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The author has 39 years of experience implementing project management techniques.
Here's a familiar scene. It is played out daily, across the world. The firm finds itself with a "project." It "assigns" the project to one or more project leaders. Other people are asked to contribute to the project. The work starts. Responding to an inquiry from a senior level person, the project leader reports, "We're not sure where we're going, but we're making good time." The boss asks, "Where's the plan?" Leader responds, "Who has time to plan? We are already in over our heads." Leader continues, "Where are all the people whom I was promised?" Boss asks, "Where is the project charter? And, besides, without the plan how do we know what you need and when?"
Well, you can fill in the rest. It goes on and on and gets worse and worse. The firm is not set up to work on projects. Roles are not clear. Procedures are nonexistent. Senior management expects that projects will be staffed and managed, but has not provided any mechanism or protocols. They fail to realize that executing and managing projects is not the same as normal daily operations. Meeting deadlines, working with increased risk, using people who normally work in different departments, working to stay within defined budgets, controlling scope creep-these are special characteristics of the projects' environment. It's not"business as usual."
The firm must take steps to organize for projects. This does not mean that there must be a projectized organization. Nor does it mean that any resulting organization is intended to be permanent. But something must be done to expand from a straight functional orientation. And something must be done to add new skills and to support cross-disciplinary teams.
Just what are these special characteristics that make projects different, and that require special skills to manage? Let's look at a generally accepted definition of project management, prefaced with a definition of a project.
A Project Is
A group of tasks, performed in a definable time period, in order to meet a specific set of objectives.
It is likely to be a one-time program. It has a life cycle, with a specific start and end.
It has a workscope that can be categorized into definable tasks.
It has a budget.
It is likely to require the use of multiple resources. Many of these resources may be scarce and may have to be shared with others.
It may require the establishment of a special organization, or the crossing of traditional organizational boundaries.
With the definition, above, we should start to see why we need a different set of practices to manage projects. Here we are managing specific tasks and resources against a time-oriented set of objectives. The budgets are associated with defined work, within a specified time frame. Resources are often led by people to whom they do not report. It's not so much what we manage that is so different, but rather the way that we manage and the measurement and control practices involved in this task. There are many areas of project management, but the eight below are the major components.
What We Manage
Contracts and Procurement.
The workscope definition is key to the project management function. Without a precise and complete definition of the work, there is no foundation for the management of time, resources, and costs. There are several techniques that have been recognized to aid in the process of workscope definition. Best known is the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). See Chapter 2.2. We also strongly advise that traditional strategic planning techniques be applied at the project initiation stage (see Chapter 2.1).
Standard routines have been established for the planning and control of schedules, resources, and costs. Usually, we use computers and project management software to aid in these tasks. Such computer-aided tools are strongly recommended, both for efficiency and standardization. Computers also aid in and improve upon project management communications. In fact, seven of the eight key project management functions, listed previously, can be substantially aided by the use of computer tools. Quality, although perhaps not directly aided by computers, is likely to have a better chance when a project is run effectively using computer tools. And it is a well-accepted doctrine that standardization is an essential element of a quality program.
Typical Planning and Control Functions
The whole process of defining the work and developing and tracking schedules, resources, and costs falls under the general heading of Planning and Control. There is a natural sequence to the steps of this function, as follows.
The Planning Phase
Establish the Project Objectives
Wait! Don't turn on your computer just yet. There's some front-end work to do, first. Resist the tendency to start scheduling the work until you define it. Preface the workscope definition by performing a strategic analysis of the project. See Project Initiation Techniques in Chapter 2.1, for a discussion of project objectives and constraints and other start-up tasks.
Define the Work
As noted earlier, the workscope definition is the foundation of a project plan. If you can't define the work, you can't schedule it, you can't assign and evaluate resources, and you can't define a valid project budget. Use the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) technique to break the project down into smaller, outlined segments, until you get to work packages and tasks that specifically define the work to be done. See Project Initiation Techniques, in Chapter 2.1, for an introduction to the WBS. Also see Do You Weebis?, in Chapter 2.2, for important commentary on Work Breakdown Structures.
Determine the Work Timing
Now that you have a list of defined project tasks, you can work on the schedule. Estimate the task durations and define the links between tasks (precedence relationships). This is the place to use the computer. Let your Critical Path Method (CPM) software calculate a tentative schedule, based on estimated task durations and precedence information.
Establish Resource Availability and Resource Requirements
The first-cut schedule is probably not realistic. It assumes that there are unlimited resources available to do the work. Probably not on your job! So now we need to do two additional things. First, define the resources expected to be available. Who are they? What are their classifications? How many are there? When will they be available? Also, assign a cost rate to each resource, so we can let the computer generate a resource-driven cost estimate for each task.
