Read an Excerpt
Fundamentals of Technology Project Management
By Colleen Garton, Erika McCulloch
MC Press Copyright © 2012 Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch
All rights reserved.
The Principles of Project Management
A project without a project manager is like an orchestra without a conductor. You can have the best musicians (or engineers) in the world, but without the leadership of a talented conductor (or manager) who understands how everyone's piece must fit precisely together, in the right order, to produce the final product, the orchestra (or the team) is not going to perform well and the results will be poor.
A Project Manager's Value to an Organization
To realize its full potential for a great symphony or a great technology product, a team needs direction and guidance from a leader who can see the "big picture" but understands enough about the details to be able to lead the team to success. In technology, this person is the project manager. The project manager's value to the organization is the same value that the conductor brings to the orchestra. Just as successful orchestras would not dream of performing a concert without one, successful companies should not dream of launching a project without a project manager. It happens, but fortunately not as often these days as in the past. Companies have learned their project nightmare lessons! The project manager is the glue that holds the project team together. It is a vital role and carries with it a lot of responsibility. The success of a project is determined primarily by the quality of the project manager. Never underestimate the value that the project manager brings to the team or to the project results.
The Difference Between a Project, Program, and Portfolio
A project is an undertaking to create a product, service, or process. Though different variations of the product, service, or process may be included as part of one project, those variations are based on the core project objective. For example, a project may produce a product that is available in five different colors, sizes, or languages. These variations could be split into separate projects, but if the bulk of the project work is the same, it would usually be considered one project.
A program is a collection of projects that have been grouped together because it is beneficial to manage them in a coordinated way. The projects may not be related from a business perspective, but it makes sense to group them into a program for project management purposes. For example, the projects may share common components. It may be beneficial to leverage or reuse technology from one project for another. Similar skill sets may be required across multiple projects, so those projects would be grouped into a program to enable development schedules to be coordinated appropriately. A project may not be part of a program, but a program will always comprise more than one project. A project manager may manage multiple projects within a program or may manage just one. A program manager is responsible for the high-level management and coordination of the projects within the program. The program manager has overall responsibility for the success of the program and, therefore, for each project within the program.
A portfolio is a collection of products, projects, programs, services, or other work that is grouped together at the business level for strategic business reasons. The projects or programs may not be directly related and may not have any interdependencies at the project-development level. A portfolio manager may be a business manager or a project manager. The portfolio manager's focus is on making sure that the portfolio has the right mix of components, features, or projects to meet specific business objectives. A project or product portfolio can be likened to an investment portfolio. For example, an investment portfolio often contains a diversified collection of dissimilar investments. The investments are in different market sectors and have different strategies and goals. Some may be focused on growth, others on income. An investment portfolio may contain a mix of products, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate investments. They include foreign and domestic investments, long- term and short-term investments, low-risk and high-risk investments, and so on. The reason the financial investments are managed as one portfolio is because the combination of investments is required to meet the investment goals of the investor. A project or product portfolio is managed in a similar way and for similar reasons. A portfolio view of projects, products, and/or services enables an organization to make sound business decisions that enable the organization to meet strategic business objectives. An organization may have just one project portfolio for all projects or a collection of portfolios with different portfolio managers.
The Structure of Project Management
Project management can be divided into three distinct areas (see Figure 1.1):
* Project Direction
Project management standards/frameworks are generally not designed to be industry specific. Some quality management standards are industry specific. More than one standard can be applied to a project at the same time. There are various standards/frameworks that can be applied to the management of projects. A standard is a framework within which the project is managed and implemented. A project management or quality standard is used to ensure quality and consistency throughout the life of a project. Not all organizations use standards/frameworks for project management. As the project management discipline is maturing, it is becoming more common for standards/frameworks to be applied. Standards are explained in more detail in the next chapter.
Project management methodologies are generally designed to be industry specific. Some methodologies may be designed in a modular fashion so you can choose the modules that apply to your specific industry. A methodology needs to be tailored to fit the type of project you are implementing. For example, you would need a different methodology for a construction project than for a software project. The methodology included in this book is designed specifically for technical/IT projects. There are many project management methodologies in use. Some are widely used methodologies, and others are proprietary methodologies created for use by individual organizations. A methodology details what will happen, and when, throughout the life of a project. It organizes the project methodically and defines the steps that need to be followed to complete it.
Project direction is the management and coordination of the standards, methodology, tasks, and people who are part of the project. "People" refers to everyone who is involved in your project. This includes your project team, steering committee, executive management, stakeholders, project managers, people managers, the client, vendors, partners, support personnel, and anyone else who is involved with your project in any way. Project direction is taking the individual parts and bringing them together to form the whole. It is the conductor, coordinating the musicians and instruments to perform a perfect symphony.
Project management involves the management of all three areas. This includes applying the standards, following the methodology, and directing the project by effectively managing the people.
This book includes a methodology. It explains what you need to do and exactly how to do it. It includes information on how to successfully direct a project. This includes the management and coordination of team members' tasks and the growth and development of individuals.
The Role of a Project Manager
A project manager (PM) has various functions or roles. Project managers will find themselves wearing many different hats during the various phases of their projects (and very likely at different times in the course of each day!). The specific roles a project manager will be required to fulfill will differ to some extent depending on the company for whom the project is being managed. It will also differ depending on the particular needs and requirements of the department or client for whom the project is being developed and the nature of the actual project itself.
