Project Management Processes

22 June, 2015

Shakespeare buffs will tell you that the devil can cite scripture for his purpose, but we here at Velopi can attest that project management cynics can cite the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) for their own purposes too. They point out that a project is a “temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”. They then leap to the conclusion that, because each project is unique, we are wasting our time trying to manage them in a consistent manner.

Sadly, they have misread the quote. It is true that every project has some unique dimension to it. Even a builder, constructing 200 identical houses will have to worry about different soil types and topologies when laying the foundations and different routing paths for essential services, like water and electricity. However, fundamentally, each project has the same set of concerns.

No matter what project you embark on, it will have a scope. Being aware of this and, also, being aware of the dangers of poorly defined scope and scope creep, the Project Management Professional (PMP)® will ensure that a scope statement is created detailing exactly what is and is not in scope. Such an exercise leads to interesting discussions with stakeholders. Customers are renowned for being deliberately vague so that they can say later on that they assumed it would include A, B and C. If the Project Manager has explicitly ruled out A, B and C, the customer will have to make these assumptions explicit, when there is an opportunity to bill for them. Similarly, the experienced PMP® will create a work breakdown structure to tease out what work is needed to complete the project. S/he might even breakdown the work in a variety of ways, simply to find missing pieces.

Every project has a deadline – it is after all a “temporary endeavour”.  So the work identified in the Project Scope Management process needs to be organized in a way that acknowledges dependencies – the foundation needs to be laid before the walls can be built, for instance. Every activity that needs to be done will cost us. As a minimum, we will have to pay someone to do the work, but it is likely that we will have to provide equipment and materials to get the job done – painters need paint; electricians need wires, etc.

Every penny spent needs to be accounted for, so we must record all spending. However, before we start the project, we will need some idea of how much we are going to spend, otherwise the sales people will not know how much to charge for our deliverables. Similarly, if we produce an extravagant figure, the decision-makers may decide not to go ahead.

Quality can be an important competitive advantage. But conformance to standards might also be a legal requirement for anyone producing products in certain industries. No pharmaceutical company can launch a drug without going through arduous and expensive clinical trials. Quality does not come cheap and the extra work needed to design-in quality and to ensure that the finished product conforms to the standards set for it needs to be included in the budget.

All projects have stakeholders. Even if your project is a backpacking holiday, on your own, to an uninhabited wilderness, you have a stakeholder: yourself! We need to identify the stakeholders and make sure we cater for their needs appropriately. Some will be happy with the odd status report, while others will need very detailed reviews frequently. Some stakeholders appreciate face-to-face meetings, while an occasional e-mail suits others. We will need a public mechanism to assure stakeholders that we are addressing their concerns – the issue log, for instance.

Of course all projects have an element of risk – they have never been done exactly like this before. So we need to identify risks and there are well-established techniques for doing this. Then we need to prioritize them and assess how much damage could be done if the risks materialize. At this point, we need to decide what to do about them – avoid the risks by taking a different course of action (or by not embarking on the project at all); accept the risk might occur and devise a contingency plan to deal with it; transfer the risk by taking out insurance or mitigate the risk by adjusting our plans to reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk.

Finally, we might have to buy in supplies or services. These will involve contracts of some description, so we need to understand which are best in what circumstances. We also need to be able to decide whether to build something in-house or buy it in from outside – there are a lot of considerations behind these decisions.

So, while all projects have a unique aspect to them, they are all projects and they all have the same set of concerns. A PMP® will know how to approach a project and understand the aspects of the project that need to be considered no matter what the work is.

Velopi’s PMP® exam preparation courses are ideal for giving the experienced project manager a complete understanding of the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for effective project management. These courses are scheduled regularly in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. For more details, please visit our training page, or contact us directly.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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