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Project Management

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Project Management Defined

Project management was once a unique term designated for specialized organizations such as NASA or the US Army Corps of Engineers. Today, this term is a widespread and well-known term for almost every business, regardless of its size. Some regard project management strictly as a business discipline used to “define goals, plan and monitor tasks and resources, identify and resolve issues, and control costs and budgets for a specific project” (2006, Bridgefield Group). Others view project management almost as an art - “the art of managing the product and service development cycle to achieve a balance of time, cost and quality” (2007, MarketRight, LTD). The Project Management Institute defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project” (2007, Project Management Institute [PMI]).

Almost any human activity that is non-repetitive can be considered a project: building a new bridge, planning a wedding, or writing a term paper. However, there is a big difference between carrying out a very simple project involving one or two people and one involving a complex mix of people, organizations and tasks. It is only human to plan for the future and in an essence; a project can be captured on paper with a few simple elements: a start date, an end date, tasks to be done, and some idea of the resources needed during the course of the project. However, when the plan starts to involve different things happening at different times, some of which are dependent on each other, and resources are required at different times and in different quantities and perhaps, working at different rates, the “paper plan” becomes a pile of balled-up, indecipherable notes.

Most people want their projects completed on time, to meet quality objectives, and to not cost more than what their budget allows. This forms the core of every project: the project triangle of time, money, and scope (2007, Microsoft Corporation). Project management control can only be achieved when cost, schedule, and technical objectives are clearly documented, realistically derived, and managed deliberately (1997, Chapman). In other words, in order for a project to reach successful completion, the who, what, where, when, and how of a project must first be defined, which will be done through the establishment of three major elements: work breakdown structure (WBS), time and cost estimation, and risk management assessment.

Work Breakdown Structure

Every project should have a specification, which is the definition or purpose of the project. However, the specification itself is not a solution, but a statement of the problem that warrants the initiation of the project itself. Once having decided what the specification intends, the next step is to decide what actually needs to be done and how to do it. Managers provide some form of framework to plan and to communicate what needs to be done. “Without a structure, the work is a series of unrelated tasks which provides little sense of achievement and no feeling of advancement” (2007, Leading Project). “If the team has no grasp of how individual tasks fit together towards an understood goal, then the work will seem pointless and will only lead to frustration.”

As part of the planning, the specification needs to be turned into a complete set of tasks with structure. Once there is a clear understanding of the project, a description of separate activities is created. Thus, the intricate project is organized as a set of straightforward tasks that combine to achieve the desired outcome. The reasoning behind this is that no matter how advanced one’s intellect is, “the human brain can only take in and process so much information at one time” (2007, Leading Project). To get a strong grasp of the project, it needs to be thought about it in smaller segments rather than in every detail all at once.

In planning any project, there are simple steps to follow. If an item is too complicated to manage, it becomes a list of simpler items. Formally, this is called producing a work breakdown structure. Without following this formal approach, one is much less likely to remember every detail. This procedure allows the details to be simply displayed on the final lists. Take an everyday example of two housewives setting out to do the weekly errands, with one housewife leading the way with a written list in hand, and the other with the errand list hastily scribbled in her mind. If time, money, and mishaps do not cloud the process, the housewife with the written list is guaranteed to complete each errand; whereas the housewife without the list may forget to stop at the dry cleaners or forget to pick

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