There are different types of project managers. You will find that most technology project managers fit into one of the following broad categories. The first are technical project managers who have a background in technology. They have a technical/ engineering degree and have some hands-on experience in the engineering field. Secondly there are the career project managers. They have some level of technical skill and knowledge but have opted for the project management career path rather than the engineer/developer one. These individuals usually possess excellent organizational and leadership skills, which led them into a career in technology project management. Some companies specifically require one or the other type of project manager for their open positions. Others will be open to either. In choosing a career in technology project management, it is beneficial and smart to have both strong project management skills and strong technical skills. However, companies are more likely to hire a very strong project manager with little to no technical experience than to hire a technical manager with little or no project management experience.
A project manager wears many different hats and is known by many different names. These are not the names that your project team may call you behind your back when you ask them to work the weekend but the different names used to describe a project management role in an organization. More than one name may be used to describe the same role, or there may be multiple roles with the same name that differ in specific responsibilities. There may be similarities in skill sets and even some overlap in role responsibilities. For example, on larger projects, the project management role may be broken down and performed by several different people. Each of those people will have a functional job title. On smaller projects, one person may perform all those functions him- or herself.
The previous section explained the differences between project, program, and portfolio management. Though these roles are well defined, some organizations interchange the job titles, which can cause some confusion. For example, during my project management career, I was given the title "Project Manager" when I was performing the role of a program manager. There was no distinction at that company between the job titles for these two roles. I was once a project manager for a single project, but my title was "Program Manager," as was the title for all the project managers who worked for that company. At another organization, my title was "Product Manager"* even though my role was really that of a program manager. Confused yet? It can be very confusing, and the main reason for this is that formalized education, certification, and terminology for project management is relatively new. Consider also who in the organization decides which job title is given. If it is someone with little understanding of project management discipline and terminology, he or she may have no idea that there is a difference between a project manager and a program manager! The Project Management Institute (PMI) has helped to standardize a lot of the terminology used in project management. However, not all organizations, or project methodologies, have adopted the standard terminology. PRINCE2 focuses on "roles" specific to a project rather than defining a person's job or title. One person may perform one role or multiple roles. The PRINCE2 framework does not define project management at a program or portfolio level.
A project manager role can also be referred to as a "technical manager," a "project coordinator," or a "project scheduler." In some companies, a project coordinator is an assistant to the project manager, responsible for managing schedule updates, creating status reports, and taking care of general administrative tasks. A project scheduler most often refers to a junior project manager who is responsible for keeping the project schedule up-to-date and working with the senior project manager to resolve any scheduling issues.
When searching for a project manager position, check for job titles that include the word "project," "program," or "portfolio." Always read the job descriptions thoroughly to ensure that the role is a good fit for your experience and expertise.
The most important role of a project manager is to manage the project through all stages of the project lifecycle. This will include ensuring that the project stays within budget and is delivered on time and with high quality. This book is designed to guide you through each stage of the project by giving you the tools, skills, and knowledge you will need to consistently deliver successful projects.
A vital key to successful project management is communication — not just any old kind of communication, but two-way, open communication. Quantity is never a good substitute for quality. Communication must be tailored for your specific audience. A one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work. You will be communicating with different groups of stakeholders that could include salespeople, marketing, product management, engineering, clients, quality assurance, senior management, accounting, and outside vendors. These different groups of stakeholders will be looking for different information from you with differing levels of detail. Personality types will also determine how much and how detailed the data you share/present needs to be.
So how do you figure out what information each group or person needs from you? One sure way of finding out is to ask them. You may talk to one stakeholder who tells you, "I only want to know if there is a problem. I will assume things are going well unless you tell me otherwise." Another may tell you, "Don't come to me with a problem unless you have a solution. If I cannot do anything about it, then I would rather not know. Let me know once the problem is solved, and just tell me what the schedule impact is and what plans you have in place to counteract the impact." Then there are the people that want to know every little detail of what is going on: "Send me an email every day/week, and update me on where we are with every aspect of the project. Let me know when each and every milestone is completed, and inform me immediately of any potential issues that you anticipate in the following week." The list of responses to this question can go on and on. Never assume that you know what someone needs from you, and never assume it is the same as what someone else needs. People always appreciate being asked for their opinions and preferences. It not only makes them feel that their opinions are important; it also makes you look like you are a good manager who is setting a solid foundation to ensure that everyone is informed appropriately, thereby giving the project the best chance of success.
Human nature is a strange thing. It is usually the case that if someone believes you value their opinions, they will also value yours. If you hold them in high regard, they will also hold you in high regard. After all, you must be really smart to have noticed how smart they are, right? Thus, it is always good to ask for others' opinions and to pay attention to what you hear. You do not have to agree with them, but be respectful and thank them for their input. You do not have to comment on how useful, or not useful, it was! There will be situations where you will not be able to reach agreement. In these situations, you can agree to disagree as long as it is clear who the decision maker is going to be. By listening and responding to input from your team members and stakeholders, you are empowering them to continue to contribute to the process. They will feel that they are adding value to the project and to the project team.
Excerpted from Fundamentals of Technology Project Management by Colleen Garton, Erika McCulloch. Copyright © 2012 Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch. Excerpted by permission of MC Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.