Information Overview
Project Management
Triangle of Objectives
Benefits of PM
PM Life Cycle
Work Breakdown
Key Terms
Build Plan
Track & Manage
Close Project
PM References
Information Architecture
Strategic Planning

  Information > Project Management 

Project Management

"Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing."
  Peter Drucker

Triangle of Objectives

A Project is a set of activities which achieves a specific objective (quality) through a process of planning and executing tasks (schedule) and the effective use of resources (budget).

A project has distinctive attributes which distinguish it from ongoing work or business process workflow.

  • While ongoing work is cyclic and repetitive, a project has discreet objectives and is funded only for the project life cycle.
  • Projects have a finite life span with a clear beginning and specified scope of work, including the desired end-result deliverables, end date and budget/ resource constraints.
  • Projects can be analyzed into a set of tasks laid out on a timeline. A complex project may have several strands of these timelines with different teams of people coordinating their activity to achieve the required deliverables at the date due.
  • Projects can be visualized as having milestones which define the required major steps of achievement (or deliverables) along the path toward final project completion. Milestones are important markers of progress that indicate if a project is on time or falling behind schedule.
  • Project management seeks to gain control over six main variables: time, cost, quality, scope, risk, and people.

The three basic dimensions of project success are quality (end-results), time (schedule) and cost (budget). These are the issues that project managers are held accountable for:

  • Quality: fitness of end deliverables for purpose or specification level
  • Time: target completion date and schedule of tasks
  • Costs: budget and resource allocation

These three basic parameters are aggregated to define the Scope of Work, the Risk factors in any project, and the way People are engaged.

  • Scope of Work: totality of work to complete a project (quality, time, cost). Change in various project parameters typically occurs, but these changes must be carefully managed and must not be so great that the project is covertly redefined. Agreement on scope between sponsor and project manager establishes a boundary within which resources and budget are allocated. Scope can be precisely defined in terms of the work breakdown structure and task analysis. An unknown or changing scope is a moving boundary that constantly redefines the project and the assumptions guiding allocation of resources. When scope cannot be precisely defined, it cannot be managed, and thereby becomes a significant project risk factor.
  • Risk Factors: potential harm to a project (quality, time, cost) that may arise from a process or a future event. A "risk" is the probability that a threat that will act on a vulnerability to cause an adverse impact. Risk management involves minimizing threats, vulnerabilities and/or impacts.
  • People: human resource (knowledge, skill and motivation) for implementation of tasks; a project team assembles special and general skills as resources to get the work done (quality, time, cost).

Of all of these components, people are the fundamental key to success because they provide the means to achieve project objectives. Staffing is the most adjustable resource in being able to dynamically respond to quality, cost and timing issues & constraints. In this way, staffing also represents the greatest risk factor — no matter what other budget, resource or time risks may also exist.

The dynamic trade-offs between these values has been humorously but accurately described by a sign at an automotive repair shop:

"We can do GOOD, QUICK and CHEAP work.
You can have any two but not all three.
1. GOOD QUICK work won't be CHEAP.
2. GOOD CHEAP work won't be QUICK.
3. QUICK CHEAP work won't be GOOD."

All project objectives (and tasks) must be SMART:

Specific: expressed clearly and singularly
Measurable: ideally in quantitative terms
Acceptable: to stakeholders
Realistic: in terms of achievement
Time-bound: a timeframe is stated

The power of project management is that it provides the most reliable method to achieve a target objective, on time and within budget.

Project Management is all about vision:

  • Seeing the end result so clearly and unambiguously at the beginning so that the logistics of production can be planned and the tasks executed
  • Sharing a plan (using unambiguous visual graphics showing status) constantly among project team and sponsors, so that decisions, approvals, agreements, and forecasts are made in advance of blocks to workflow (i.e., indecision, lack of commitment, lack of approval, lack of resources and budget, misunderstanding what must occur first in the chain of events).

