Project Management/FAQs

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What is a project?[edit]

The main characteristics of a project are:

  • It is a temporary endeavor
  • It has fixed start and end dates
  • It is unique – no two projects are exactly the same, and it is not a routine operation
  • It is performed by a team of people - teams are temporary in nature. Will be dispersed at the end of the project.
  • It has a defined budget.
  • It has a sponsor - someone who wants the project done and will guide and fight for it.
  • It has a defined objective/endpoint such that you can measure when it is complete.

What is project management?[edit]

Application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements in addition.

What is a program?[edit]

Collection of Activities executed together in such a way that the cumulative benefit is higher than when they are executed one at a time.

What is program management?[edit]

Overall management of a program and is not the individual management of the constituent projects in the program. The focus is on the program objectives achievement, rather than individual project progress.

What is an operation?[edit]

An operation is also performed by people. The major difference between an operation and a project is that , operations are repetitive in nature, where as projects are temporary in nature.

What are the similarities between a project and an operation?[edit]

  • Both are performed by people
  • Both have deliverables
  • Both have limited resources
  • Both are Planned, Executed and Controlled

What are the differences between a project and an operation?[edit]

  • Project is temporary in nature , whereas an operation is ongoing
  • Projects have temporary teams , whereas operations have permanent teams (relatively)
  • Each project is unique in nature, whereas operation steps are identical

Who is a stakeholder?[edit]

Any person , community impacted by the project execution or project outcome or by non-execution of the project.

What is a PMO?[edit]

PMO, Project Management Office, is an organization within an organization supporting the project management practice within the organization. PMO will aid in:

  • Making available critical project management related knowledge to the projects within the organization
  • Providing tools and templates for project management
  • Supporting the tools and templates usage
  • Making available critical resources to the projects on time

The PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICE (PMO) concept[edit]

An organization conducting several projects on an ongoing basis should consider the creation of a central functional unit to supply project management resources and tools; to develop a methodology and procedures; and to look after systems. All these resources can be regrouped in a special unit to be called one of several names depending upon its intent and staffing. Such a unit is commonly called a Project Management Office (PMO), Project Support Office or Project Information Office. The specific roles and responsibilities assigned to the unit can influence the selection of its name

Depending upon its importance, there are several roles and responsibilities that can be assigned to a project office. They can be broken into the following major categories:

  • Management of Project Environment
  • Project Information
  • Project Support

The organization that wishes to focus primarily on the project management process will usually assign a senior manager to lead the process. This manager, who could be a vice president or director of project management, would assume the following responsibilities:

  • Ensure the Transition

Once an organization has decided to carry out a corporate or departmental project management approach, the complete venture should be organized as a major project. The Project Management Office (PMO) would play a key role in leading this project.

  • Provide Senior Project Managers

The PMO could be the functional organization responsible for supplying senior project managers to major corporate initiatives involving many operational functional groups and requiring unbiased management. It should not be, however, the PMO's responsibility to provide all project managers.

  • Coaching Project Teams

The PMO could provide coaching services to project teams across the organization in both project planning and execution. These services could be offered to divisions that are starting to run their own projects with managers and teams who are still lacking the required project planning and management abilities. The coaching could include: (1) planning facilitation to help the project team develop a good project plan in line with the organization's project management methodology and procedures; (2) setting up the monitoring and control processes; and (3) facilitating team building and conflict resolution.

  • Risk Assessment

The PMO can provide two major functions for risk assessment for the organization: to have risk assessment tools available with coaching support for project managers to be used upon request; and upon direction of the Project Review Committee or other competent authority, conduct risk assessment against specified projects for corporate management.

  • Project Post Evaluation

The PMO could provide post evaluation of selected projects if desired by the organization.

  • Career Development

In cooperation with the Human Resources Branch, the PMO could take the lead in defining the career paths and training requirements for the project management field within the organization. This task should include:

    • The development of job categories and descriptions,
    • The selection of personnel to enter the project management field,
    • The development of a training curriculum for project management and
    • The development and delivery of training materials.

What is project portfolio management?[edit]

Project portfolio management is all about choosing the right projects to execute--those which align with the organizational strategy and will give the organization the maximum return on investment. The projects to execute are determined by techniques such as:

  • NPV – net present value of investments
  • ROI – Return on investments
  • Payback period
  • Opportunity cost, etc.

