What are The Characteristics of Project Management
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What is Project
The first stage in developing an understanding of project management is to define what a project is and, by contrasting with other production systems, what a project is not.
At any moment in time organizations will be attempting to achieve a wide range of goals and objectives The range of categories for which goals and objectives may be set is infinite. In order to achieve these, some form of production system must be employed. A production system takes resource inputs and passes them through a transformation process that changes them into the desired outputs
Projects and Other Production Systems
Production systems can be classified into three broad categories based on their main method of production, as follows:
• project (no repetitive) production.
Some industries, such as construction and defense, are dominated by the project form. Other industries, such as chemical production and production of consumer goods, use mainly mass or batch production methods. However, even businesses where the norm is mass or batch production will use projects for certain activities.
Mass production systems are based around the production of large numbers of repetitive items. Batch production is used where there is unlikely to be continual high demand for a given product and where some modifications will be needed at intervals. The characteristics of a batch system are that it is less mechanistic than a mass production system and the need for management intervention and control is greater. As a result, batch systems tend to be organized around functional groupings. The wallpaper factory might have a color mixing section, a processing section, a quality control section, a packaging section, etc.
Project production is used for one off, non-repetitive items. As a result of this, there is no previous learning curve on which to rely; and high levels of complex management planning and control may be required.
A project is an instrument for achieving one off changes. For example, a project to build a house by changing the various resource inputs (bricks, cement, laborers skills, etc.) into a house. When the house is complete, the project is complete. Another example is a training project to enhance people’s skills. In both cases, the changes are intended to be permanent. This one-off nature is the most prominent feature of a project.
Characteristics of Projects
A project can generally be defined by its characteristics where the following apply.
• It involves a single, definable purpose, product or result.
• It usually has defined constraints or targets in terms of cost, schedule (time), and performance requirements
• It uses skills and talents from multiple professions and organizations.
Projects often involve advanced technology and rely on task interdependencies that may introduce new and unique problems. Task and skill requirements vary from project to project
• It is unique. A project is generally a one-off activity that is never repeated exactly. Generally, one piece of impact damage will be unique.
• It is somewhat unfamiliar. It may encompass new technology and hence possess significant elements of uncertainty and risk. Failure of the project might jeopardize the organization or its goals.
• It is a temporary activity. It is undertaken to accomplish a goal within a given period of time; once the goal is achieved, the project ceases to exist.
• It is part of the process involved in working to achieve a goal. During the process, a project passes through several distinct phases; as a result, tasks, people, organizational structure; and resources change as the project moves from one phase to the next. Projects usually have clear start and finish points. In the case of the aircraft repair, there will be an inspection, an appraisal, a solution, implementation, finalization and testing.
• It is part of an interlinked process. Projects are very rarely carried out in isolation. There is usually some interlinking between different projects that are being run by any particular organization.
• It is generally of secondary importance to the organization. Projects are generally not the primary objective of the organization. There are exceptions such as pure research and development organizations and companies that are established purely to plan and execute a single project.
• It is relatively complex. Projects involve multidisciplinary teams and have defined aims and objectives. In organizational terms they therefore tend to be relatively complex as compared to the standard functional processes that operate within the organization.
From the project characteristics highlighted above, it is clear that projects require a unique form of management. Hence the concept of project management evolved in order to plan, coordinate and control the many complex and often diverse activities involved in projects.
Project management is, in essence, the general management of an organization. Good project management therefore requires the effective application of a wide range of general management skills in order to achieve the desired goals. Skills that senior corporate executives use daily in directing whole organizations are equally relevant to project management, and include:
• financial awareness;
• marketing appreciation;
• technical knowledge;
• planning skills;
• strategic awareness;
• quality management.
Project management covers the whole range of functional management areas. Skills are often required in all of these areas to secure project success. Almost universally, the traditional organisation has been structured as a pyramidal hierarchy with vertical manager–subordinate relationships and departments along functional, geographic or product lines. Authority and formal communication flow down from the top. Departments tend to be highly specialized and operate independently. Traditional organisations become very efficient in what they do and are well suited to a stable environment. They are fairly rigid and therefore less suitable to the unstable and dynamic environments that characterize project situations.
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What is Project Management
The process of planning and executing a piece of work from inception to completion to achieve safe achievement of objectives on time, within cost limits and to the specified standards of quality.
The organising, planning, directing, coordinating and controlling of all project resources from inception to completion to achieve project objectives on time, within cost, and to required quality standards.
Most authors agree that project management is about achieving time, cost and quality targets, within the context of overall strategic and tactical client requirements, by using project resources . There is also general agreement that project management is concerned with the life cycle of the project: planning and controlling the project from inception to completion . Project resources are resources that are wholly or partly allocated to the project and under the control of the project manager.
Another facet of project management involves choosing the optimum position in relation to the success criteria.
