Project Management From a Practical Perspective
Let?s start with the basic premise that most of the significant things we do can really be considered a project. Whether that?s building a new house, developing a new set of purchasing procedures, implementing a new computer system etc., (the list is potentially endless) these types of endeavours can benefit from applying basic project management techniques. Indeed, failure to do so often leads to less than satisfactory results, or even dismal failure.
To many people, the mere mention of the term project management makes them cringe. It conjures up visions of performing large amounts of dull, tedious, boring exercises and doing reams of documentation that just doesn?t matter. This attitude isn?t entirely unwarranted, especially for those who have worked in large bureaucratic organizations.
Too often in those environments the work associated with the management of the project becomes the main tasks that get done, while the real work doesn?t always get accomplished. As an example, many project management software applications come complete with tons of functionality, but, they can also be way too complicated and unwieldy for most people. Trying to learn how to use such project management software, then keep the plan accurate and up to date, becomes a frustrating, full time job all in itself.
The result is a strong desire to avoid following those seemingly cumbersome techniques.
?Let?s just get on with the job? ? that becomes the all too common approach, and it is a pitfall.
The problem is, just exactly what is ?the job??
The reality is you absolutely do need to plan out a project in sufficient enough detail to accomplish the intended goals. The key is to understand just how much detail is necessary to keep everyone on task, and on track, without having the management processes themselves become an unnecessary burden.
All projects, at a minimum, must deal with the following considerations:
- Why are we doing this and what is the overall goal.
- When do we need to be finished.
- What tasks must be done to get there.
- What tasks are not to be done.
- When do the tasks need to be completed and in what order.
- Who is going to actually do the tasks and where.
- What resources and money (budget) is needed.
- What risks are there likely to be along the way.
- How will we keep things on target and monitor progress.
You can?t paint every project with the same brush, but there are some basic practices and tools which should be considered for every project.
The Project Charter
The Project Charter defines the scope, objectives, deliverables and overall approach for the work to be completed. It is a critical element for initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and monitoring the project. It is the absolute master document for the project and as such it should be the single point of reference on the project for goals and objectives, scope, organization, estimates, deliverables, and budget.
There are topics within the Charter that are supported by additional project control documents. In these instances the Charter will name the documents involved and describe their purpose and use throughout the project life cycle. This serves to keep changes to the master document to a required minimum while providing a mechanism to monitor and control the key areas of the project on an ongoing basis.
The Project Charter also serves as a contract between the Project Team and the Project Sponsors.
All projects of any significant size will tend to get sidetracked, period. Visualize a nice straight highway joining two cities. Now visualize the twisty, turning, myriad of back roads that also join the two cities. Invariably, most projects will have a hard time sticking to the highway as everyone seems to come up with a reason to veer away from it from time to time. Your job as a PM is to keep everyone on the straight and narrow and out of the swamps. To keep the analogy going, you don?t have time to successfully finish what you are chartered to do if you go off draining all the swamps along the way. The Project Charter is invaluable for use as a continual reference document to reinforce the goals and objectives of the project. If something is being done that isn?t clearly contained as part of the charter, you?re off track.
My web site – www.kayoprojectmanagement.com – has around 20 different templates that take care of pretty much all of the basic project management activities. The sample Project Charter is used as a tutorial and, using a hypothetical system implementation with a common theme, guides you through how to use all of the templates. I submit that if you take the time to study the sample Project Charter thoroughly, you will gain valuable insight into basic project management techniques. By the way, the website is intended to provide helpful information to new project managers, and is totally free with all templates available for download.