What are the different types organizational structures? How do they impact PM role?[edit]

  • Functional organization
  • Projectized organization
  • Matrix organization

Functional organization is the most common form of organization. The organization is grouped by area of specialization within different functional areas (sales, manufacturing, purchase, quality control etc). In a functional organization, maximum power rests with the functional manager and the project manager’s role in decision making is minimal. Project managers play a coordinator / facilitator role. Control over the team by project manager is minimal. (Glorified secretary)

Advantages of a functional organization; In a projectized organization, the team gets dismantled, once the project is over, hence the ownership of the career path of the project team members are not fully owned by any. This can be the situation in matrix organizations too, since there are two bosses. Whereas in a typical functional organization, the career progression of the team member is fully owned by the functional manager.

Team members report to only one boss, hence avoidance of conflict of interest. Easier management of specialists. Fully under the control of the functional manager. Similar resources are centralized, hence better synergy within groups

Disadvantages of functional organization;

  • Preference for functional specialization, at the cost of the project
  • No career path in project management
  • Project manager has no authority

Projectized organization

In projectized organization, all the work is considered as a project (construction companies, software project organizations). The project manager has total control over the projects. Personnel are assigned to and report to a project manager.

In the projectized organization approach, all project staff reports to the project manager or to someone within the project team structure. The staff is either seconded or hired/contracted specifically for the project and will remain on the team as long as required. In a pure projectized organization, the project receives all necessary staff, including administrative support. On a larger project, the projectized organization has the appearance of a small company, in that it is a self-contained unit with all the resources necessary to do the job. It is the ideal situation for a project manager.

Advantages of a projectized organization"

  • Team members will be more committed to the project
  • Availability of career paths within the project management stream
  • More effective project related communication

Disadvantages of projectized organization;

  • When the project gets over, the team gets dismantled, hence lack of security leading short term commitments
  • Duplication of facilities and job functions eg:- administrative officer for each project, HR coordinator for each project, seating arrangements for each projects, team outings for each projects etc.
  • Less efficient use of resources. Project teams tend to hang on to resources both material and human, even after the need for them. (Some project manager’s take pride in their team size or develop fear when the team size shrinks).

Matrix organization

Matrix organization is a hybrid of both functional and projectized organization, trying to leverage the strength of both. The team members report to two bosses, the project manager and the functional manager.

In a strong matrix, the power rests with the project manager. In a weak matrix, the power rests with the functional manager. In a balanced matrix, the power is shared between the project manager and the functional manager.

The structure of a matrix project organization, when used properly, can be quite effective. When misused, however, it can be quite disastrous. The matrix is a highly complex structure from an organizational point of view and management must constantly work at good communications to make it work properly.

Advantages of matrix organization;

  • More support from functional organizations
  • Maximum utilization of scarce resources, since they are easily accessible to the projects.

Better horizontal and vertical communication (better than functional)

  • Team members have a place to go, at the completion of the project

Disadvantages of matrix organization

  • More than one boss for project teams, leaving the team members between devil and deep sea, due to conflicts between the project manager and the functional manager
  • More complex to monitor and control, if it spans different locations


Roles and responsibilities of a project manager?[edit]

Roles and responsibilities vary from organization to organization. Project manager is ultimately responsible for the success of the project (cost, schedule and quality). The other responsibilities include:

  • Development of a project plan
  • Executing the project as per the project plan
  • Maintaining the project plan
  • Project tracking
  • Scope management
  • Risk management
  • Project integration management
  • People management
  • Communications management
  • Procurement management
  • Quality management
  • Causal analysis and corrective actions
  • Stakeholder management

Roles and responsibilities of a project sponsor[edit]

Project sponsor’s primary role is to make the needed resources available to the project. This includes;

  • Approval for starting the project
  • Approval to the cost budgets of the project
  • Approval to the product road maps , if it is a product development project
  • Decision to short close the projects, if the project deliverables are not viable or do not add value in changed scenarios.
  • Decisions to progress into the subsequent phases
  • Decisions not to progress into the subsequent phases

What is a project management lifecycle?[edit]

Project management life cycle is different from project life cycles and product management lifecycles. Project management lifecycle comprises of initiation, planning, execution, control phases. (Hint : It is easy to remember it as IPECC) The following table depicts the project activities grouped under initiation, planning, execution and control (project management lifecycle)

Initiating Planning Executing Control Closing Select project, which will give maximum benefit Create scope statement Execute the project plan Integrated change control Procurement audits Product verification Financial closure Lessons learned Update records End of project performance reporting Formal acceptance