The fundamental management skills that a Project Manager must be able to exhibit are:

  1. Quality Control: Project Plan Development, Plan Execution, Integrated Change Control ; Quality Planning, Quality Assurance, Quality Control
  2. Budgetary Control: Resource Planning, Cost Estimating, Cost Budgeting, Cost Control; Procurement Planning, Solicitation Planning, Solicitation, Source Selection, Contract Administration, Contract Closeout
  3. Scheduling Control: Activity Definition, Activity Sequencing, Activity Duration Estimating, Schedule Development and Schedule Control
  4. Scope of Work Control: Initiation, Scope Planning, Scope Definition, Scope Verification and Scope Change Control
  5. Risk Control: Risk Management Planning, Risk Identification, Qualitative Risk Analysis, Quantitative Risk Analysis, Risk Response Planning, Risk Monitoring and Control
  6. Communication & Leadership: Human Resource Management, Organizational Planning, Staff Acquisition, Team Development; Project Communications Management, Communications Planning, Information Distribution, Performance Reporting, Administrative Closure


Benefits of Project Management

Project Management (PM) provides a workflow system that unites all team members in shared principles and practice a methodology of planning, control, coordination, communication and execution that provides ground rules for proven teamwork "best practices" and discipline.

PM software provides automated tools for task definition and layout, scheduling, resource allocation, tracking, report generation, and team communication. Project reporting technology has evolved from: (1) paper-based systems which were hard and expensive to keep up to date, (2) desktop software which made tracking and report generation more cost-effective, and (3) now to online web-based systems which provide the enormous benefit of dynamic real-time status reporting.

Using the PM methodology benefits the Project Manager, workgroup members, project sponsors, and the Team as a whole.


Project Management Life Cycle

Project Management is accomplished thorough the use of processes such as initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing. These are the fundamental skill sets of a Project Manager. The Project Management process covers all phases within the life cycle of any project. A standard project typically has the following major phases (each with its own agenda of tasks and issues):

  • Initiate -- process for developing a proposal, and authorizing (including assigning the initial budget allocation for) the project
  • Plan -- process to define the objectives, methods, timeframe, resources, constraints, and end-deliverables (renegotiation of assignments, authority, and budget will often occur when the fully developed plan is reviewed & signed by the project sponsor)
  • Execute -- process of coordinating people and resources to carry out the plan
  • Control -- process to ensure project objectives are met by monitoring, measuring, and reporting progress
  • Close -- process for formalizing acceptance of the project, final documentation, and bringing about an orderly conclusion

It is important to note that many of the processes within project management are iterative in nature. This is due to the necessity for progressive elaboration of detail decisions, and re-adjustment of resources and schedule throughout the life cycle. So phases in the Project Life Cycle can and will overlap.

The value of the following map is that it identifies key milestones which distinguish each phase. This way of describing the life cycle emphasizes that planning drives execution, and that controlling is interdependent with planning and executing.

In the real world, the Project Management lifecycle phases will almost always overlap. The following graphic more accurately illustrates how the tasks of the Project Manager change over time — in that the proportion of time and energy allocated to a particular role shifts as the life cycle progresses.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

A Project Requirements document is typically used at the initiation of project to communicate to the Project Manager the project mission and scope, and enable the Project Sponsors (often with a signed Executive Committee approval) to allocate a budget and officially indicate acceptance, agreement, and start date. Failure to establish budget, scope and support at the outset will invariably lead to project crisis at a later date.

The Project Manager must then translate the initial "high-level" project definition into an itemized project plan that addresses the lowest levels of implementation details. The method for accomplishing this is the "Work Breakdown Structure" (WBS). A WBS document lists task deliverables and identifies all activities required to produce the final project deliverable(s). This is a critical process (and documentation) as it forms the basis for other management processes such as resource allocation, time scheduling, cost control, and risk management. Failure to conduct WBS basically means that a project management methodology has not been undertaken.

WBS is utilized to:

  • Break activities into smaller tasks
  • Identify the phases of activities, including milestone tasks which indicate completion of each phase
  • Sequence the tasks
  • Estimate the duration of tasks
  • Schedule the tasks
  • Identify the needed resources for each task
  • Estimate the resource costs

The WBS results in a official Project Plan for review and approval by sponsors. The WBS will ideally use a software instrument, like Microsoft Project, to create an automated Gantt chart. In a Gantt, inter-dependencies of tasks are indicated by cascading arrows (instances where one activity cannot begin until another is completed). Project milestones (time points that indicate a completion of key tasks or phases), and deliverables (defined and tangible outcomes of the project) are also clearly identified.

