a project has the potential to be effective. Organizations should consider their resources carefully to decide which projects are most likely to succeed and provide the results they seek. The project profile provides a picture of the resources the project will likely use and offers insight into the best project team makeup.
Organizations can look to attributes, such as budget, cost, duration, location, number of workers, size, technology needs, urgency, and availability of qualified team leaders and members.
Project profiling is all about determining the viability of any given project. Examples of project profiling models include:
Project managers apply the Shenhar and Dvir typology model when the project involves high-level technology. The Youker typology model focuses on uncertainty, risk, and the sophistication of the workers employed. With more complex projects, managers use the complex adaptive systems approach. Finally, the Darnall-Preston Complexity Index offers a method for considering external and internal attributes, technological complexity, and environmental factors.