Project archives[edit]

Determine project team Refer to historical information, already available within the organization Create WBS Manage project progress Project performance measuring Finalize the team Determine project goals Create WBS dictionary Complete work packages Performance reporting Create network diagram Determine high level deliverables and estimates Determine time and cost Distribute information Scope change control Determine critical path Quality assurance Determine high level constraints and assumptions Create risk management plan Develop schedule Team development Quality control Develop budget Hold progress meetings Risk monitoring and control Determine business need Determine communication requirements Identify changes Schedule control Overall

Influencing the organization[edit]

Leading Solving problems Negotiating Communicating Holding meetings

Stakeholder management[edit]

Develop product description. Determine quality standards. Use work authorization system. Cost control. Define responsibilities of the project manager. Risk identification, qualification, quantification and response planning. Manage by objectives to the project plan. Scope verification. Iterations – go back. Ensure compliance with plans. Determine high level resource requirements. Create other management plans : scope, schedule, cost, quality, staffing, communications, procurement, dependency management etc.

Project plan updates[edit]

Corrective action Finalize the project charter Create project control system

Final project plan development[edit]

Gain formal project plan approval Hold kick off meeting

What is a product management lifecycle?[edit]

A product management life cycle scope is much wider than project scope. A typical product management lifecycle have the following phases: Idea generation. Idea validation. Feasibility. Commit. Development. Beta. Packaging. Release.

What is the difference between product management and project management?[edit]

Product management consists of product idea conception to final product launch and after sales support, where as project management primarily focuses on the development phase. What is a project life cycle? Logical phases , within a project. Example : Requirements , design , coding , testing and maintenance phases in a software project.

What is PDCA?[edit]

PDCA – By Edward Deming. Talks about Plan – Do – Check –Act cycle, which is applicable for any work/project. Primarily the work to be done is planned first, then it is performed , the out come is checked , if any variations from plan , then corrective actions are taken. It is also known as PDSA – Plan , Do, Study and Act. Steps for continuous improvement.

What is MBO?[edit]

MBO, stands for management by objectives. Again MBO can be visualized from the PDCA angle. In MBO, the objectives for performance are set first, then the team performs to meet the objectives, the progress is checked and corrective actions are taken if necessary. What is management by projects? Some organizations perform all their work as projects. Eg : Construction companies , application software development companies. When an organization performs all their work as projects , it is called management by projects. Is there any relationship between organizational structure and project manager’s role / authority? Yes. Depicted in the following table


Functional organization[edit]

1-Weak matrix, 2-Balanced Matrix, 3-Strong Matrix, 4-Projectized. Project manager’s authority: 1-Little or none, 2-Limited, 3-Low to moderate, 4-Moderate to high, 5-High to almost total. Project manager’s role: 1-Part time, 2-Part time, 3-Full time, 4-Full time, 5-Full time.

Common titles for project managers[edit]

Project coordinator / leader Project coordinator /leader Project manager /officer Project manager/ Program manager Project manager/ Program manager

What is the difference between leading and managing?[edit]

Managing is primarily concerned with ‘consistently producing key results expected by key stakeholders where as leading involves:

  1. Establishing direction
  2. Aligning people
  3. Motivating and inspiring

What is communication? And typically how much time a project manager spends in communication?[edit]

  • Involves exchange of information
  • Sender is responsible for making information clear, unambiguous and complete
  • The receiver is responsible for making sure that the information is received in its entirety and understood correctly
  • Can be internal or external to the project
  • Can be horizontal or vertical
  • Can be written or oral
  • Involves media
  • Consumes around 90% of project manager’s time

What is the difference between a project plan and a project schedule?[edit]

Project schedule is part of the project plan. Apart from the project schedule, a typical project plan have scope, risk management plan, schedule management plan, communications plan, procurement plan, team structure, tracking mechanisms , assumptions, dependencies, major milestones etc...

What is project size estimate?[edit]

In every engineering discipline, the size of the work to be performed is estimated first, prior to developing a cost budget.

Examples of size budgets: Building – 2000 sq ft, Ship – tonnes, Software – Lines of code or function points.

What is a project effort estimate?[edit]

Once the size estimates are arrived at, they are converted into effort estimates, by applying the productivity factor. E.g.: If a wall of 2000 sq ft size is to built and if the productivity of the mason/day is 200 sq ft , then the effort required to construct the wall is 2000/200 = 10 person days.