I often get the question “What exactly is Project Management?” so I’ve decided to write this brief Introduction to Project Management from the perspective of the Project Management Institute (PMI). This article is based on a presentation I developed when asked to be a guest speaker at Arizona State University by the PMI Phoenix Chapter.
A Little Bit About Me & My Credentials
To start, my name is Jason McConnell and I was formally introduced into the glorious world of Project management in 2006 when I started working in the Project Management Office (PMO) at Honeywell. Prior to that I did work that could have been described as Project Management but I didn’t know much about the industry nor had I received any formalized training in the fundamentals.
Since my tenure at Honeywell I’ve worked multiple contracts that spanned Information Technology (IT), Defense & Space (D&S), Aerospace, Electronic Discovery, and a few of other industries as a contributor or lead of projects and project teams.
At the date of this article I have a Bachelor’s Degree in IT, Master’s Degree in Project Management, Six Sigma Green Belt Certification (SSGB), Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification and Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) certification.
Project Management Institute (PMI)
The PMI came to life in 1969 and has grown to become the World’s leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the Project, Program, and Portfolio Management profession. They have reached over 2.9 Million professionals worldwide and offer a host of benefits including
- Career Advancement
- Improved Organizational Success
- Matures Profession of Project Management
- Global Recognized Certifications, Resources, Tools, Academic Research, Publications, and Professional Development Courses
- Networking Opportunities
PMI also endorses several core values:
- Project Management Impact: Includes providing a positive influence on organizational results as well as society
- Professionalism: Encourage accountability and positive ethical behavior
- Volunteerism: PMI believes the best way to accomplish the Institute’s goals and objectives is through volunteerism
- Community: The best way to advance Project Management is to bring the community together at a global level
- Engagement: Encourages diverse viewpoints and enables individuals to contribute to the Project management Profession as well as the PMI.
What Is a Project?
According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) 4th Edition the PMI defines a project as a “Temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” So basically a project must have three key components:
- It is temporary
- It is unique
- It provides a product, service, or result
Simple enough right? It may even seem a little vague but that’s because there are so many different varieties of projects including construction, research, engineering, procurement, business implementations, legal, and the list goes on. So if you are undergoing a task that has a definitive start and end date, is unique in some way, and end by delivering a product, service, or result … it’s a project!
Project Lifecycle vs. Project Groups
There is often confusion between the Project Lifecycle and the Process Groups because they indicate similar terminology, but they are different. The Project Lifecycle is pretty simple: you start the project, you organize and prepare to do the work, you do the work, and when the work is done you close out the project.
The Process Groups identify the stages involved in a Project or a Phase of a Project where multiple iterations are necessary.
The Process Groups include:
- Initiation: Define new project/phase by obtaining formal authorization to start the project/phase
- Planning: Establish the total scope of effort, objectives, and develop course of action to obtain objectives
- Executing: Completing the work defined in the Project Management Plan to satisfy project specifications
- Monitoring & Controlling: Tracking, reviewing, and orchestrating progress and performance of the project
- Closing: Conclude all activities across all Project Management Process Groups to formally complete the project, phase, or contractual obligations
The Project Lifecycle is a linear perspective of the entire project from start to finish. Whereas the Process Groups are generally not linear, in fact the Planning, Executing, and Monitoring process groups are iterative and cyclical in nature because the process of monitoring & controlling can trigger replanning which can change execution.
10 Knowledge Areas
In addition to the Process Groups, the PMI has identified 10 Knowledge areas and 47 processes that are spread between the two categories. The Knowledge Areas are:
- Integration Management
- Scope Management
- Time Management
- Cost Management
- Quality Management
- Human Resource Management
- Communications Management
- Risk Management
- Procurement Management
- Stakeholder Management
I won’t go into the 47 Processes because that would be more than an introduction, and to be fair the PMI has already written the PMBOK to cover them. I will just give my perspective on the process group coupled with the PMI’s definition.
Project Integration Management
Project Integration Management is unique because it’s the only knowledge area that has at least one task in every Process Groups. The purpose of Integration Management is to combine and unify the activities of the other process groups primarily in the development of the Project Management Plan. This knowledge is vital to the project because this is where everything starts with the Project Charter and everything ends with Close Project or Phase. In between you have Direct and Manage Project Work, Monitor and Control Project Work, and the Integrated Change Control process. Project Integration Management is one of the busiest Knowledge Areas throughout the entire project.
Project Scope Management
Project Scope is defined as “The work performed to deliver a product, service, or result with the specific features and functions” (PMBOK pg 105). Project Scope Management includes the activities that are required to ensure all the work required, and only the work required, is accounted for in order to finish the project successfully.
This Knowledge Area goes beyond just collecting requirements and defining the scope, a big part of it includes identifying how to manage all of those activities as well. It’s important to understand that in many areas of Project Management, the organization or Project Management Office is tasked with creating a foundation on how to execute the planning, sort of creating a meta-plan.
One deliverable or product of the Planning Process Group for this Knowledge Area is the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This is basically a hierarchical organization of the scope and can be displayed as an outline or flowchart. The PMBOK uses the term “Decomposition” to describe the process of creating a WBS which is the process of breaking larger blocks of work into smaller more manageable groups. When this is complete, you will have multiple layers, but the lowest layer is called a Work Package and is defined as the “Lowest level of the WBS for which cost and duration can be estimated and managed.” The Work Packages will roll up to a summary level called a Control Account and often the Project Team will report at that summary level.
