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Business Generation strengthens corporate performance through best-practice project management.Strengthening corporate performance through strategic planning
Project Management
What is a project?
A project is a temporary organisation.

In an organisational context, projects are the means by which we introduce change.

Project management is the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project, and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risk.

The two leading project management approaches world-wide are probably PRINCE2 (which was developed by the UK Office of Government Commerce) and PMBOK (the Project Management Body of Knowledge, developed by the Project Management Institute in the USA).  We utilise both of these resources in the provision of our own project management services. The differences between a method (such as PRINCE2) and a body of knowledge (such as PMBOK) make them highly complementary.  PRINCE2 provides a framework of what needs to be done, by whom and by when.  The BOK provides a range of techniques of how these things can be done.

The explanatory comments immediately below are taken from Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 (2009) and from the Wikipedia entry for A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

The importance of projects

A key challenge for organizations in today’s world is to succeed in balancing two parallel, competing imperatives:

  • To maintain current business operations – profitability, service quality, customer relationships, brand loyalty, productivity, market confidence etc. What we term ’business as usual’
  • To transform business operations in order to survive and compete in the future – looking forward and deciding how business change can be introduced to best effect for the organization.

As the pace of change (technology, business, social, regulatory etc.) accelerates, and the penalties of failing to adapt to change become more evident, the focus of management attention is inevitably moving to achieve a balance between business as usual and business change.Projects are the means by which we introduce change – and, while many of the skills required are the same, there are some crucial differences between managing business as usual and managing project work.

What makes projects different?

A project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case.There are a number of characteristics of project work that distinguish it from business as usual:

  • Change:  Projects are the means by which we introduce change
  • Temporary:  As the definition above states, projects are temporary in nature.  Once the desired change has been implemented, business as usual resumes (in its new form) and the need for the project is removed.  Projects should have a defined start and a defined end.
  • Cross-functional:  Projects involve a team of people with different skills working together (on a temporary basis) to introduce a change that will impact others outside the team.  Projects often cross the normal functional divisions within an organization and sometimes span entirely different organizations.  This frequently causes stresses and strains both within organizations and between, for example, customers and suppliers.  Each has a different perspective and motivation for getting involved in the change.
  • Unique:  Every project is unique.  An organization may undertake many similar projects, and establish a familiar, proven pattern of project activity, but each one will be unique in some way: a different team, a different customer, a different location. All these factors combine to make every project unique.
  • Uncertainty:  Clearly, the characteristics already listed will introduce threats and opportunities over and above those we typically encounter in the course of business as usual.  Projects are more risky.

Why have a project management method?

Project management is the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project, and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks.It is the development of the project’s deliverables (known as products in PRINCE2) that deliver the project’s results.  A new house is completed by creating drawings, foundations, floors, walls, windows, a roof, plumbing, wiring and connected services. None of this is project management – so why do we need project management at all?  The purpose of project management is to keep control over the specialist work required to create the project’s products or, to continue with the house analogy, to make sure the roofing contractor doesn’t arrive before the walls are built.Additionally, given that projects are the means by which we introduce business change, and that project work entails a higher degree of risk than other business activity, it follows that implementing a secure, consistent, well-proven approach to project management is a valuable business investment.

What brought Business Generation and project management together?We plan for our clients to succeed.  When we start a strategic planning assignment, we know what’s coming.  We know that mission-critical issues will be identified, and that effective strategies will then be developed to address them.  We know that those strategies will take the shape of transformational projects.  We know that effective strategy deployment depends, more than anything else, on effective project management.   (It follows that the risk management plan of any organisation should include a rigorous assessment of its own capability in project management.)Our Project Management ServicesOur contributions in the project management area include the following:

  • explaining to our clients the complementary nature of business as usual and transformational change, and the complementary but fundamentally different nature of the relevant management processes;
  • assisting organisations to establish or enhance formal project management systems and processes, including suggesting training options and mentoring relevant executives;
  • contributing process expertise and pro formas that assist in the initial description, subsequent elaboration and ongoing assessment of candidate projects (whether emerging through the strategic planning process or elsewhere);
  • preparation of business cases, whether this be the outline business case that is part of an initial project brief, or the detailed business case that is required for investment approval, or the revalidated business case that should precede every successive stage of a major project;

Introducing PRINCE2
PRINCE2 is a non-proprietary method and has emerged worldwide as one of the most widely accepted methods for managing projects.  This is largely due to the fact that PRINCE2 is truly generic:  it can be applied to any project regardless of project scale, type, organization, geography or culture.