A Gantt chart is a key component within the Project Plan because it visually presents details that otherwise can be lost in a long narrative. The Gantt graphically portrays the task list, assigned resources (especially the responsible personnel for the task), schedule with begin and end dates, and task dependencies. Software automation flags completed and late tasks so that a powerful visual map of project progress / status can be viewed. Instead of the limited and cumbersome process of paper documentation, the software Gantt chart provides a shared on-line tool for dynamically tracking and communicating among team members, and generating official progress reports to sponsors.


Definition of Key Terms


Successful Project
Task A set of actions which accomplish work. A project objective is achieved through a series of tasks. Task analysis is the breakdown of work to define exactly what tasks are required to achieve project objectives, including what sub-tasks may be required to achieve a specific task. Assignment of a task to a worker is an allocation of project resources, and it establishes accountability that is tracked on the schedule.

The combination of all project goals and tasks, and the work required to accomplish them. Scope Reporting is a process of periodically documenting the status of basic project parameters during the course of a project: Cost Status, Schedule Status, and Technical Performance Status (affecting quality). Scope Risk involves the potential problems a project team may encounter in the creation of the final deliverable which will significantly change the cost, schedule and quality parameters.

Deliverable A tangible and measurable result, outcome, or item that must be produced to complete a project or part of a project. Typically, the project team and project stakeholders agree in written specific detail on project deliverables before the project begins.
Milestone A reference point marking a major event in a project and used to monitor the project's progress. In MS Project, any task with zero duration is automatically displayed as a milestone, however, you can also mark any other task of any duration as a milestone.

Individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be affected by the project.


The total span of active working time that is required to complete a task. This is generally the amount of working time from the start to finish of a task, as defined by the project and resource calendar.


The total scheduled cost for a task, resource, or assignment, or for an entire project. This is sometimes referred to as the current cost. In a tool like Microsoft Project, baseline costs are usually referred to as "budget."


The estimated cost of a project that you establish with your baseline plan.


A target date indicating when you want a task to be completed. If the deadline date passes and the task is not completed, then Microsoft Project displays an indicator.


The timing and sequence of tasks within a project. A schedule consists mainly of tasks, task dependencies, durations, constraints, and time-oriented project information.

Resources The people, equipment, and material that are used to complete tasks in a project.
Slippage The amount of time a task has been delayed from its original baseline plan. The slippage is the difference between the scheduled start or finish date for a task and the baseline start or finish data.
Sponsor The executive who manages, administers, monitors, funds and is responsible for the overall project delivery. The source of the project manager's authority.
Status The comparison of actual progress against the plan to determine variance and corrective action. The condition of a project at a specified point in time.
Successful Project A project is successful when the objectives of the project have been achieved to the full satisfaction of the sponsors and project team; all closeout activities have been completed, and all designated stakeholders, especially the project sponsor or initiator officially accept the project results or products and close the project.


Building a Project Plan

Define a project
Plan project activities
Plan for and procure resources
Plan project costs

Plan for quality and risks
Plan communication & security
Optimize a project plan
Distribute a project plan
  • Define a project

Before you can build a project, you have to decide what exactly the project is, what its scope is, and what you hope to achieve by your project.



Initiate a project

During the project planning phase of projects that will span a significant length of time or involve many people, it's important to define the objectives, assumptions, and constraints of the project.

Start a project

After initial planning, you can create your project file, enter your preliminary project data, and attach your planning documents to the file.

Define project deliverables

After you establish the objectives of your project, you define the actual product or service that meets those objectives.

  • Plan project activities

After you have defined what your project is, and to ensure that your project is successful, you should explore the major activities involved in it. Many projects have failed because a project manager didn't consider, early enough, the full scope of the work involved in creating the project.



Define phases and tasks

After you have determined the work involved in your project, you can organize it into milestones, phases, and tasks and enter it into a project plan.

Show the project's organization

After you have outlined tasks, you can also show the structure of your project by using built-in or customized work breakdown structure (WBS) codes or outline codes.

Estimate task durations

A tool like Microsoft Project can calculate a realistic schedule for you, based on task durations and task dependencies that you enter.

Schedule project tasks

After you have entered task durations, it's time to address how those tasks are related to each other and tied to specific dates.

Create relationships between projects

By creating task dependencies between tasks in different projects, you can evaluate the effects of changes and activities in one project on other projects.

  • Plan for and procure resources

At this point in the project planning process, you have identified the project scope, set up the task list, and estimated task durations.



