Project management

Definition

Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.

General

A project is a unique, transient endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. A project is usually deemed to be a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.

The core components of project management are:

  • defining the reason why a project is necessary;
  • capturing project requirements, specifying quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timescales;
  • preparing a business case to justify the investment;
  • securing corporate agreement and funding;
  • developing and implementing a management plan for the project;
  • leading and motivating the project delivery team;
  • managing the risks, issues and changes on the project;
  • monitoring progress against plan;
  • managing the project budget;
  • maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation;
  • provider management;
  • closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate.

Responsibility for these components lies with a project sponsor and a project manager. The project sponsor is accountable for achievement of the business case and providing senior-level commitment to the project.

The project manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the project and must be competent in managing the six aspects of a project, i.e. scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources. Well-developed interpersonal skills such as leadership, communication and conflict management are also vitally important.

Investment in effective project management will have a number of benefits to both the host organisation and the people involved in delivering the project. It will:

  • provide a greater likelihood of achieving the desired result;
  • ensure efficient and best value use of resources;
  • satisfy the differing needs of the project’s stakeholders.

A project management methodology can be used to support the governance structure for management of a project. Such methodologies typically include:

  • process models based around a project life cycle;
  • an organisation structure with defined roles;
  • templates for documentation;
  • guidelines for adapting the methodology to different situations.

The benefits of using a standard methodology across an organisation include:

  • use of consistent terminology;
  • a common understanding of the responsibilities associated with roles;
  • consistent documentation across projects;
  • a structure for development of new project managers;
  • greater mobility of staff between projects.

Many organisations either tailor open methodologies (such as PRINCE2®) or develop their own bespoke approaches.

A methodology can be applied in conjunction with a development method such as waterfall or agile. The former is a sequential, staged development process, whereas the latter provides an iterative and incremental development process. The traditional waterfall approach concentrates on gathering full requirements at the outset, and then calculating the time and resource required to deliver them. Agile focuses on which requirements can be delivered in a certain time with the resources available.

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