Project Management Knowledge Areas

The process of planning and executing a piece of work from inception to completion to achieve safe achievement of objectives on time, within cost limits and to the specified standards of quality.

The organising, planning, directing, coordinating and controlling of all project resources from inception to completion to achieve project objectives on time, within cost, and to required quality standards.

Most authors agree that project management is about achieving time, cost and quality targets, within the context of overall strategic and tactical client requirements, by using project resources. There is also general agreement that project management is concerned with the life cycle of the project: planning and controlling the project from inception to completion . Project resources are resources that are wholly or partly allocated to the project and under the control of the project manager.

Another facet of project management involves choosing the optimum position in relation to the success criteria.

The need for integrated planning and control procedures, together with a recent corresponding success of project management, is caused by the changing nature of industrial projects over the past fifty years. Generally, as industry has evolved, it has become more complex. Technological processes have become more complex and this has been coupled with more and more complicated organizational and administrative procedures. Technology and organizational processes, like plants and animals, tend to evolve over time into ever more complex and sophisticated structures.

They come in many different degrees of complexity, from launching a space mission to designing and printing a company newsletter, and across all projects they require the commitment of a wide range of resources and the application of a wide and varied range of skills by the project manager.

Project management is therefore about deciding the various success and failure criteria of a project and then organizing and running the project as a single entity so that all the success criteria are met. This process involves setting up and managing a project team that may consist of a number of different individuals with different specializations. The project manager must weld this group of individuals into a team and then drive the team to perform successfully. The team itself, like the project, will only last a certain time. Once the project is completed the project team will probably be disbanded or be moved on to the next project.

Along with the five phases of project management set forth by the Project Management Institute in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), project management also consists of nine knowledge areas. These knowledge areas represent the competencies that project managers must develop in order to be successful. A successful project manager will need to demonstrate the following skills consistently throughout the five phases of project management. They are:

·         Scope Management

·         Time Management

·         Cost Management

·         Quality Management

·         Human Resource Management

·         Communications Management

·         Risk Management

·         Procurement Management

·         Integration Management

Internal Project Management

The most common form of project management is the formation of a project team operating within an existing organizational structure. This format is commonly known as internal, or nonexecutive, project management most firms are organized around functional groups that specialize in particular areas. A typical structure would have separate sections such as sales and marketing, finance and accounting, and operations. Each section or group makes a specialized contribution to the whole.

The disadvantage of this structure is that people tend to become compartmentalized and work rigidly on functional tasks. In order to make more efficient use of resources, project teams can be set up to operate across these functional boundaries.

In this structure, the project manager takes (or is allocated) individuals from their normal functional units and reallocates them to one or more projects. Each person therefore, now has functional and project responsibilities. Projects operating across functional structures offer good flexibility in the use of people. Staffs are primarily employed to perform a functional task but are temporarily assigned to projects that require their particular expertise. In addition, individual experts can be effectively used across a number of projects.

If there is a broad base of expertise within a functional department, it can be employed on different projects with relative ease. The internal system also has the advantage that specialist knowledge can easily be built up and shared within the function. Continuity of expertise, procedures and administration is maintained within the function despite any personnel changes that may occur.

The main characteristics of the system are as follows:

·         A single designated person, namely the project manager, is responsible for managing the project organization.

·         The project manager acts (to some extent) independently and outside the normal functional authority structure.

·         The project manager has equal authority to the functional managers over shared (project and functional) resources.

·         The project manager acts as a single leader and brings together the efforts of the various functional and project resources in order to achieve the project objectives.

·         Projects generally require a number of different functional specialists to work together. The work is therefore often carried out by a range of different functional specialists working as a multidisciplinary group under the leadership of the project manager.

·         The project manager is responsible for integrating this multidisciplinary group into a multidisciplinary project team.

·        The project manager has to negotiate with individual functional managers for the use of shared project functional resources. Functional resources often remain under the direct control of the functional manager.

·        The project focuses on delivering the project objectives in relation to time, cost and quality. The functional managers have to concentrate on maintaining an ongoing pool of functional resources to support the primary goals of the organization. As a result there is the potential for conflict between functional and project managers over shared resources. This arises particularly in terms of the quality of people that functional managers will release onto projects and the time for which they are required by the project.

In project organizations, the virtue of these informal lines is recognized and formalized through the creation of a horizontal hierarchy to augment the vertical hierarchy. This hybrid organization enables people in different functional areas to be formed into highly integrated project teams.

Given their temporary nature, an organization working on projects must be flexible, so that it can alter structure and resources to meet the shifting requirements of different projects.

In the role of project manager, a single person is given project responsibility and is held accountable for project success. This emphasis on project goals versus functional goals is a major feature distinguishing project and functional management roles. Project managers often depend on people who report directly to other managers on an ongoing basis but are assigned to them as required.

Thus the task of project management is more complicated and diverse than in other management areas.

External Project Management

External project management is where an external project manager is appointed on a consultancy basis and acts as an external agent on behalf of the client. The external project manager appoints other external consultants to form an external project team. The team then works under the control of the external project manager to deliver the project within the success criteria as defined by the client.

The main characteristics of an external project management structure are the following:

·         The external project manager acts as an agent on behalf of the client. The consultancy contract is a form of agency agreement.

·         The external system is more flexible than the internal system. External consultants can be hired as required as a function of workload demand.

·         Instructions and communications between the external consultants and the client have to cross the organizational boundary. This boundary acts as an interface and represents a barrier to effective communication.

·         Team allegiance tends to be lower in external structures. The objectives of the external consultants do not correspond to the objectives of the client, and the external consultants owe no allegiance to the client organization.

·         There is no inbuilt knowledge of the firm. This can sometimes be a disadvantage.

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