Diving into project management
Entry updated Feb. 17, 2008 at 11:46 a.m.
When I tell folks that I'm a project manager, I'm usually met with blank stares. Clearing the confusion requires an explanation of what I do as part of my job with The E. W. Scripps Company here in Knoxville, TN.
In an effort to better understand the field of project management outside my group, I'm taking the classes needed to obtain my PMI certification. This will also better equip myself with the tools necessary to ensuring projects meet the expectations of the shareholders, and get completed on time and within budget. All good things in my view.
The class, Project Management Certificate, is taught by Tony Mayfield at the University of Tennessee. He also teaches the follow-up class called Project Management Exam - Intensive Review, which will help launch me into the test prepared.
My first class was this Thursday. I'm hoping that by blogging about the PM concepts, they'll become more familiar to me and others seeking this information.
The basic definition of project management is, according to the Project Management Institute:
A project is a sequence of tasks with a beginning and an end that is bounded by time and resources and that produces a unique product or service.
It's also helpful to remember that all projects are work, but not all work is a project. In fact, it's a goal for a project to eventually become ordinary work after completion. Otherwise it continues ad nauseam, which means by definition it isn't a project.
Projects must also take on the following characteristics:
- An identified scope and goal
- A desired completion time
- Availability of resources
- A defined performance measure
- A measurement scale for review of work
Managing the project in this manner helps control its inevitable growth despite a decrease in scope. It's also wise to begin any project with the end in mind.
Now that we know what project management is, we can define the role of a project manager. Again, according to PMI:
The person who takes overall responsibility for coordinating a project--regardless of size--to make sure the desired end result is realized on-time and within budget.
The project manager is the leader, ultimate decision maker, liaison, motivator and coordinator. For instance, at Scripps I act as the communications liaison between the newspaper sites and our developers as well as other groups at corporate.
As work begins on a given project, it can be divided into a hierarchy with the system at the highest level, and activity as the basic element. In between we have: program, project and tasks (the smallest functional element of a project). These can be defined as:
- Program: A group of projects managed in a coordinated way so that the benefits are greater than if these projects were managed individually.
- Project: A time-phased effort of much smaller scope and duration than a program.
- Task: Functional element of a project. Projects are composed of a sequence of tasks that all contribute to the overall project goal.
- Activity: A single element of a project. Generally, activities are smaller in scope than tasks.
More often than not, what defines a task and an activity depend on the project at hand. Writing documentation for a Web application could be a project, but it wouldn't be useful to divide up the activities of this work (writing as opposed to producing a section of the document).
The process of project work also invokes something called the Triple C Model. This notion refers to the collaborative nature of projects using communication, cooperation and coordination (three Cs). Together, this model helps determine the following:
- Scope of Project
- Required Resources
- Performance Specifications
- Customer Specifications
- Importance of Cooperation
- Expected Role of Personnel
- Rewards of Cooperation
- Time frame Involved
- Organizational Impact
- Who is to do what
- External/Internal Interfaces
Each member of the project team has a different responsibility. Therefore it's best to define things like who is to do what; who is responsible for what results; whose approval is needed for what, etc.
Oh, and a closing word about meetings: They should never last more than an hour. It's also best to have a note-taker, time-keeper and facilitator. This might be hard for me at Scripps since most of the meetings can often consist of less than five people, but I think these are good rules to follow.