What is Project Management

Dick Billows, PMP

Dick Billows, PMP

What is Project management? It’s about producing something called a deliverable. A deliverable can be a conference table, a highway, a building, computer software, a book, a full-length movie, and many other things.

There are special techniques to manage projects and they start with creating a plan. The project plan is a document that details what the project is going to deliver (the scope), what resources we need and how we will manage the people working on the project. As we break down the scope into smaller deliverables, we are developing a pyramid of clearly defined deliverables that lead from the smallest tasks, to the largest deliverables. At the top of the pyramid is the project scope. Good project managers maintain this focus on deliverables that are defined by metrics because it has a number of very important benefits.

First, when we assign deliverables to our project team members, they know exactly what is expected of them before they start work. They don’t have to guess or worry about failing on their assignment because, from the very beginning, we have defined what a good job is in measurable terms. Second, using deliverables as the basis for our projects lets us develop much more accurate estimates of the duration anWhat is a Project Managementd cost of each task. It also lets us determine how long the project will take and what it will cost. We give each team member a work package which describes their deliverables and details the risks and other factors that will affect their assignment. Then we use that same work package to develop the estimate of the amount of work in the task. This gives us much better data than vague assignments and it gives the team member something very much like a contract; it explains the expectations the team member must meet.

Third, managing a project that is built with deliverables gives us unambiguous checkpoints to measure how the project is doing versus the approved plan. Each deliverable has a crystal-clear and measurable definition of success so neither the project manager nor the sponsor have to guess about how far along the project is. After the project plan is approved, the project manager executes it by assigning work to the team members so that all of the project deliverables get produced. As the team is working on their tasks, the project manager is monitoring their progress, controlling the project schedule, budget and scope and solving problems. As part of this monitoring and controlling process, the project manager makes periodic status reports to the sponsor who initiated the project. Deliverables are reviewed and accepted as they are produced during executing phase. The project sponsor examines what the team produced, compares it to the specifications and accepts or rejects the deliverable. We don’t wait until the end of the project for the stakeholders to review the deliverables. We do it as they are produced so we can identify and fix problems early.
After the last of the deliverables has been produced, the project manager closes the project by verifying that the sponsor got what they wanted from the project. The project manager will also archive all the data generated by the project so it can be used by other project managers in the future. That information will make it easier to plan their projects.

You learn all of those skills in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your specialty.

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