Estimate resource needs

By now you have identified the project scope, including setting up the task list and estimating the task durations. You can use this information to make preliminary estimates, identify requirements, and start your staffing and procurement processes to acquire the resources that you need.

Build the project team

All your resources have been identified, approved, and procured. Now you can build your team by entering the resource information into the project plan.

Share resources among projects

A software tool like Microsoft Project makes it easier to share resources across multiple projects in which the same people, materials, or equipment will be used.

Assign resources to tasks

Now that resource information has been entered into the project, you can assign resources to the specific tasks you've set up as the work of the project.

  • Plan project costs

Without a solid understanding of where your costs are in a project, the project can quickly fail and become unprofitable. Costs are comprised of all the resources required to carry out a project, including the people and equipment who do the work and the materials consumed as the work is completed.



Estimate costs

Cost estimating is the process of developing the approximate resource and/or task costs needed to complete the project activities.

Define and share cost information

After you enter cost rates, you can save them as your budget before you start tracking and managing the plan. Also, you may want to attach important notes about budget decisions, share the budget information with others, or transfer information to other file formats.

Prepare to manage costs

After establishing costs, you can make the necessary preparations for tracking and managing them to ensure that the project stays within budget. You can specify a start date for the fiscal year, control the calculation options, and determine when the costs should be payable.

  • Plan for quality and risks

Quality is a key concern that directly impacts your customers or users. Without a risk management plan, your project can suffer in unexpected ways.



Plan for quality

Before a project begins, you should identify the quality standards that are necessary to achieve project objectives.

Identify and plan for risks

Planning for, identifying, and reducing risk at various times during a project can help you to keep the project on schedule and within budget.

  • Plan communication and security

Communication and the security surrounding it are critical aspects of creating a team that collaborates well.



Set up methods for communicating project information

Set up a method for communicating with the project team and keeping the project up to date.

Help protect project information

Project and Project Server offer basic security features that help protect your project information from unauthorized access.

  • Optimize a project plan

After your project begins, you may need to review how things are going and fine-tune the tasks, resources, or costs.



Optimize the project plan to meet the finish date

After building your project plan, you can review and fine-tune it to ensure that you meet the scheduled finish date.

Optimize the project plan for resources

After building your project plan, review the allocation of your resources to optimize their workloads.

Optimize the project plan to meet the budget

Review the planned costs in your completed project plan to ensure that they stay within your budget.

  • Distribute a project plan

Keep stakeholders and team members current on project progress by providing them with access to online or printed views and reports.



Distribute project information in printed format

After your project is scheduled, you may want to distribute printed copies of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members.

Distribute project information online

You can also distribute the most current project information online to stakeholders or team members.


Track and manage a project

Track progress
Manage a schedule
Manage resources
Manage costs

Manage scope
Manage risks
Report project status
  • Track progress

Select the items you want to track and choose your tracking method, and then begin monitoring your project's progress.



Set up a project for tracking

Though Project makes tracking easy, there are several steps to take before you can begin tracking project progress.

Record progress and respond to updates

After you've chosen the items you want to track and the tracking method, you can begin tracking those items.

  • Manage a schedule

Manage your project by identifying problems, fine-tuning the schedule, and reporting its progress to stakeholders and team members.



Identify schedule problems

As you track the actual progress of tasks, you can review your schedule to identify problems or potential problems with task schedules.

Put tasks, phases, or the project back on schedule

If you identify problems in your schedule, you can use a variety of strategies to manage your project schedule.

Distribute project information in printed format

If you have changed tasks, resources, or assignments, you can distribute printed copies of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members.

Distribute project information online

If you have changed tasks, resources, or assignments, you can also distribute distribute online versions of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members.

  • Manage resources

Manage your resources by tracking their progress, identify and resolve allocation problems, manage shared resources, and report project progress to stakeholders and team members.



Track resource progress

The most effective way to gauge the progress of resources' work on a project is to balance their workloads and track progress on tasks.

Identify resource allocation problems

By reviewing resource information, such as assignments, over allocations or under allocations, resource costs, and variances between planned and actual work, you can verify that resources are optimally assigned to tasks to get the results you want.

Resolve resource allocation problems

To get the best performance and results from resources, you need to manage their workloads to fix over allocations and under allocations.

Manage shared resources

After you've added enterprise resources, review or change shared resource information to make sure your project is as flexible and cost effective as possible.

