Project Management Basics

A Dice Talent Community

By Cathlynn Carman

Project Management is the process through which a project or task is managed from inception to completion. Project Managers leads the team responsible for managing and completing the effort. Whether they work for the client or the vendor, they’re the ones who determine and implement the product’s exact needs, based on their knowledge of the organization they’re representing.

There are a few popular definitions of project management:

  • The Project Management Body of Knowledge, from the Project Management Institute, defines it as the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques applied to project activities in order to meet project requirements.
  • Wikipedia defines Project Management of the discipline of planning, organizing and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives.

Projects are temporary in nature and typically constrained by some factor – usually time, cost, budget, or scope. These items help define a projects deliverables, which represent a distinct set of work and provide beneficial changes and/or value-added items for a product. The ability to adapt to the internal procedures of the client, and to form close links with their representatives, is essential to ensuring that the key issues of cost, time, quality and — above all — client satisfaction are realized.

The Triple Constraint

In the project management community, these items are also known as the “triple constraint” or “triangle.” The triple constraint represents the three major components of a project – scope, cost, timeline. One side of the triangle can’t be changed without affecting the others. The overarching theme for all three is quality.

The time constraint is the defined amount of time needed complete the overall project (or phase of project). The cost constraint is the dollar amount budgeted to the project, which the team must manage. The scope constraint is the defined details of the overall deliverable – or the expected final product.

These constraints often compete: Increased scope typically means increased time and increased cost. A tight time constraint could mean increased costs and reduced scope, while a tight budget could mean increased time and reduced scope. The overall goal for is to manage all three while delivering overall quality of the project.

Project Managers must not only strive to meet the specifics of the triple constraint, but also must facilitate the entire development process to meet the expectations of the people involved (usually called “the stakeholders”) or affected by the project activities (for example, other departments who might be impacted by scheduling considerations).

The Work

The major task a project manager must complete is the project plan. Typically, the plan includes a business case, project definition, scope definition, schedule, budget, change management, communication plan and resource management. The PM is responsible for creating and maintaining the plan throughout the lifecycle of the project.

A key to all projects is communication. PMs have to ensure that all stakeholders and resources are informed and aware of their status. They must also make sure all necessary roles are filled and have a voice in the project at appropriate times. The communication plan helps drive all the other areas of the project and ensures that there are less potential conflicts within both the team and project as a whole.

Approaches

There are several approaches to Project Management including the traditional approach, agile management and process driven approaches. These methodologies seem to evolve over time and typically adapt to the industry and organization that’s using them.

The traditional or phased approaches (sometimes called “waterfalls”) identifiy a sequence of steps to be completed. In this case, five components can be distinguished: project initiation; planning and design; execution and construction; monitoring and controlling systems; completion. Some projects don’t follow a structured planning and/or monitoring process. Others go through some steps multiple times.

Agile project management approaches projects based on the principles of human interaction, and is founded on the idea of collaboration. This contrasts sharply with the traditional approach. In agile software development, the project is seen as a series of relatively small tasks conceived and executed as the situation demands, rather than as a completely pre-planned process.  Some examples of agile methodologies are: Scrum, XP, RUP, RAD and Kanban.

Quality & Process driven methods typically are leveraged when organizations want to improve quality and business process across their organizations. Some examples are: Six Sigma and ISO.

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