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Every facet of human life is a project. Every little step we take, from the moment we wake up up to the time we settle to sleep, is filled with mini projects. It's then not a stretch to assume that the way we handle actual projects (from work, school, etc.) is reflection of the way we handle the biggest project there is - our existence. That's why it's doubly important to come up with the perfect habit of proper planning and management of projects.


This page covers general information about the discipline of project management.

  1. A project is a temporary endeavor. Projects are unique and non-repetitive. Building a road is an example of a project. The process of building a road takes a finite amount of time, and produces a unique product. Operations on the other hand are repetitive. Delivering mail every day is an example of operation.
  2. The characteristics associated with a project are - unique purpose, temporary in nature, require resources (often from various domains), should have a primary sponsor and/or customer, and involves uncertainty.
  3. Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet project requirements
  4. A program consists of a related group of projects. Projects are finite where as programs are ongoing and continuous. Programs may be repetitive and cyclic. In some cases Project Management is a subset of Program Management. The project manager may report to the program manager in such cases. A project may or may not be a part of a program, but a program will always have projects.

    A portfolio consists of multiple programs. As an example Building a house may be a project. Building a colony consisting of row of houses is a program. Building a set of colonies to develop a new city can be considered a portfolio.

  5. A subproject is a subset of a project. Subprojects can be subcontracted. Technical or Functional Manager may be in charge of a subproject.
  6. Type of organization - This is an important concept to understand for the PMP exam. The type of organizations in decreasing order of Project Manager's authority are -
    • Projectized
    • Strong Matrix
    • Weak Matrix
    • Functional

    Project Manager has maximum authority in a Projectized organization and least authority in a Functional organization. In Functional organizations staff is organized based upon their specialty, such as engineering or sales. In these organizations, functional managers are responsible for specialized departments like marketing. In Functional organization, the role of Project Manager is limited. In Projectized organization, PMs have more authority and independence. All the persons in the project team report to the Project Manager.

    Real situations are a mixture of functional and projectized organizations. These mixed situations are called matrix organizations. Strong matrix organizations have characteristics of projectized organizations. Weak matrix organizations have characteristics of functional organizations.

  7. Leadership style varies from autocratic to democratic. Shared leadership involves team members taking most of the decisions. It encourages team development.
  8. Project Management consists of ten Knowledge Areas. These are
    • Project Integration Management
    • Project Scope Management
    • Project Cost Management
    • Project Time Management
    • Project Risk Management
    • Project Quality Management
    • Project HR Management
    • Project Communication Management
    • Project Procurement Management
    • Project Stakeholder Management
  9. Each Knowledge area has further Processes. There are a total of 47 processes. Each process has inputs, outputs and "tools and techniques" (ITTO). The PMBOK primarily covers each of the processes and it's ITTO in detail. You need to understand the concepts related to each of the input, output and "tools and techniques".

  10. Further the discipline of Project Management has five process groups. These are -
    • Initiation
    • Planning
    • Execution
    • Control
    • Closure

    Each process is part of one of these five project phases. It is important to know the process group for each of the 47 processes.

  11. Project Sponsors are primarily involved in funding the project. Tasks performed by project sponsor include
    • Provides financial support
    • Accepts the project during scope verification
    • May provide key milestone and deliverables due dates
    • Does not sign the Project Charter. This is done by Senior Management.

    Tasks performed by the senior management include

    • Issues the project charter
    • Helps organize the work into projects
    • Helps identify risks
    • Approves the final project plan

    Stakeholders are all the individuals that are concerned with the project. Stakeholders have vested interest in the outcome of the project. They include project team members, customers, management, and other individuals who get impacted by the project. Stakeholders role includes -

    • Distributed information during the project.
    • Notified of project plan changes
    • Are listed in the project team directory.
    • Become risk owners.
  12. At the end of each project phase, reviews against a set of metrics are performed. If the project fails to meet these metrics, the project may not be allowed to continue. These phase end reviews are called Stage gates or Phase exits.
  13. Project Life cycle: All projects have four parts in life cycle. These are -
    1. Starting the project
    2. Organizing and preparing
    3. Carrying out the project work
    4. Closing the project
  14.  

  15. At the beginning of the project there is less cost and less demand for resources. Also there is a higher risk of failure at the beginning of the project. The risk reduces over the life of the project. The stakeholder influence is maximum at the beginning of the project and reduces over the life of the project.
  16. Projects have multiple competing constraints. These are -
    • Scope
    • Quality
    • Schedule
    • Budget
    • Resources
    • Risk
    Different stakeholders may give different priority to these constraints. As an example budget may be the most important constraint for the project sponsor. Scope may be imortant for a customer support engineer, and quality may be important for the testing team. A project team has to balance the demand of these constraints.
  17. Progressive Elaboration means adding more details in an iterative fashion. Project Management Plan is developed using progressive elaboration.
  18. Project Management Office (PMO) is a group in an organization providing centralized project management services. The exact role of PMO may vary across organizations. PMO may provide services related to project management or may be directly responsible for project management.
  19. Enterprise Environmental Factors refer to external factors in the company, that may influence the project. Enterprise Environmental Factors may include cultural factors, political climate, infrastructure and other external factors within the organization that may impact the project. Enterprise Environmental Factors are input to many planning processes.

Questions on Project Management fundamentals are available in Fundamentals Questions.

UP NEXT: Project Integration

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