Project Management addresses activities to achieve project objectives while projects are activities that cannot be addressed within the organisation’s normal operational limits, but are necessary for the survival of the organisation. In this lesson we will examine the different methods used to manage and control projects for competitive advantage.
To begin, a project is a multitask job that has performance, time, cost, and scope requirements and that is done only one time. It is not repetitive. A project should have definite starting and ending points (time), a budget (cost), a clearly defined scope, and specific performance requirements that must be met. Projects are more schedule-intensive than most of the activities that general management handles. Although projects are generally one-time occurrences, the fact is that many projects can be repeated or transferred to other settings or products. The result will be another project output. For example, a contractor building houses at different locations can effectively consider each of these as projects.
Project Management – Basics
During the 1950’s, two different organisations were faced with Project Management problems that were not easily solvable with the existing techniques. The US Navy faced the problem of coordinating the activities of over 3000 contractors involved in the Polaris missile project. DuPont, on the other hand, wanted to determine the shortest possible time to complete the maintenance of its chemical processing plants. Plant shutdowns that were required on a regular basis were expensive. It wanted to reduce these costs and also wanted to identify the activities that were critical to the earliest completion of the project so that they could control the maintenance process.
Both the organisations came out with solutions. The Navy, with Booz, Allen, and Hamilton Consulting Group, developed a method that was called ‘Program Evaluation and Review Technique’ (PERT) which permitted uncertain time estimates to be used. Dupont took the help of Remington-Rand and came up with a solution that did not use probabilities and called it the ‘Critical Path Method’ (CPM). Today, these techniques are called PERT/CPM and form the heart of Project Management techniques.
Project Management has its objective optimising system implementation. There are four basic components:
This concept can be expressed as a mathematical equality where Cost is a function of Performance, Time and Scope:
C = f (P, T, S)
Where: ‘C’ is cost;
‘P’ is performance;
‘T’ is time, and
‘S’ is scope.
Graphically, this concept is visualized as a triangle, in which ‘P’, ‘C’, and ‘T’ are the sides and ‘S’ is the area. If we know the area and the lengths of two sides, we can compute the length of the remaining side. This translates into a very practical rule of Project Management; if values are assigned to any three variables, Project Management optimizes the remaining one.
“Project Management is facilitating the planning, scheduling, and controlling of all activities that must be done to achieve project objectives”, is a definition that has found general acceptance. In essence, a project is a series of related jobs usually directed toward some major output and requiring a significant period of time to perform. Project Management can be seen as planning, directing, and controlling resources (people, equipment, and material) to meet the technical, cost, and time constraints of the project.
Dr. J.M. Juran, a quality guru, defines Project Management as, ‘a problem scheduled for solution’. Projects deal with both positive and negative kinds of problems and they deal with scheduling solutions. For example, developing a new product is a problem, but a positive one, while an environmental clean-up project deals with a negative kind of problem. Both involve the preparation of a project work plan. A project work plan: (1) describes the various project tasks and activities (2) indicates how the tasks will be accomplished and managed and (3) identifies the resources necessary to carry out the various project activities.