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Project Management

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Essay title: Project Management

Project Management

Project Management Defined

Project management is the discipline of organizing and managing resources in such a way that these resources deliver all the work required to complete a project within defined scope, time, and cost constraints (Berry 2006). Almost any human activity that involves carrying out a non-repetitive task can be a project. But 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.

The art of planning for the future has always been a human trait (Berkun 2005). In essence a project can be captured on paper with a few simple elements: a start date, an end date, the tasks that have to be carried out and when they should be finished, and some idea of the resources that will be needed during the course of the project. When the plan starts to involve different things happening at different times, some of which are dependent on each other, plus resources required at different times and in different quantities and perhaps working at different rates, the paper plan could start to cover a vast area and be unreadable.

This was a problem facing the US Navy in the development of the Polaris missile system. There were so many aspects to the project that a new technique had to be invented to cope with it, the PERT technique (Lewis 2002). This and later developments led to mathematical techniques that can be used to find the critical path through a series of planned tasks that interconnect during the life of a project. You could begin the story of modern project management from this time. But that would be unfair as project management is not only about planning but also about human attributes like leadership and motivation. The idea that complex plans could be analyzed by a computer to allow someone to control a project is the basis of much of the development in technology that now allows projects of any size and complexity not only to be planned but also modeled to answer “what if?” questions (Foster 1999).

Development of Project Management

The original programs and computers tended to produce answers long after an event had taken place. Now, there are many project planning and scheduling programs that can provide real time information, as well as linking to risk analysis, time recording, costing, estimating and other aspects of project control (Kerzner 2003). But computer programs are not project management: they are tools for project managers to use. Project management is all that mix of components of control, leadership, teamwork, and resource management that goes into a successful project.

Project managers can be found in all industries. Their numbers have grown rapidly as industry and commerce has realized that much of what it does is project work. And as project-based organizations have started to emerge, project management is becoming established as both a professional career path and a way of controlling business. So opportunities in project management now exist not only in being a project manager, but also as part of the support team in a project or programmer office or as a team leader for part of a project (Foster 1999). There are also qualifications that can be attained through the professional associations.

One reason for the rapid growth is the need to understand how to look after complex projects, often in high tech areas, which are critical to business success but also have to use scarce resources efficiently. Most people still want their projects to be on time, meet quality objectives, and not cost more than the budget. These form the classic time, quality, cost triangle (Kerzner 2003). In fact if you have an unlimited budget and unlimited time, project management becomes rather easy. For most people, however, time and money are critical and that is what makes project management so important today.

Project Specifications

A specification is the definition of your project: a statement of the problem, not the solution (Kerzner 2003). Normally, the specification contains errors, ambiguities, and misunderstandings. Thus before embarking upon the next six months of activity working on the wrong project, reading, revising and ensuring that everyone concerned with the project is working with the same understanding. The outcome of this problem should be a written definition of what is required, by when; and this must be agreed by all involved. There are no short-cuts to this, if this time is not spent initially, it will cost far more later on (Kerzner 2003).

The agreement upon a written specification has several benefits: the clarity will reveal misunderstandings, the completeness will remove contradictory assumptions,

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