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Published by mohsin

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Published by: mohsin on Sep 07, 2011
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Project Management Book
"The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90%." 
"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." Douglas Adams
Chapter 1 - Introduction and Principles
Simplicity and humour may not be the first things that spring to mind when you think of project management. However, we will try to keep it simple and even have the occasionalgo at humour.
This short first chapter sets out some principles and introduces themes that will beexpanded upon later.What is a project? Definitions abound but usually boil down to something like this: a projectis a one-off, temporary activity with a clear start and a clear end (though some projectsnever seem to end); it has full or part-time resources clearly assigned to it; it has a
temporary management hierarchy that takes precedence over the company hierarchy; andit sets out to deliver something: an IT system, a new product or whatever.Given the following four characteristics of projects:
finite time
people assigned
clear roles and responsibilities
things to deliverHave you ever had this feeling about a project?
not enough time
too few people
people not sure what they should be doing
too much to doWhat causes this feeling of sometimes overwhelming pressure? In its widest sense, a lack of planning. People drift into projects without properly defining or planning them then onethird of the way through they begin to realise what it's really all about and the panic starts.Sometimes the end date is thrust upon them arbitrarily, but sometimes project managersvoluntarily commit themselves to dates, costs and deliverables without troubling to defineand plan the project properly, which is lunacy.You'll never remove the pressure altogether, in fact that's not even desirable: a bit of pressure is good for the soul and gets the adrenaline flowing. But getting the pressure to asensible, containable level is the aim of many of the techniques we will cover. Such thatwhen you make a commitment you at least have a fighting chance of achieving it.Another popular definition of a project is: the way change is achieved. Left to their owndevices many things gradually improve, but to bring about significant change, say to abusiness process, a project is needed. However, to this definition we would add the wordpredictable: projects are a way of bringing about predictable change. That is, at thebeginning of a project we should be able to predict cost, end date, deliverables and evensomething about the quality.What helps make a project predictable? Clear scope, clear roles, clear plans, clear controlmechanisms, clear reporting structures... in other words good project management. Buthere is a question for you: if you take the total cost of a project expressed, say, in manhours, what percentage should be spent on planning, controlling, reporting, etc. - i.e.project management? Five, ten, fifteen, twenty percent?The answer is: it depends. Imagine a simple project being done by a few experts who'vedone many similar projects before. They may need hardly any control - perhaps only 5% of the total cost will go on managing the project. But by contrast imagine a large, complexproject spread across many locations, staffed largely by novices who only spend part of their time on the project. A huge panoply of control may be needed to keep everything ontrack - perhaps even 35% of the project's total cost might be spent simply managing it.
Suppose we conclude for a specific project it will be appropriate to spend 15% of the projectbudget on project management. But the sponsor says "cut out all that bureaucracy andreduce the project cost by 15%!". How would we respond?Do we have a choice between a project costing 100 with project management and a projectcosting 85 without it? We do not. The choice is between a project costing 100 with projectmanagement and one costing an awful lot more than that without it. (And without thecontrols in place we'd probably never know how much more!)In other words project management is an
: it results in the project costing lessthan it would otherwise cost. If you don't believe that, it could be because your projectsuffers unnecessary bureaucracy masquerading as project management. One of the manyskills of the project manager is knowing almost instinctively how much control to bring tobear, so that small projects are not smothered by unnecessary red tape yet enough controlis applied to large projects to keep them on the straight and narrow. Some projectmanagement methodologies seem to militate against this essential flexibility. But we will airour prejudices on the subject of methodologies later.Suppose you are asked to manage a project which on closer inspection you realise consistsof 5 sub-projects:
business process re-engineering
IT software development
Hardware installation
User training
Implementation and roll outAnd you discover that each of the 5 groups involved hasa different way of running their projects and they each use different project managementterminology. Would you have a problem in running the programme? Probably you would.Ideally, every project in a company (throughout for "company" read "public sectororganisation" or whatever is appropriate for you) would use the same project managementapproach and terminology.This could be achieved by buying a PM methodology and imposing it, as is, on all projects.An alternative might be to have rules and guidelines which are attuned to the needs of yourcompany. And notice: rules and guidelines, not standards. With a big book of standards it'snot always clear what's mandatory and what's optional and people tend to apply all of it justin case.What would be in the rules, what would be in the guidelines? The rules need be no morethan 16 pages of A6 (that's very small, shirt pocket sized) which, as far as any experiencedproject manager is concerned, state the obvious. For example, one of the rules might be:before each project stage begins risks must be formally assessed and significant riskspresented to sponsor. Now if you're thinking: "well of course we do that!" you've probablybeen there, seen it, done it and got the project management T-shirt. But maybe you'rethinking: "that makes sense, but I'm not sure we ever tell the sponsor about the risks...".Either way, read on.Whereas rules are mandatory and enforceable, guidelines are optional and, a bit like arestaurant menu, offer a list of things from which you can choose: forms, procedures,checklists, etc.

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