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Chapter 1: The Nature of ProjectsEverybody does projects. Building a tree house is a project; so is putting a man on the moon. From the simplest home improvement to the most complex business or scientific venture, projects are a part of most of our lives. But exactly what is a project, and what can you do to manage all of its facets?
Some projects are defined by their randomness. Missed deadlines, unpleasant surprises, and unexpected problems seem to be as unavoidable as the weekly staff meeting. Other projects have few problems. Nevertheless, the project that goes smoothly from beginning to end is rare. Good planning and communication can go a long way toward avoiding disaster. And although no amount of planning can prevent all possible problems, good project management enables you to deal with those inevitable twists and turns in the most efficient manner possible.
In this chapter you begin exploring tools and acquiring skills that can help you become a more efficient and productive project manager. The goal here is to provide a survey of what a project is, what project management is, and how Microsoft Project 2000 fits into the picture.
When you look up the word "project" in the dictionary, you see definitions such as "plan" and "concerted effort." A project in the truest sense, then, isn't a simple one-person effort to perform a task. By this definition, getting yourself dressed, difficult though that task may seem on a Monday morning, isn't a project.
A project is a series of steps, often performed by more than one person. In addition:
- A project has a specific and measurable goal. You know you have finished the project when you have successfully met your project goal.
- Projects have a specific time frame. The success of a project is often measured by how successfully the project has been completed within the amount of time allotted to it.
- Projects use resources. Resources aren't just people; resources can include money, machinery, materials, and more. How well these resources are allocated and orchestrated is another key measure of a project's success or failure.
- All projects consist of interdependent, yet individual, steps called tasks. No piece of a project exists in a vacuum. If one task runs late or overbudget, it typically affects other tasks, the overall schedule, and the total cost.
Exploring project management
Project management is a discipline that looks at the nature of projects and offers ways to control their progress. Project management attempts to organize and systematize the procedures in a project to minimize the number of surprises you encounter.
Project management and project managers concern themselves with certain key areas:
- Managing resources
- Tracking and reporting progress