After 15 years of managing IT projects for Fortune 100 financial firms in the New York City area, Jeff Furman, PMP, teaches several levels of project management courses, from basic project management to PMP® Prep to Ethics in Project Management to Project Management Principles for Construction Professionals, at New York University in Manhattan. He also trains U.S. Army project managers on post at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Gordon, Georgia; and Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He has taught PMP® and Train-the-Trainer courses for Internet Institute USA, Unitek Education, and NetCom Learning, where he twice won NetCom’s Instructor of the Year award.
He has managed many IT projects, from new-product evaluations to enterprisewide software installations and infrastructure upgrades. He led the implementation and support of a mission-critical change management system used by more than 1,000 developers at a large Wall Street brokerage firm.
Jeff has published articles and contributed as a guest blogger on several hot project management topics: risk management, PMP® Test Tips, ethics, and social media. He has been interviewed about The Project Management Answer Book by leading project management bloggers including Elizabeth Harrin, Soma Bhattacharya, Christina Boryk, Kimberley Chan, Henry Will III, and others. He has recorded six popular podcasts with Cornelius Fichtner for The Project Management Podcast and The PDU Podcast as well as a series of video interviews about teaching PMP® certification with Russell Sarder for Sarder TV.
Jeff lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with his wife, Martha Garvey. Their new puppy is a rescue tiger-pit named Mavis who loves swimming with Jeff and Martha in lakes, bays, and a pool for dogs in Manhattan.
The job of a project manager is to plan and manage projects. Later chapters will cover the many advanced aspects of project management.
Before we dive into the many facets of planning and managing projects, there are several key concepts, definitions, and resources that project managers (PMs) need to know about. Here are a few quick Q&As to give you the basics.
PROJECTS, PMS, PROJECT MANAGEMENT, AND PROGRAMS
Q1. What is the formal definition of project?
A1. A project is a temporary and unique work effort with a beginning date and an end date that creates a product, service, or result. Here’s a little more detail on the key pieces of this definition:
• Temporary, with a beginning date and an end date. A project is planned to start on a certain date and complete on a deadline, unlike maintenance or operations work, which is ongoing or perpetual.
• Unique work effort. A team is assembled and commits to work on a specific goal, often under a contract.
• Creates a product, service, or result. The purpose of the project is to create something that didn’t exist before, often called the deliverable, which is turned over at completion to the customer (internal or external to the organization) who initiated the project.
A2. Project management, performed by a project manager, is planning, organizing, and supervising a project (i.e., a work effort that fulfills the definition in Q&A 1). Every project is unique, and there is room for creativity in how each PM manages. But there also are many established methods, tools, and techniques that PMs use the world over.
PMs often are either consultants or full-time employees of the company executing the project for the client (i.e., the providing organization or service provider). Often, there is a PM on the client side as well, and the client’s PM is a counterpart to the PM running the project on behalf of the providing organization.
It is assumed that a PM is, to some extent, following the formal discipline of leading a project and working from a standard set of documents, especially the project plan and schedule, and using tools common to the field, such as scheduling tools and communication software.
Q3. What are a few good examples of projects?
A3. Here are six examples of projects in the business world.
• Creating a new software application or system
• Assembling a help desk from scratch to support such an application.
In a Pharmaceutical Company
• Creating a new drug
• Putting together a marketing plan and rolling out the new drug on the world marketplace.
• Building a house
• Building a new stretch of road.
A4. Constructing a single house is a basic example of a project. By contrast, designing an entire housing complex and building all the houses, plus all of the peripherals that might be part of the complex (e.g., a parking garage or health club) would be an example of a program, which is defined as a group of related projects.
PROJECT INITIATION DOCUMENTS
Q5. What is the document that starts off a project?
A5. The charter is the first document created on a project. It is typically created by the PM at the request and direction of the sponsor, who is the “money person” financing the project (see Q&A 17 for more about the formal role of the sponsor).
Q6. What does the project charter do?
A6. The charter provides a clear statement of what the project is supposed to accomplish, including a high-level (i.e., nondetailed) description of its goals and intended deliverables. This lays the groundwork for effective requirements gathering and, later, for properly defining the scope of the project, from which the schedule will ultimately be created.
Usually the name of the PM assigned to the project appears in the charter along with the sponsor’s name and sometimes his or her signature. The sponsor’s signature is valuable, because it authorizes the project and officially permits people in the performing organization to work on the project. It also empowers the PM, helping him or her obtain the resources needed to succeed in leading the project’s activities.