The need for integrated planning and control procedures, together with a recent corresponding success of project management, is caused by the changing nature of industrial projects over the past fifty years. Generally, as industry has evolved, it has become more complex. Technological processes have become more complex and this has been coupled with more and more complicated organizational and administrative procedures. Technology and organizational processes, like plants and animals, tend to evolve over time into ever more complex and sophisticated structures.
They come in many different degrees of complexity, from launching a space mission to designing and printing a company newsletter, and across all projects they require the commitment of a wide range of resources and the application of a wide and varied range of skills by the project manager.
Project management is therefore about deciding the various success and failure criteria of a project and then organizing and running the project as a single entity so that all the success criteria are met. This process involves setting up and managing a project team that may consist of a number of different individuals with different specializations. The project manager must weld this group of individuals into a team and then drive the team to perform successfully. The team itself, like the project, will only last a certain time. Once the project is completed the project team will probably be disbanded or be moved on to the next project.
The Basic Project Management Structures
Internal Project Management
The most common form of project management is the formation of a project team operating within an existing organizational structure. This format is commonly known as internal, or nonexecutive, project management most firms are organized around functional groups that specialize in particular areas. A typical structure would have separate sections such as sales and marketing, finance and accounting, and operations. Each section or group makes a specialized contribution to the whole.
The disadvantage of this structure is that people tend to become compartmentalized and work rigidly on functional tasks. In order to make more efficient use of resources, project teams can be set up to operate across these functional boundaries.
In this structure, the project manager takes (or is allocated) individuals from their normal functional units and reallocates them to one or more projects. Each person therefore, now has functional and project responsibilities. Projects operating across functional structures offer good flexibility in the use of people. Staffs are primarily employed to perform a functional task but are temporarily assigned to projects that require their particular expertise. In addition, individual experts can be effectively used across a number of projects.
If there is a broad base of expertise within a functional department, it can be employed on different projects with relative ease. The internal system also has the advantage that specialist knowledge can easily be built up and shared within the function. Continuity of expertise, procedures and administration is maintained within the function despite any personnel changes that may occur.
The main characteristics of the system are as follows:
• A single designated person, namely the project manager, is responsible for managing the project organization.
• The project manager acts (to some extent) independently and outside the normal functional authority structure.
• The project manager has equal authority to the functional managers over shared (project and functional) resources.
• The project manager acts as a single leader and brings together the efforts of the various functional and project resources in order to achieve the project objectives.
• Projects generally require a number of different functional specialists to work together. The work is therefore often carried out by a range of different functional specialists working as a multidisciplinary group under the leadership of the project manager.
• The project manager is responsible for integrating this multidisciplinary group into a multidisciplinary project team.
• The project manager has to negotiate with individual functional managers for the use of shared project functional resources. Functional resources often remain under the direct control of the functional manager.
• The project focuses on delivering the project objectives in relation to time, cost and quality. The functional managers have to concentrate on maintaining an ongoing pool of functional resources to support the primary goals of the organization. As a result there is the potential for conflict between functional and project managers over shared resources. This arises particularly in terms of the quality of people that functional managers will release onto projects and the time for which they are required by the project.
In project organizations, the virtue of these informal lines is recognized and formalized through the creation of a horizontal hierarchy to augment the vertical hierarchy. This hybrid organization enables people in different functional areas to be formed into highly integrated project teams.
Given their temporary nature, an organization working on projects must be flexible, so that it can alter structure and resources to meet the shifting requirements of different projects.
In the role of project manager, a single person is given project responsibility and is held accountable for project success. This emphasis on project goals versus functional goals is a major feature distinguishing project and functional management roles. Project managers often depend on people who report directly to other managers on an ongoing basis but are assigned to them as required.
Thus the task of project management is more complicated and diverse than in other management areas.
External Project Management
External project management is where an external project manager is appointed on a consultancy basis and acts as an external agent on behalf of the client. The external project manager appoints other external consultants to form an external project team. The team then works under the control of the external project manager to deliver the project within the success criteria as defined by the client.
The main characteristics of an external project management structure are the following:
• The external project manager acts as an agent on behalf of the client. The consultancy contract is a form of agency agreement.
• The external system is more flexible than the internal system. External consultants can be hired as required as a function of workload demand.
• Instructions and communications between the external consultants and the client have to cross the organizational boundary. This boundary acts as an interface and represents a barrier to effective communication.
• Team allegiance tends to be lower in external structures. The objectives of the external consultants do not correspond to the objectives of the client, and the external consultants owe no allegiance to the client organization.
• There is no inbuilt knowledge of the firm. This can sometimes be a disadvantage.
Characteristics of Project Management
Project management is unique in that it uses both international and industry specific benchmarks. It is also unique in that project management professionals provide advice in relation to the full life cycle of a project, from inception to completion.
Project management is concerned with several objectives at once. The objectives typically fall under the headings of time , cost and quality . Project management decisions that affect any one of these variables will usually impact on the others.
Project success and failure criteria are usually set by the client or executives of Project management is concerned with ensuring that the chosen project success criteria are met within the changing constraints of the three way time–cost– quality continuum. Project management recognizes that there is more than one success criterion. There is no point in completing on time and on cost if the quality of the finished product is lower than specified by the client.