PRINCE2 achieves this by isolating the management aspects of project work from the specialist contributions, such as design, construction etc.  The specialist aspects of any type of project are easily integrated with the PRINCE2 method and, used alongside PRINCE2, provide a secure overall framework for the project work.

Because PRINCE2 is generic and based on proven principles, organizations adopting the method as a standard can substantially improve their organizational capability and maturity across multiple areas of business activity – business change, construction, IT, mergers and acquisitions, research, product development and so on.

What does a Project Manager do?
In order to achieve control over anything, there must be a plan.  It is the Project Manager who plans the sequence of activities to build the house, works out how many bricklayers will be required and so on.

It may be possible to build the house yourself – but being a manager implies that you will delegate some or all of the work to others.  The ability to delegate is important in any form of management but particularly so (because of the cross-functionality and risks) in project management.

With the delegated work under way, the aim is that it should ’go according to plan’, but we cannot rely on this always being the case.  It is the Project Manager’s responsibility to monitor how well the work in progress matches the plan.

Of course, if work does not go according to plan, the Project Manager has to do something about it, i.e. exert control.  Even if the work is going well, the Project Manager may spot an opportunity to speed it up or reduce costs.  Whether it is by
taking corrective action or implementing measures to improve performance, the aim of PRINCE2 is to make the right information available at the right time for the right people to make the right decisions.

What is it that we wish to control?
There are six variables involved in any project, and therefore six aspects of project performance to be managed.

  • Costs:  The project has to be affordable and, though we may start out with a particular budget in mind, there will be many factors which can lead to overspending and, perhaps, some opportunities to cut costs.
  • Timescales:  Allied to this, and probably the next most-frequent question asked of a Project Manager, is: ’When will it be finished?’
  • Quality:  Finishing on time and within budget is not much consolation if the result of the project doesn’t work.  In PRINCE2 terms, the project’s products must be fit for purpose.
  • Scope:  Exactly what will the project deliver?  Without knowing it, the various parties involved in a project can very often be talking at cross-purposes about this.  There must be agreement on the project’s scope and the Project Manager needs to have a detailed understanding of what is and what is not within the scope.  The Project Manager should take care not to deliver beyond the scope as this is a common source of delays, overspends and uncontrolled change (’scope creep’).
  • Risk:  All projects entail risks but exactly how much risk are we prepared to accept?  If we decide to go ahead, is there something we can do about the risk?  Maybe insure against it or have thorough surveys carried out?
  • Benefits:  Perhaps most often overlooked is the question, ’Why are we doing this?’  The Project Manager has to have a clear understanding of the purpose of the project as an investment and make sure that what the project delivers is consistent with achieving the desired return.

PRINCE2 is an integrated framework of processes and themes that addresses the planning, delegation, monitoring and control of all these six aspects of project performance.

Introducing PMBOK
The PMBOK Guide is process-based, meaning it describes work as being accomplished by processes.  This approach is consistent with other management standards such as ISO 9000 and the Software Engineering Institute CMMI. Processes overlap and interact throughout a project or its various phases.  Processes are described in terms of:

  • Inputs (documents, plans, designs, etc.)
  • Tools and Techniques (mechanisms applied to inputs)
  • Outputs (documents, products, etc.)

The Guide recognizes 42 processes that fall into five basic process groups and nine knowledge areas that are typical of almost all projects.

The five process groups are:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing

The nine knowledge areas are:

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management

Each of the nine knowledge areas contains the processes that need to be accomplished within its discipline in order to achieve an effective project management program.  Each of these processes also falls into one of the five basic process groups, creating a matrix structure such that every process can be related to one knowledge area and one process group.

The PMBOK Guide is meant to offer a general guide to manage most projects most of the time.

What about Leadership capability?
Leadership, motivational skills and other interpersonal skills are immensely important in project management but impossible to codify in a method.  Leadership styles vary considerably and a style that works in one situation may be entirely inappropriate in another.  The fact that it is easy to think of successful leaders who have adopted very different styles – from autocratic to consensus-based – bears this out.  For this reason, PRINCE2 and PMBOK cannot address this aspect of project management directly.  There are many leadership models and interpersonal skills training programmes that fulfil this requirement.
  • a virtual Project Management Office (PMO), for organisations that prefer to outsource that function;
  • participation on a project board, whether as the Project Executive or
    on the buyer or supplier side; and
  • project management itself, for specific projects.

We plan for our clients to succeed.    We believe in strategic planning, because it dictates transformational change and thereby underwrites the future performance of an organisation.  We believe in project management because it ensures that the desired change are actually implemented.

In strategic planning, deployment is the main site of failure.  Now you know why.

We plan for our clients to succeed.