Topic 1: The background to project management

While it is true that unique construction events, such as the pyramids, occurred many thousands of years ago, the language, tools and standards of project management are only about 50 years old.

What is a project?

The key components of the various descriptions include:

- A project is not ongoing—Projects, as an organisational entity, are created to do one thing and then disband when that one thing is done.
- A project has a degree of uniqueness—Projects are not production-line-type activities.
- A project has a defined outcome—Projects produce something that is agreed prior to it

The Project Management Institute's PMBOK Guide (PMBOK 2008: 5) definition: "A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result."

[W]e will extend the PMBOK Guide's definition of a project to specifically state that the processes, tools and techniques discussed in this unit are intended for use where the project is managed by a substantially full-time manager, managing at least five staff, and more like ten staff.

Each project is unique, and requires a unique solution. What is becoming standard and agreed is the minimum set of processes, tools and techniques to be used on typical projects.

The individual project manager is expected to 'tailor' the requirements and processes to suit each individual project.
* tailoring the processes down, to remove or simplify some processes in order to reduce administration and save cost
* tailoring the processes to produce slightly different outcomes or artefacts in order to be compliant with organisational specific needs or standards
* tailoring the processes up, to increase the level of detail or the level of control over certain elements of the project in order to reduce risk.

What is project management?

There is a fairly consistent agreement over what project managers do. They:
* are responsible for delivering the project
* ensure the accurate definition of the project (the specific project)
* plan how to best achieve the project
* gather the team and facilities required to undertake the project
* lead the team, creating a positive environment, to ensure that they achieve all of the necessary outcomes
* ensure the efficient delivery of the project objectives through identifying and resolving problems, removing obstacles and mitigating risks
* close the project.

Project management is about managing people. The project manager must manage the project team to ensure that they do their job correctly, effectively and efficiently, but it is project team members who achieve almost all of the project goals and objectives.

Typically all projects go through four phases in their life cycles:
* Initiating—this is where the need for the project is set up and established.
* Planning—this phase determines the solution and its implementation plan.
* Executing
* Closing

Projects tend to start with nothing more than a project manager doing some planning and requirement gathering. The project then grows through the planning phase and reaches a crescendo during execution when the full project team are on board and then fades away with a project manager doing the closing administration. As such, it is fairly obvious that the middle part of the project is likely to have more staff and more expenditure than the project start or finish.

When the staff numbers and cost expenditure are plotted against time, the result tends to look like a hill on a plain, flat at both extremities and rising to a 'lump' in the middle. However, when the cumulative costs are plotted (i.e. the sum of all previous expenditure), then this same information produces a curve that is relatively flat to begin with, grows quite steeply in the middle, and then becomes flat again towards the end. This graph is referred to as the 'project's cost performance baseline' (or sometimes 'spend profile' or 'S-curve'). The S-curve is quite important when working with earned value management calculations.

Project, Profile, and Portfolio Management

Programs are a collection of projects that are managed in some way to produce a more efficient outcome. The program manager does not manage the specific projects, but rather co-ordinates the outcome of the group of projects by changing their resources, or changing their scope.

Portfolios are organisational-wide collections of projects or programs, where each project/program is initiated in order to achieve the best outcome for the organisation as a whole. Project portfolio management theory is an extension of financial portfolio theory. Portfolios recognise that no organisation has sufficient resources to undertake all of the possible projects that it might want to do.

PMO can be a misleading term meaning one of the following:
* project management office
* program management office
* portfolio management office.

Whatever the label, the important thing to note is that all three types of PMO provide a support function to the team actually delivering the work.

Regardless of title, some of the key roles within a PMO are:
* PMO manager—This person generally acts as second-in-charge to the project/program/portfolio manager.
* Cost estimator—A project's schedule, budget and plan depend upon having reasonably accurate estimations of the work content, skill requirements, and duration of the various tasks required.
* Project scheduler—Depending upon the industry, this person may be someone who inputs data into a scheduling package and sometimes also develops detailed cost estimates.
* Change manager—Change and change requests are a major factor within projects.
* Project administrator—A person who helps the project manager by gathering status information, arranging meetings, taking minutes, preparing documentation, developing communications material, developing project status reports, etc

A centre of excellence is a body dedicated to improving the quality of the personnel within that centre. Project Management Centres of Excellence (PMCoE) are principally involved in training project managers and getting the project managers to act together as a Special Interest Group (SIG) whose role it is to mentor each other, share lessons learned, provide templates and advise what tools, techniques, issues and artefacts should be used.

Project management processes

There are two concurrent life cycles that project managers should be aware of:

* the system or product life cycle—any product goes through a life of concept, design, testing, usage (operations) and maintenance (support) and, finally, decommissioning or disposal.
* the project life cycle—a project may be created to undertake any number of product- related lifecycles on any number of products (initiating, planning, execution, closing).

In executing or implementing the project we will adopt a methodology. An often-used approach to managing big projects is to break the large project into several stages or phases, e.g. Stage 1, Stage 2...or Phase 1, Phase 2...etc . The PMBOK Guide includes an overarching fifth element — monitoring and controlling.

Supporting the life cycle stages are processes that describe what must be done (activities) to achieve the outcome of the stage, and what must be produced (artefacts, data items or deliverables) from each stage.

Underpinning each stage is a series of re-usable techniques and work practices that are the foundation of the processes. Furthermore, the efficiency of the techniques and work practices can be improved via a range of tools, applications and templates.

In summary, a project life cycle comprises a number of stages or phases each containing one or more processes that describe activities that produce artefacts, data items and deliverables. Processes are undertaken by applying a range of techniques and work practices that are supported by a collection of tools, applications and templates that work within a specific work environment.

We have structured this unit around the PMBOK Guide's nine project management areas of knowledge. The PMBOK Guide's project management process consists of five process groups—initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing

Enterprise environmental factors (EEF) are the internal and external environmental factors that influence the performance of a project. Organisational process assets (OPA) are the internal processes, policies and guidelines that an organisation develops to influence a project to successful completion. The project management plan (PMP) is a collection of sub-plans that describe how the project will be managed.