ELEMENTS IN THE PROJECT CHARTER
1. High-level description of the project
2. Goals and deliverables of the project
3. Business case for the project (Why are we doing it? How will this project help the customer or organization?)
4. Name of the PM (making it official who’ll be running the project, authorizing the PM to get needed resources)
5. Name and signature of the sponsor
6. Names of key stakeholders
7. Key milestones (identified early on)
8. Budget estimates or caps (identified early on)
9. Other constraints (e.g., a new car design must average 50 mpg)
10. Metrics for success (How will this project be judged as successful? How will customer satisfaction be measured?)
11. Risks that could jeopardize the project’s success (e.g., if the project is not completed before a competing product hits the market)
12. Assumptions (e.g., ten technicians will be provided for the project)
13. Dependencies (on other projects or activities, on pending legislation, on market conditions, or other external factors)
14. Key products, licenses, and permits the project will require
15. Make or buy (Which deliverables will the team be building versus procuring?)
16. Contracts (For the procurements on this project, have the legal documents been created? If so, what is their status?)
17. Templates (Which blank documents or documents from prior projects will we be using to model the documents we’ll be creating for the current project?)
18. Gap analysis or required training (Are there knowledge areas team members will need training on to perform their duties or other gaps that need addressing?)
19. What is not part of this project (Are there deliverables or services that should be documented as not part of the scope of this project?)
20. Agile or waterfall? (Has the formal approach been determined yet for managing this project?).
A7. The project charter is more than a recommendation—it’s a necessity. The charter documents that a project exists. Many organizations even have the policy, “If there’s no charter, there’s no project.” This is because when projects are launched without a charter, serious problems can (and often do) arise. Here are some examples that may sound familiar to the experienced PM:
• Did you ever work on a project where the PM had trouble getting resources or claiming his or her authority? Having your name on the charter as the PM empowers you and helps you get the resources and respect you need, which is especially helpful in situations in which the power of the PM is limited.
• Were you ever on a project that you thought was a go but was never greenlighted? Making a project official by documenting it in an authorized charter and getting the required signoffs is a way of putting the pedal to the metal and getting things going the right way.
• Did you ever work on a project where the goals or priorities were not all clearly communicated? Getting the key elements down in writing in the charter clarifies them for all of the many people who will need to know about them.
THE PMBOK ® GUIDE AND PMI
Q8. What are some of the ways the Project Management Institute (PMI) can help me in my career?
A8. PMs have a large and robust support organization behind them in the Project Management Institute. PMI is a nonprofit, member-driven organization made up of project managers helping other project managers. It is based in the United States in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. It is by far the world’s largest organization for project managers, offering leading-edge certifications and many other benefits for members.
• Educational seminars and networking events for members
• Free downloadable copies of the PMBOK ® Guide, including new versions as they come out
• Free leading-edge monthly and quarterly project management magazines published by PMI and available to members in paper or digital form
• CoPs (Communities of Practice) for specialized areas of project management knowledge such as risk management, IT, energy, and human resources
• Volunteer project management opportunities and other ways to get involved in a chapter, including officerships
• Annual conferences, including PMINAC (PMI North American Global Congress) and others around the world
• Career websites
• Mentoring programs
• Free study groups for the PMP® Exam, and more.
There are other organizations and certifying bodies for PMs (see Chapter 15), but PMI is a truly global organization, with local chapters supporting members worldwide, from Nova Scotia to Rio de Janeiro and San Isidro, and from Porto Salvo to Moscow and Mumbai. This is also good news for job seekers. Because PMI’s certification and exam process is identical in every location, certification by PMI makes PMs marketable for positions all over the globe.
Q9. What is the PMBOK ® Guide, and how can it help me as a project manager?
A9. PMBOK® is an acronym for The Project Management Body of Knowledge. PMI publishes The PMBOK®—A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge in both paper and digital formats. It’s the go-to reference for standards and best practices for many PMs around the world. A number of sought-after and highly respected certification exams for project managers are given by PMI, most notably the PMP® Certification Exam. Other certifying bodies also give certification exams that are officially based, either in whole or in part, on the content in the PMBOK ® Guide and on other standards published by PMI.
You might have the impression that the PMBOK ® Guide is a dusty old manual of little practical value. It’s actually a vital book for project management practitioners, filled with valuable project management best practices, concepts, and standards. And it’s always evolving, because it’s updated about every four years by expert project management practitioners from all around the world. The current edition is PMI PMBOK ® Guide, Fifth Edition, released January 1, 2013.
PROCESSES, PROCESS GROUPS, AND PHASES
Q10. What are project management processes?