Project Time Management
Project Time Management is where the low level activities are defined, put in proper order, resource estimates are performed, duration estimates are performed, then finally the schedule is developed. This is also where the schedule is controlled by tracking progress and managing any changes to the baseline schedule per the change control process in the Project Integration Management Knowledge Area.
To put it simply, this is often where the rubber meets the road when determining the logical layout of the schedule, and will be vital in the next Knowledge Area when we move into Cost Management. If the duration estimates are off or the resource allocation is wrong, it will create a disconnect when the Project is executed.
Please note that adding resources to the schedule is not a requirement, but is considered best practice in order to associate costs with those resources. These allocations can then be used to develop the cost baseline or at least act as a basis of estimate. It’s also important to remember that resource allocation includes human resources (a.k.a. employees), material resources, and other direct costs (ODC) which can include things like subcontractor labor and travel expenses.
Project Cost Management
Project Cost Management is where time is spent estimating, budgeting, and funding the costs associated with performing the tasks. Controlling Costs include updating the project costs and managing any changes to the cost baseline based through the Change Control Process. At this point in the Project Management process the heavy lifting has been done through the Project Time Management process, and ideally all that needs to be done is leverage the resource allocations as a basis of estimate to determine a budget for the project.
During this process it may be discovered that resources are over-allocated, or incorrectly allocated which can require what’s called level loading, which smoothes out the resources but that generally changes the time aspect of the schedule so there can be overlap back to the Time Management knowledge area.
Project Quality Management
Project Quality Management is exactly what it sounds like, making sure the product, service, or result meets or exceeds the customer/sponsor expectations. Of course the organization or Project Team should define quality expectations ahead of time in the Plan Quality Management and then work towards and confirm those quality standards as the project progresses.
Quality Assurance and Quality Control are often confused. Quality Assurance are the built in systems to ensure that what’s being delivered is meeting the quality objectives. Quality Control is an evaluation, or maybe inspection, used to ensure the deliverable’s really are meeting those quality objectives.
As quoted by Dr. Edward Deming “You cannot inspect quality into a product” meaning by the time a product hit inspection the quality is already either good or bad. This is why the quality assurance is so important. Having quality checks is good, but building quality into the processes is even better.
Project Human Resource Management
This is Knowledge Area is pretty simple, it consists of getting the team, pulling them together, and managing the team as they work. It seems simple, but leading a project team can become complex when you are working with disparate resource types (i.e. engineering, finance/accounting, software developers, etc). It’s also important to note that the burden often falls on the shoulders of the Project Manager or Project Management Office to ensure the team members are following professional and ethical behavior.
Project Communications Management
Project Communications Management is an area of Project Management I find to be of high importance because relaying the information from a Project to the Sponsors is so important. Furthermore the more sponsors there are the more communication channels that have to be managed. It’s important to plan how communication is going to happen.
The PMBOK provides an equation to calculate the potential communication channels it’s n(n – 1)/2 where n equals the number of Stakeholders identified.
For example if you have 10 stakeholders you end up with 10(10 – 1)/2=45, so 45 communication channels. If you have 25 stakeholders you now have 25(25 – 1)=300 communication channels. As you can see the complexity of communications can grow quickly as you identify more sponsors, so it’s important to have a solid communication plan.
Project Risk Management
Project Risk Management gets a bad rap, it’s generally associated with bad news. But Risk Management is the processes of identifying both risks and opportunities and planning how to address them.
Risks are an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, can have a negative effect and they can be hand be handled in one of four ways:
- Avoid: Plan to completely eliminate the threat or protect the project from impact
- Transfer: Shift the impact of the risk to a third party
- Mitigate: Reduce the probability or impact of the risk
- Accept: Acknowledge the risk and take no action
Opportunities are an uncertain event or condition that, if it happens, will have a positive effect and they can also be handled in one of four ways:
- Exploit: Seek to ensure that the opportunity is realized
- Enhance: Increase the probability and/or positive impact of an opportunity
- Share: Allocating some or all of the ownership of an opportunity to a third party
- Accept: Acknowledge the opportunity and take no action
Project Procurement Management
Project Procurement Management is the process group that handles purchasing or acquiring products, services, or results needed from outside the project team or the organization. This includes materials (make or buy) as well as other direct costs such as contract manpower. Due to it’s external nature, it also requires a closing process group to make sure all procurement’s are completed and closed out which is why it has a process in the Closing Process Group.
Project Stakeholder Management
Project Stakeholder Management is another one of the knowledge areas that I believe should get a lot of attention, especially during the Initiating and Planning process groups. A stakeholder is any person, group, or organization that could impact, be impacted by, or perceives it could be impacted by a project. It’s important to identify all stakeholders including ones that can positively AND negatively impact a project. The stakeholders should be kept in a list called a stakeholder register which is a living document that will most likely change over the course of the project duration. This is also the only other Knowledge Area that has an activity in the Initiating Process Group because it’s important to identify the stakeholders prior to planning.
At the end of the day, I love what I do. It’s fun, dynamic, and I enjoy working with people and as a Project Manager I get to interact with a lot of people. I never get bored, and I never run out of things to do which makes the day go fast. At the end of the day I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.
Project Management is also such a versatile profession because Projects exist in so many environments it doesn’t matter what industry you are in … Information Technology, Medical, Legal … Project Management has become widely known as the best way to get things done when you have a unique, temporary endeavor that produces a product, service, or result.