Then, go back to your task list and schedule, and assign resources to the tasks. You may want to designate some tasks as resource-driven. In this case, the computer will calculate the task duration, on the basis of the defined effort (resource quantities and rate of use).
At this point, your computer will provide an illustration (resource histogram or table) of the loads for each resource for each time period. We call this resource aggregation. If the histogram shows periods where the resource demand exceeds the defined availability, you have choice of manually adjusting resource assignments, or using the automatic resource leveling features of your CPM software. The result of a resource-adjusted schedule is the first cut of your project resource loading plan, or your Resource Baseline.
Trap Warning! Most automatic resource leveling routines are not very efficient, leaving periods of unassigned resources where there is work that can be done. See Chapter 4.3 for further discussion on computer-based resource scheduling.
Establish the Cost Baseline
If you have established cost rates for your resources, you are now in a position to develop a cost baseline, or Task Budget. You may have to add fixed (nonresource) cost to some tasks. The computer will calculate the estimated cost for each task, and roll it up to various levels of your WBS. Also, because the work is now scheduled, you will have a time-phased budget, usually called a Cash Flow Plan or Project Expenditure Plan. This will become a valuable baseline for tracking project performance, later.
Setting the Baseline
Evaluate the Baseline Plan
So now we have a baseline schedule, and a baseline resource loading plan, and a baseline budget. What are the chances that this first pass will meet all of your project objectives and constraints? Probably, the computed project end date will be unacceptable. We can usually do something about that. Perhaps the resource demand is impracticably uneven, or has peak loads that cannot be supported. We'll probably need to tweak it a little.
Optimize the Baseline Plan
Now is the time to consider alternatives. If time is a problem, look at overlapping or expediting some of the tasks. This is where we really begin to see the computer pay dividends. We can easily do what-ifs. Let the computer point out the critical path. The critical path is the series of tasks, in the CPM schedule, that will cause an extension to the project if there is a delay in any of these zero float activities. This is the first place to look for overlapping or expediting options.
If resource loading is a problem, you'll want to consider such options as outsourcing or resource substitution. Time, resource, and cost conflict resolution can also involve applying overtime, changing priorities, and even scope reduction.
Freeze the Baseline Plan
Once you have developed an integrated plan that you can support, you'll want to set the baseline. This will allow you to measure schedule and cost performance during the execution of the project.
Figure 1.1a shows the traditional sequence of planning activities leading to the baseline plan.
The Tracking Phase
Change Control During the tracking phase, we will manage the workscope, the schedule, the resources, and the costs. Remember that the baseline that we recently established is like the abominable snowman. It is a myth, and it melts under pressure!
Scope change is a natural situation in projects. This is only a problem if it is not managed. Then it becomes scope creep, a really nasty situation. It is essential to establish a method of change control. When changes are introduced into the workscope, you must define the specific tasks that will be added, changed, or deleted, and the effect of these changes on time, resources, and costs. One rule to follow is that the working budget is always a task budget. The total project cost is the sum of the budgets for each task (plus contingency and margin). The task budget does not get adjusted unless there is a defined change in the task list. See Chapter 7.1 for Change Control and Scope Management.
Track Work Progress
If you follow the defined process up to this point, you should derive significant benefits from your planning investment. From here on out, the process requires extreme diligence, to continue the payoff. It is fair to say that there are those who will not want to make the commitment to track the work in detail, or to track all of the project elements. For instance, you may want to track the work accomplished, against the schedule (that's not too hard), and pass up detailed resource and cost tracking. While complete project tracking and control involves the tracking of work, resources, and costs, there will be many situations where this level of effort cannot be supported (due to lack of expertise or resources) or cannot be fully justified. That is a management decision-not something that we can make for you. But here's what it involves.
Tracking the actual work consists of noting when a task has started and when it has been completed. Actual dates should be recorded. When a task has started, but not completed (in progress), we need to note the percent complete, and any adjustment to the remaining duration.
If you are going to do Earned Value analysis, you will need these measurements. The percent complete times the budget will give you the earned value (also known as BCWP-Budgeted Cost of Work Performed). You can compare the work accomplished (BCWP) to the planned work (BCWS-Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled) to calculate the Schedule Variance (SV). The SV is an excellent indicator of project progress-much better than the popular (but perhaps overused) Total Float (or Total Slack). Keep a trend curve of the SV. If it starts out below target, look for improvement in future updates. Project managers who ignore increasingly negative Schedule Variance get what they deserve when the projects come in late.