A10. An easy way to think of project management processes is as steps for managing a project. By the PMI standard, anything a PM or project team member may be working on at any given time falls into one of 47 processes. Each process typically has one main function and often one key output. For instance, the Develop Project Schedule process is all about creating the project schedule, which will outline the order and timelines of all the activities to be done over the course of the project.
Q11. What are project management process groups?
A11. The 47 processes (described above) all fall into five categories PMI calls process groups:
1. Initiating processes. These are the early steps that start off a project, including the initial request from the client and the sponsor’s and (later) the PM’s early efforts to respond. They include Develop Project Charter and Identify Stakeholders.
2. Planning processes. The PM executes these processes to plan the project. Planning is initially based on the request to begin the project and, later, on the requirements collected from the client. Twenty-four of the processes fall into this group, including Develop Project Schedule, Plan Quality Management, Plan Procurement Management, Plan Risk Management, Plan Stakeholder Management, and many more.
3. Executing processes. This, in a nutshell, is the “git ’er done!” group of processes. The PM oversees production of the deliverables the project is contracted to create and manages the employees performing this work. Processes in this group include Direct and Manage Project Work, Conduct Procurements, Manage Stakeholder Engagement, and more.
4. Monitoring and controlling processes. This is where the PM provides oversight. Referred to in some companies as check and correct, this is the group of processes in which the PM observes and measures progress against the plan and corrects where needed to keep the project under control. Processes include Control Scope, Control Schedule, Control Budget, and more.
5. Closing processes. These are the final steps a PM completes to wrap up a project. There are only two closing processes in the PMI model: Close Procurements and Close Project or Phase.
Q12. What is a phase?
A12. Phases are like subprojects within a project. Sometimes large projects are broken up into several phases. For example, on a training project broken up into two phases, Phase 1 might be the creation of a new course from designing the class to trainers’ giving the first iteration of the class as a pilot. Phase 2 could be the rollout of the class as 25 sessions in one year for all employees of the company.
When projects are broken down into phases, some or all of the 47 processes are performed for each phase. Each phase can span all five of the PMI process groups, starting with (1) initiating and ending with (5) closing.
THE WORK OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Q13. What is a project management office, and how can it help project managers?
A13. A project management office (PMO) is typically a team made up of some of the highly experienced PMs and senior managers at a company, who often split their PMO duties with their primary management responsibilities. Not every company is large enough for a PMO or decides to have a formal office for project management. But many companies create PMOs to help keep track of key projects and to help their PMs successfully face the many challenges that come with the job.
Here are two of the most common functions of a PMO:
• PM assistance. The PMO provides assistance to PMs, acting as a go-to resource where PMs can find project management templates, documentation, training, and other needed support.
• PM oversight. The company’s projects all fall under the PMO’s jurisdiction, and the PMs are accountable to the PMO.
For more about PMOs, I recommend Peter Taylor’s book, Leading Successful PMOs.
Q14. What are the three levels of project manager?
A14. A project manager is usually in charge of managing a single project or several projects concurrently. A PM’s title might have one of three “flavors,” based on increasing decision-making authority (arrows):
1. Project expeditor → 2. Project coordinator → 3. Project manager
This is a “three bears” example: one small, one big, one in the middle. Think of it as a power continuum from left to right:
• A project expeditor has the least power.
• A project coordinator is in the middle.
• A full PM has the most decision-making authority of the three.
Q15. What is the role of a program manager?
A15. A program manager manages groups of related projects called programs, defined in Q&A 4. This also means that program managers usually supervise one or more PMs who manage the individual projects of the program.
A16. A project portfolio is broader than a program; it usually refers to all of the projects in a company (or to all of the projects in a large division of a company). Thus,
• Several projects make up a program.
• Multiple programs comprise a company’s portfolio.
• In companies where a senior PM is in charge of the project portfolio, he or she is called a portfolio manager.
Q17. What is the project sponsor’s role?
A17. Every project has a sponsor: the “money person” who greenlights each project. Often, a sponsor is a senior manager on the client side. He or she initiates the project, secures the funding for it, and continues to fund and support the project throughout its life cycle.
During the project, the sponsor often acts as the go-to person in disputes between the client and the performing organization regarding issues that cannot be resolved by the PM or on other issues requiring an executive decision. The sponsor also has a key role at the end of the project: accepting the project’s final deliverables (often with a signoff verifying that the project’s goals, scope, and quality requirements have all been met).
