Achieving Results with Project Management – Part 3
The four project control areas
Different project approach is a slightly different definitions of a project, but here is one I have used most readily:
“a project is a temporary understanding performed produce a unique product, service or result”
Perhaps the word of caution about the phrase “unique product”. It may be that the undertaking is a project, even though your organization has delivered similar types in the past. I can assure you that even if this project is similar to one you did last year, there are differences to this latest project.
However, if you do believe that this project is very similar to one that is being undertaken in the past, the smart project manager does not need to reinvent the wheel as you can probably adapt the previous project plans to suit this new one.
So what are the four project control areas?
Large or small, projects involve all of the following controlled areas:
Scope. This is what the project will deliver
Time. This is the timeframe when the project will deliver
Quality. This is delivering against the requirements and specification
Resource. All projects consume resources no matter what type, where the people, or funds, equipment, accommodation, facilities and so on
You will need to balance these areas for each project – get the balance wrong, and your project like so many others will get into difficulties.
These four control areas normally pull in different directions, each against the other, so getting a balance is key.
As a simple example, imagine if the scope was changed, let’s say more functionality was needed, this would need more resources, and probably take more time. And certainly the quality would change also.
Senior managers, those who sponsor or trigger projects, often commit projects to failure by insisting on unachievable deadlines or unrealistic resources. The same managers are the first at the whipping post ready for the project manager when the project inevitably gets into difficulties and fails.
As a way of summarizing these for control areas, here are the four reasons that you need to keep front and center of your mind when starting a project:
- The only reason the project exists is to produce the results specified in its scope
- The project end date is usually an essential part of defining what constitutes successful performance – in many cases, the project must provide the desired result by a certain time to meet its intended need
- The quality requirements is a vital part of the balance and may be the most important element, even though many organisational managers are preoccupied with time and cost. What is the point of delivering a product or system which does not work despite being delivered on time and within budget?
- The availability of resources can affect which products the project can produce and the timescale in which it can produce them
Big, fat, small, thin projects
Projects can come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes, and here are a select few:
Large or small. They may cost billions of dollars and take years to complete, possibly even forming and linking with other projects within a programme
Yet again, a project may only take you a week to complete, for example setting up the help desk facility. Small, low cost, yet still a project
A project may involve many people, or just yourself. Imagine training all of your 1000 marketing staff worldwide. Yet again perhaps you are just redecorating an office and rearranging the furniture and equipment. Small, few resources, yet still a project
Your project may be defined by a legal contract or by an informal agreement. It could simply be a single contract with the customer to build a house for them, or it could be an informal agreement with your it manager to install a new software package in a business area. Both of the above define a project.
The project could be business related or personal. Conducting a long-term strategy, or preparing for a family fortieth wedding anniversary. Both can be run as projects.