Project management is the ensemble of activities concerned with succesfully achieving a set of goals. This includes planning, scheduling and maintaining progress of the activities that comprise the project. Reduced to its simplest Project Management is the discipline of maintaining the risk of failure at as low a value as necessary over the lifetime of the project. Risk of failure arises primarily from the presence of uncertainty at all stages of a project.
Project management is often the province and responsibilty of an individual Project Manager. This individual seldom participates directly in the activities that produce the end result, but rather strives to maintain the progress and productive mutual interaction of various parties in such a way that overall risk of failure is reduced.
Generally, there are two approaches that can be taken to project management today. The "traditional" approach identifies a sequence of steps to be completed. This contrasts with the Agile methodology approach in which the project is seen as relatively small tasks rather than a complete process.The objective of this approach is to impose as little overhead as possible in the form of rationale, justification, documentation, reporting, meetings, and permission.
The traditional approach
In the traditional approach, we can distinguish 5 stages in the development of a project:
Not all projects will visit every stage as projects can be terminated before they reach completion. Some projects probably don't have the planning and/or the monitoring. Some projects will go through steps 2, 3 and 4 multiple times.
- project initiation
- project planning
- project production
- project monitoring
- project completion
Project management covers four parts:
To keep control over the project from the beginning of the project all the way to its natural conclusion, a project manager uses a number of techniques: project planning, earned value, risk management, scheduling, process improvement.
History of project management
Project management was not used as an isolated concept before the Sputnik crisis of the Cold War. After this crisis, the United States Department of Defense needed to speed up the military project process and new tools (models) for achieving this goal were invented. In 1958 they invented the Program Evaluation and Review Technique or PERT, as part of the Polaris missile submarine program. At the same time, the DuPont corporation invented a similar model called CPM, critical path method. PERT was later extended with a work breakdown structure or WBS. The process flow and structure of the military undertakings quickly spread into many private enterprises.
There are a number of guiding techniques that have been developed over the years that can be used to formally specify exactly how the project will be managed. These include the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and such ideas as the Personal Software Process (PSP), and the Team Software Process (TSP). These techniques attempt to standardize the practices of the development team making them easier to predict and manage as well as track.
Critical chain is the latest extension to the traditional critical path method.
In critical studies of project management, it has been noted that several of these fundamentally PERT-based models are not well suited for the multi-project company environment of today. Most of them are aimed at very large-scale, one-time, non-routine project, and nowadays all kinds of management is expressed in terms of projects. Using complex models for "projects" (or rather "tasks") spanning a few weeks has been proven to cause unnecessary costs and low maneuverability in several cases. Instead project management experts try to identify different "lightweight" models, such as, for example Extreme Programming for software development and Scrum techniques.
Process based management
Also furthering the concept of Project Control is the incorporation of Process Based Management. This area has been driven by the use of Maturity models such as the CMMi (Capability Maturity Model integrated) and ISO/IEC15504 (SPICE - Software Process Improvment Capability dEtermination). Both of these models have been successfully adopted by organisations all over the world in an effort to have better control over project. With a view to improving accuracy of estimation, reducing costs and preventing defects. CMMi is widely used in the defence industry and their subcontractors in the USA and Australia, and SPICE is growing in use in the private sector in Europe.
The main thrust of Process Management is the concept of knowledge management. It is the experience of companies that use these models that the creation of a set of defined processes detailing what the company actually does has enabled them to achieve consistency across project teams and project. They have also found that, when it is defined, their ability to track and monitor performance with a view to improvement is far more successful.
Project management standards and professional certification
There have been several attempts to develop project management standards, such as:
See also: An exhaustive list of standards (maturity models)
So far, there is no known attempt to develop a project management standard available under the GNU Free Documentation License. There is a proposed Project Management XML Schema.
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