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The Basics of Project Management

Meaning: Planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations Project management is the job of organizing, coordinating and managing various tasks and resources in order to successfully complete a project. A project by definition lasts for a specific period of time and then ends. It is not something that goes on and on indefinitely. Projects are generally made up of various distinct components or mini-tasks that are completed separately and ultimately integrated or merged together to make up the completed project. Although we often see a project as taking place within a single company, in many cases a project spans a network of organizations.

A successful Project Manager must simultaneously manage the four basic elements of a project: resources, time, money, and most importantly, scope. All these elements are interrelated. Each must be managed effectively. All must be managed together if the project, and the project manager, is to be a success. Resources People, equipment, material Time Task durations, dependencies, critical path Money Costs, contingencies, profit Scope Project size, goals, requirements

Most literature on project management speaks of the need to manage and balance three elements: people, time, and money. However, the fourth element is the most important and it is the first and last task for a successful project manager. First and foremost you have to manage the project scope. The project scope is the definition of what the project is supposed to accomplish and the budget (of time and money) that has been created to achieve these objectives. It is absolutely imperative that any change to the scope of the project have a matching change in budget, either time or resources. If the project scope is to build a building to house three widgets with a budget of $100,000 the project manager is expected to do that. However, if the scope is changed to a building for four widgets, the project manager must obtain an appropriate change in budgeted resources. If the budget is not adjusted, the smart project manager will avoid the change in scope. Usually, scope changes occur in the form of "scope creep". Scope creep is the piling up of small changes that by themselves are manageable, but in aggregate are significant. For example, the project calls for a building to be 80,000 square feet in size. The client wants to add a ten foot long, 4 foot wide awning over one bay door. That's a pretty minor change. Later the client wants to extend the awning 8 feet to cover the adjacent bay. Another minor change. Then it's a change to block the upwind side to the covered area to keep out the wind. Later, it's a request to block the other end to make the addition more symmetrical. Eventually, the client asks for a ceiling under the awning, lights in the ceiling, electrical outlets, a water faucet for the workers, some soundproofing, and a security camera. By now, the minor change has become a major addition. Make sure any requested change, no matter how small, is accompanied by approval for a change in budget or schedule or both. You can not effectively manage the resources, time and money in a project unless you actively manage the project scope. When you have the project scope clearly identified and associated to the timeline and budget, you can begin to manage the project resources. These include the people, equipment, and material needed to complete the project.

When is Project Management Used? Project management can happen on all types of projects and services whether they be computer software projects, electronics, buildings, vehicles, etc. Generally project management is used on large projects that involve various tasks and various people to perform those tasks. Project management charts are a good support in order to stay on top of things. In most instances, it is the Project Manager that carries out the task of project management. Project management is also used extensively on government projects and lots of documentation on project management methodology and the workflow process are available as guideline for those that plan on working with government agencies. Understanding these standards can only help you in your work as project manager. What is a Project Manager? A project manager is the person that organizes and coordinates a project as a whole as well as the person that overseas the development of the smaller tasks that a project gets broken down into. Basically, a project manager has to have the ability to see the project from two different view points: as one large project with a start and end date and as a series of small tasks each with their own start and end date. The project manager has the further task of planning and ensuring that the right resources are assigned to all of the work that needs to be done, whether they be funds, workers, tools and equipment, etc. Finding staff for projects is very much a part of the Project Managers job as well as estimating what staff are needed. Besides this he has to ensure that the staff is motivated. As you can see, the project manager is, and has to be, knowledgeable on every aspect of a project. Now, although the project manager hardly ever gets involved in actually doing any project tasks, they do have to have a thorough understanding of the client, the requirements and the scope of work as well as other the project constraints. They need to know everything, down to the finest detail, that is needed to make a project happen successfully. If they do manage to handle the combination of these things, the project will be well on its way towards being a success.