The project manager usually creates the project charter because they are familiar with the project requirements and can clearly communicate its mission and goals. Familiarity with these goals at the project outset helps the project manager stay on target for budget and completion. Remember to monitor for scope creep, particularly during the execution phase.
While the project manager begins writing the project plan during the initiation phase, they should continue outlining what needs to be accomplished during the execution and implementation phases. The project plan provides more detail about the tasks that need to be completed than the project charter and often includes flow charts, diagrams, and responsibility matrices for each step of the project.
One part of the project plan is the project scope document, which identifies what the project will and will not accomplish. It may include definitions, so the client or stakeholders clearly understand the terms of their agreement.
The project baseline predicts the project's cost, scope, and schedule and is used to monitor progress. Project managers use the project baseline they created during the initiation phase during the execution and closeout phases. Setting a project baseline offers a way to control the project needs and deadlines and avoid project creep.
While project managers do their best to incorporate everything the project needs during the planning phase, those responsible for monitoring and controlling the project may need to adjust their baseline documents when the project runs into the unexpected. This way, the project leaders have hands-on familiarity with how the project will meet its deliverable deadlines within its budget constraints.
The project manager usually creates a project charter during the project's initiation phase. This document defines the project scope, objectives, and participants. It explains what the project is, why it is being conducted, and its justification. It also establishes the project manager's authority and defines who is responsible for reviewing and approving the project charter. While the project manager usually develops the project charter, other stakeholders, the project team, the client or project owner, and suppliers of resources use it.
To review, see the section on the project charter in Project Initiation.
Much like the project charter, project plan, and project scope, the work breakdown structure (WBS) helps keep the project on time and within budget. The WBS lists the tasks that need to be performed, explains how each task relates to one another, defines how long it should take to complete each task, and quantifies the resources needed to complete each task.
The WBS is created with a hierarchical structure:
I. Level One
A. Level Two
1. Level Three
The upper level (level I) is the broadest category; each level that follows provides increasingly more detail. Depending on the project complexity, and the needs of the project manager and team, the WBS can follow the project phases (level 1 would be initiation, planning, execution, closure) or project units or functions, such as finance, materials, or resources.
To review, see Elements of Time Management.
Most of the initiation phase of project management deals with creating multiple documents that identify and clarify the project goals, such as the project charter, project plan, project scope, and WBS. This is no coincidence. Establishing a clear understanding of the project from all angles right at the outset makes it easier to monitor project completion and guarantee success.
A successful project manager uses the plan they created before going into the execution phase to determine whether things are progressing as they had anticipated, so they can make adjustments as needed. By constantly comparing what is actually happening with the original plan, the team can deliver the project on schedule and within budget.
To review, see Project Initiation.
We have reviewed several documents that help us plan a project to ensure it is completed on time and within budget, according to the parameters the client has stipulated. However, we have not yet discussed the quality of the completed project, which is another key element to success.
Now let's discuss quality management. Whether something is high or low quality is relative because people may disagree about the quality of the work. However, most will agree that quality describes how well a product or service fulfills its requirements and provides value for its price.
The key to using quality in a project is to identify the standards or criteria the client will use to determine whether the completed project meets their expectations. Once the client defines these quality standards, the project manager can use several statistical analyses to ensure whether the project is on track for quality and will meet the owner's expectations for quality, time, and cost.
In their analysis, the project manager may need to conduct a series of inspections to ensure the deliverable falls within the quality standards they established. This process may involve creating charts and diagrams to identify quality issues and determine the steps the project team can take to fix any problems.
Quality management or quality control is an ongoing process that begins with setting quality standards and conducting periodic checks throughout the production process to compare the quality of the deliverable with the established standards.
Keeping these planning and scheduling documents straight may seem daunting, but several tools are available to help keep a project on task. You can often use the project management tools in popular office suites, such as Microsoft Office or Apache Open Office, to keep track of less complicated projects.
For example, you can use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or the table feature in Word to create a simple Gantt or PERT chart to plan your project. You may need to use specific project management software, such as Microsoft Project, to plan more complex projects with multiple tasks, deadlines, and resources.
You can use these tools to track problems, actions, and resolutions, and visually show how a project is progressing. Some project managers color code their entries, such as by highlighting areas of concern in red and completed project elements in green. Project managers should use the planning tool that will provide the information they need to keep their project moving toward a successful conclusion.
In addition to generating planning documents during the initiation and planning phases, managers often create separate schedules to ensure their project is on target for completion.
Three main types of project schedules are:
Conceptual: Before the project is officially approved, project managers often create a simple conceptual schedule that outlines the project's major tasks and approximate milestone dates. In this schedule, managers map out their thoughts about what the participants should anticipate.
Master: After the project is approved, project managers create a more-defined master schedule that fleshes out major points in the conceptual schedule. The master schedule is often part of the contract.
Detail: Project managers often break the master schedule down into further detail, such as to plan project activities that will be performed during a given time period. For example, a two-week plan may show how they will allocate specific resources, such as human, financial, material resources, during the upcoming two-week window.
To review, see Project Time Management.