Distribute project information in printed format

As resources complete work on the project, you can distribute printed copies of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members.

Distribute project information online

You can also distribute online versions of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members as resources' work progresses.

  • Manage costs

You manage costs by keeping costs within your budget. Costs are all the resources required to carry out a project, including the people and equipment who do the work and the materials consumed as the work is completed.



Monitor costs

By reviewing the basic cost information for your project on a repeated basis, as well as performing a more detailed analysis of cost information, you can help to ensure your project's financial success.

Adjust costs to keep the project on budget

Once you identify a budget problem, you can take corrective action by using the layout tools in Microsoft Project to fix the problem and to re-optimize the schedule for cost.

  • Manage scope

The scope of a project consists of the products or services to be provided and the work required. As you project progresses, you may find that some parts of the product or service need to be adjusted or eliminated.



Respond to changes in scope

After your project begins, you may need to increase scope or cut scope to meet your budget or schedule.

Distribute project information in printed format

If the project scope changes and you have changed tasks, resources, or assignments, you may want to distribute printed copies of the most current project information.

Distribute project information online

You can also distribute online versions of the most current project information.

  • Manage risks

Identify potential trouble spots by anticipating risks and responding to risk events, and report project progress to stakeholders and team members.



Identify new risks

After a project begins, events that are difficult to anticipate might create new risks for you to manage.

Respond to risk events

If you identify new risks during the project, you'll need to respond to them.

Distribute project information in printed format

If you have changed tasks, resources, or assignments in response to risks, you may want to distribute printed copies of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members.

Distribute project information online

Instead of distributing printed copies, you can make the most current project information available online to stakeholders or team members.

  • Report project status

Keep stakeholders and team members current on project progress by making information available with online or printed views and reports.



Report project status in printed format

You can distribute printed copies of information about the project's status to stakeholders or team members.

Report project status online

You can also make information available online to stakeholders or team members, regularly or on an as-needed basis.


Close a Project

  • Review final project information

The end of a project is a good time for stakeholders and team members to come together to analyze what went right or wrong, and produce final online or printed views and reports.



Review final project information

The end of a project is an opportunity to gather and record project information and share it with your stakeholders and team members.

Distribute project information online

If you have changed tasks, resources, or assignments in response to risks, you may want to make the most current project information available online to stakeholders or team members.

Distribute project information in printed format

Instead of making project data available online, you may want to distribute printed copies of the most current project information to stakeholders or team members.


Project Management References Online Portal Site and Project Manager Certification Online Portal Site and Project Manager Certification

Association for Project Management (UK) : Online Portal Site and Project Manager Certification

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Catapult, Inc. (1993). Microsoft Project for Windows: Step by Step. Microsoft Press.

Friedlein, Ashley (2001). Web Project Management: Delivering successful Commercial Web Sites. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

Greer, Michael (1992) ID Project Management: Tools & Techniques for Instructional Designers and Developers. Educational Technology Publications.

International Project Management Association: Online Portal Site and Project Manager Certification

Lowery, Gwen (1994). Managing Projects with Microsoft Project. Van Nostrand Reinhold.

McCarthy, Jim and Michele McCarthy (2001). Software for Your Head: Core Protocols for Creating and Maintaining Shared Vision . Addison-Wesley Publishing.

McCarthy, Jim (1995). Dynamics of Software Development. Microsoft Press.

Murch, Richard (2001). Project Management: Best Practices for IT Professionals. Prentice-Hall

O'Connell, Fergus (1994). How to Run Successful Project. Redwood Press.

Project Management Institute: Online Portal Site & Project Manager Certification Program

PM Forum: Online Portal Site & Project Manager Certification Program

Purba, Sanjiv; David Sawh and Bharat Shah (1995). How to Manage a Successful Software Project: Methodologies, Techniques, Tools. Wiley Press.

Pyron, Tim (1993). Using Microsoft Project for Windows. Que.

Thomsett, Michael C. (1990). The Little Black Book of Project Management. AMACOM American Management Association.

Thomsett, Rob (1993). Third Wave Project Management: A Handbook for Managing the Complex Information systems for the 1990s. Yourdon Press.

Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms v3.1: Online portal site with glossary.

Williams, Paul (1996). Getting a Project Done On Time: Managing People, Time and Results. AMACOM American Management Association.


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