Track Resource and Cost Actuals
This is the hard part. If resources and costs are tracked at a different level of detail from the project CPM plan, then it is almost impossible to match the tracking data to the plan data. If you're going to use time sheets and invoices, you will have to set up charging buckets to match the CPM tasks. Easier said than done-but much easier to do at the initiation of the planning process than in midstream.
There are two benefits to doing this tracking, if you can. The first is that you will be able to measure the actuals against the plan-to evaluate performance and facilitate replanning. The second is that you will be able to collect a project history. This is the only way that you can eventually validate your earlier estimates and improve upon them for future projects.
Compare to Baseline
We already discussed the Schedule Variance measurements. These compare the amount of work accomplished to the amount of work that was scheduled to be done. One application for SV is in motivating subcontractors to intensify their project efforts when confronted with a down-spiraling SV curve. There are many others.
If you're tracking cost actuals, you can also get a cost variance (CV). The actual cost (ACWP-Actual Cost of Work Performed) is compared to the earned value (BCWP) to compute the CV.
Excerpted from Practical Project Management by Harvey A. Levine Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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1. Setting Up the Project Management Operation.
1.1 About Projects and Project Management.
1.2 Organizing for Project Management.
1.3 Does Your Company Need a CPO?
1.4 Implementing a Computer-based Project Management Capability.
2. Getting Started.
2.1 Project Initiation Techniques.
2.2 Do You Weebis? Clarifying WBS, OBS, and RBS.
2.3 Project Life Cycles.
3.1 Critical Path Scheduling.
3.2 Critical Path, Critical Chain, and Uncertainty: Exploring Concepts of Shared Contingency.
3.3 Estimating Task Durations.
3.4 How Important Are Schedules and Time Compression?
3.5 Practical Scheduling.
4. Resource and Workforce Management.
4.1 An Overview of the Different Elements of Resource Management.
4.2 Role-based Needs for Managing Resources in a Project-driven Organization.
4.3 Resource Leveling and Games of Chance.
4.4 Practical Resource Scheduling.
5. Budgeting and Cost Control.
5.1 Concepts and Issues of Project Budgeting and Cost Control.
5.2 Software Support for Cost Management.
6. Risk Management and Contingency.
6.1 Using and Managing Contingency.
6.2 Risk Management for the Sigmaphobic: Managing Schedule, Cost, and Technical Risk and Contingency.
6.3 Some Computer-based Approaches to Schedule Risk Analysis.
7. Maintaining the Plan.
7.1 Change Control and Scope Management.
7.2 Real-time Status versus Period Data.
7.3 Automatic Project Management: A Classic Oxymoron.
8. Performance Measurement.
8.1 Measuring the Value of Work Accomplishment.
9. Project Portfolio Management.
9.1 Defining and Implementing Project Portfolio Management.
9.2 Bridging the Gap between Operations Management and Projects Management: The Important Role of Project Portfolio Management.
9.3 Project Selection and Risk: Risk Management Is an Essential Part of Project Portfolio Management.
10. Project Management, Enterprise Project Management, and Enterprise Resource Planning.
10.1 The Search for Automated, Integrated, Enterprise-wide Project Management: Minnesota Smith and the Temple of Unrealized Dreams.
10.2 Integrating PM and ERP.
11. Project Management and Professional Services Automation.
11.1 Defining the PSA Market.
11.2 Building PSA Solutions.
12. Tools of the Trade.
12.1 A Simplified and Balanced Approach to PM Software Selection.
12.2 New Names for Old Games: Rebadging Sound and Proven PM Concepts.
12.3 The e Revolution: Collaboration Services, B2B, Gateways.
13. Making Project Management Work.
13.1 Implementing Project Management: Commitment and Training Ensure Success.
13.2 Making Project Communication Work: Everything You Need to Know about Project Communication.
13.3 Why Project Management Implementation Programs Fail.
13.4 Teams, Task Forces, and Bureaucrats.
13.5 The Psychological Contract: How to Stimulate Initiative and Innovation in Any Organization.
13.6 Shared Rewards.
Posted October 11, 2002
Anyone who¿s ever tried his or her hand at project management knows that there is no single secret that guarantees success. In reality, effective project management is the result of nuts-and-bolts work in planning, organization and oversight. Smart readers will therefore bypass the scores of books promising the ¿10 Secrets to Project Management Success¿ and turn instead to Harvey A. Levine¿s comprehensive and slightly complex book. Without wasting words, we from getAbstract simply advise everyone in business to rely on Practical Project Management as the best guide to project management available today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.