The concepts and practices of project management are not specific to any one industry. The time, cost and quality planning and control techniques used in project management are as applicable to agriculture as to process engineering.
Traditionally, there was no standardization of practice for professional project management consultants.
Sometimes large companies have combined to develop industry specific responses to the various generic standards. On other occasions, very large companies have developed company specific responses
Many organizations use fully trained project management professionals to run projects, rather than designers or others acting as managers. Project Management specialists provide combined time, cost and quality control, using national and international standards of professional practice. Traditionally, project managers were selected from functional specialists within an organization. The project manager could have been a specialist designer (as in the case of engineers or architects) or a specialist cost consultant (as in the case of accountants or surveyors). In many cases, the people leading and managing projects were designers or other types of specialist who assumed the role of manager for the duration of the project.
The modern concept of project management includes the professional project manager. Increasingly, this type of professional person is a specialist manager who is educated and trained in project management and who has relevant industrial experience in project management rather than in design or in some other specialization. This transition has been matched by a worldwide proliferation of project management courses offered by universities, and in specialist short courses offered by specialist management training and consultancy firms.
Project Life Cycle
Traditionally, consultants advised on, and managed, only one or two sections of an overall project life cycle. As a result, there was a lack of coordination between the different life cycle phases. This is important because decisions in earlier stages of the project life cycle impact on the choices available at later stages. In general, there are a number of recognized life cycle phases for projects. The project manager is responsible for giving clients advice that covers the complete life cycle. Traditional approaches have used consultants to give advice on design and/or manufacture only, with no significant consideration of longer term cost implications. Project management as a discipline attempts to correct this by giving professional advice based on the whole picture.
Typical life cycle phases include the following:
• Inception. In the inception phase, the client decides to develop a project. In the inception phase, the client assembles a basic proposal for the work that is required.
• Feasibility. In the feasibility stage, the project team seeks to establish the validity of the proposal from all relevant perspectives. These perspectives can be financial, time dependent, technological and, in some cases, political.
• Prototype. In some industries, it is common to develop some kind of prototype that can be fully tested and evaluated prior to full production. The prototype could be tested and refined for significant periods of time before the final design is put into full production.
• Full design development. Once a prototype (if appropriate) has been adjusted and all feedback has been put back into the design system, full production design can commence. In most cases, this involves developing detailed production information.
• Tendering and contractual arrangements. Some organizations manufacture all aspects in house. More commonly, manufacturers have their own production facilities but buy in a lot of manufactured components from external suppliers
• Manufacturing. The product is assembled during the manufacturing process. This phase could, for instance, be a single one off process for a building, or a repetitive process for manufactured components.
• Commissioning. The commissioning phase involves all aspects of switching the system on. This act may be simple in some systems, and far more complex in others
• Operation. In the operational phase the system is actively used for the purpose for which it was originally intended
• Decommissioning. Decommissioning is the process by which a system is switched off. Again, this act can be simple in some cases and much more complex in others.
• Removal and recycling. The last phase is removal, and recycling. Legislation in many countries is becoming increasingly onerous in relation to the environmental impact of recycling. In future, legislation and environmental concerns will cause more and more products and systems to be designed for ease and completeness of recycling.
Potential Benefits and Challenges of Project Management
Project management is a relatively new approach to managing projects. It is international, interdisciplinary and concerned with the whole life cycle of a project. It uses a trained management specialist to organize the time, cost and quality objectives of a project and to ensure that they are achieved
Many benefits have been claimed by organizations employing project management practices. These include:
• increased concentration on a specific objective;
• more efficient use of company resources;
• increased accountability;
• potential for healthy competition between functional and project units;
• reduced disruption of functional operations;
• enhanced visibility of strategy implementation;
• consideration of lifecycle costs;
• increased product development and release speed;
• improved formal and informal communications;
• control of simultaneous multiple objectives;
• improved security of project related information;
• improved team spirit and cohesion;
• improved innovation through the use of multidisciplinary decision making;
• opportunities to develop in house interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams, individual and management skills.
Potential Challenges to Project Management
Organizations that are regularly involved in projects face some major challenges in relation to their people. Some of these are listed below.
• Key staff may be taken from the functional units. This may have a corresponding detrimental effect on functional performance.
• Project and functional managers may attempt to compete for resources and this can have detrimental effects on the company as a whole.
• Project team members may find themselves receiving conflicting orders from their functional and project managers.
• Powerful functional manager may be able to use their authority to deprive the project of necessary resources.
• In order to ensure parity of authority and control between functional and project managers, a need arises for an additional level of authority. The project sponsor ensures that the functional and project managers have equal authority over project team resources and that no destructive competition occurs.
• Functional managers may be less flexible than project managers and may feel pressurized as a result of project demands.
• Staff needs to develop a different attitude. They have to develop a more flexible approach and become used to working in a multifunctional environment.
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