Project management Is a discipline which focuses on the planning, organising and resource management in order to meet a desired goal.
So what does that mean in practice.
Work is categorised, time framed and assigned resources which covers people, equipments, software, tools, finances and anything else the team needs to get the job done.
There are three core factors to project management, cost, time and deliverables.
A project will almost always have a budget that the project is expected to come in under. There are many factors which can hinder the teams ability to meet the expected cost such as estimations of difficulty and work required being off, changes in the marketplace or area of change and changes in scope of the project. Scope creep is quite a common occurrence especially in software project where a project will get bigger and bigger and ad more and more features until it is drastically different to the original project, this greatly effect the cost and is one of the reasons software project often run over budget.
Projects will also have a time frame in which the project is expected to be delivered and this can also effect costs as it is costing money every day the team works on the project and also the company could be losing money not having what the project intends to deliver. The main causes of running over time is changes to the scope of the project as well as inaccurate estimations of how long the project will take.
Resource management has a major effect on all three categories and can make or brake a project from the start. If a team does not have what it needs to do the project it is going to go over time or fail completely. If a team is allocated too much of one resource it is going to go over budget. The correct amount of allocated resources in the right ratios is needed to effectively complete a project on time and under budget. Some examples of bad resource management would be a full team of trainees with no experienced team members, this project would greatly over run on time and likely deliver something far from what is expected. Just adding a little extra resource in an experienced team member could drastically effect that project.
Deliverables is what the project is expecting to deliver. Often project will come short or over deliver on what was initially planned as during the project the problem or product is better understood and what the deliverables actually should be is re-evaluated.
Projects are often categorised into BAU(Business as usual) and non standard. BAU projects are your day to day projects which the team is used to working on and often know how to do very well, they will usually come in on time and under budget as the team is clear of estimations and scope. Non standard project are where the team is working on something out of the ordinary and often a one off. These are much more likely to run over budget and deliver something different to the initial idea.
Project management methodologies
There are a million and 1 different project management methodologies and there is no one size fits all. I will go two examples of the more popular methodologies.
The traditional approach to project management consists of 5 steps which are worked through until completion of the project, these are.
2.planning and design
3.execution and construction
4.monitoring and controlling systems
Not every project will involve every stage and some project will go through the same stage multiple times.
This methodology is mostly used by brick and mortar style companies and also a variation is used in software called waterfall.
Agile is a methodology most commonly used in software and has many offshoot methodologies of its own such as scrum, xp and lean. The idea behind it is strong human interaction and collaboration making the most of every team members skills and knowledge while keeping as flexible as possible in project planning. This is done by working in very small iterations of work done in priority order so a project will be broken down into deliverables and after each iteration a unit of functionality will be delivered. This has many benefits.
The overall project does not have to be complete before benefit can be received from work done.
- Estimating smaller chunks of work is easier.
- Scope creep is cut down as only what is needed is planned.
- A sustainable pace of work is maintained and employee retention is increased.