PM VOCABULARY MASH-UP
|A project …||Can be part of a program||All of a company’s projects and programs make up its portfolio.|
|A project manager …||Reports up to a program manager||Several program managers can report up to a portfolio manager.|
The sponsor isn’t always on the client side. For example, in the IT department I worked in for many years, the chief information officer (CIO) on the performing organization side was considered the sponsor by the project team, since he greenlighted all our projects. Meanwhile, our CIO reported up to a senior manager on the client side. She was his sponsor.
A FEW MORE FUNDAMENTALS
Q18. If all projects have a start point and an end point, why is project management called iterative?
A18. It would be a lot easier if project management consisted of simply leading a team, once, through a set of linear processes. But it’s inevitable that on many projects the client’s requirements will change midproject, or there will be funding cuts, personnel changes, or other unexpected events affecting project plans. All of these can derail a neatly planned linear schedule.
This is why project management is usually iterative, meaning that as critical information changes, project plans need to be adjusted accordingly. This often requires more than one pass through the key planning processes. For instance, change requests often result in schedule changes, so the process of developing the schedule must be re-executed. This also means revisiting the other processes that are heavily tied to the schedule, such as re-estimating costs to keep them in line with the schedule change.
In a ripple effect, changes to the schedule can heavily impact other aspects of the project, such as the project scope. For instance, if management needs to move a deadline up, the change often means a reduction in the project’s scope to help meet that deadline. This means re-executing the process of defining the scope and other interrelated processes, like creating the work breakdown structure (WBS; see Chapter 4). The processes are performed as many times as needed, which leads us to the Deming cycle.
A19. The Deming cycle, also called the plan-do-check-act cycle, is a best practice for managing projects. It gets its name from a well-known quality management pioneer, W. Edwards Deming, who popularized this concept (following the work of quality-control pioneer Walter Shewhart). The Deming cycle (Figure 1-1) represents project management as a repeat-as-needed series of four steps:
1. Plan. Create the project plan.
2. Do. Execute the plan created in Step 1.
3. Check. Verify that the action taken in Step 2 yielded the correct results.
4. Act. If any issues, errors, or needed corrections came up in Step 3, go back to Step 1 and proceed again through Steps 2, 3, and 4.
This is a feedback loop in which the four sequential steps are repeated as necessary until the performing organization and the client are satisfied with the way the project deliverables are being created.
A20. We can make a helpful analogy between the board game Chutes and Ladders and the PMI processes. The objective of the board game is to move from start (bottom) to finish (top). But as you advance up the board, problems appear along the way that send you falling down one of the red chutes, back to a low spot on the board. You’ll need to work your way back up again toward the goal of reaching the final square.
This is like the PMI processes (except upside-down!) There are 24 planning processes, shown as a single list in Appendix A (column 3 of Table A-1). We work downward through all 24 steps, starting from Develop Project Management Plan. But change requests send us back up to revisit the earlier steps. We make the necessary changes, such as to the WBS (back up in the Create WBS process), and work downward again through the planning steps, making sure nothing is missed and all planning documents are in sync.
Q21. Why is the Japanese concept kaizen a central tenet of project management around the world?
A21. Kaizen is the mindset of proactively looking to make continuous, small improvements on every project. It’s the idea that every process, even when it’s running well, can be improved—there is always something that can be streamlined, automated, or tweaked.
The emphasis is on the word small. People are change-averse, so small positive changes are more likely to be accepted than large, disruptive ones. By starting small, a PM can more easily measure and manage the effects of a change.
Also, once a change is accepted on a small scale, it stands a much better chance of catching on and spreading. The stakeholders who accepted it have seen its benefits, and now that you have their buy-in you can publicize it as a success story and they will be your advocates. Going small at first is a recommended strategy for the long game.
A22. There is a great variety of powerful software designed for today’s PMs. To paraphrase Shakespeare, there are products “undreamt of” in the philosophy of project management only 20 years ago. Figure 1-2 provides a guide to the many tools PMs use today to lighten their workloads.
PITFALLS TO AVOID WHEN STARTING A PROJECT
1. Adding an extra project to your team’s current workload without allocating additional time or resources
2. Beginning a project with loose time and cost estimates
3. Failing to establish the evaluation metrics of success early
4. Not getting signoff from the customer on early plans
5. Doing it your way, ignoring company protocol, company templates, and other artifacts
6. Losing time by starting without pertinent lessons learned and historical data
7. Jumping into a project without clarifying your customer’s specifications
8. Not clarifying the team reporting structure and stakeholders’ roles early
9. Not confirming all costs and which ones will be covered by the client versus the performing organization
10. Beginning a project without a formal project charter or similar document.