The term „project management“ (PM) covers activities and efforts to execute projects in an effective and efficient way by applying special knowledge, skills and computer-aided as well as non computer-aided techniques. Management of projects has – in an informal way – always been practiced in history, but became a distinct profession first in the mid-20th century.
Project Management – what´s the purpose?
Managing projects in a professional way is a strategic challenge – and sometimes an art. The temporary and unique nature of a project differs significantly from the repetitive and functional „business as usual activities“ being done in the day-to-day-business.
Since „unusual“ tasks demand unusual means, methods of managing projects are quite different from conventional business strategies, therefore special project organizations are required to meet the more and more sophistic and complex requirements of projects in modern economy.
Project management´s highest priority is to provide requested information in time as well as to care for special „brain resources“ being always ready to adjust promptly to altered circumstances.
Strategy of modern PM-Methods
According to the „Guide of Project Management Body of Knowledge“ (PMBoK Guide) issued by the American PMI (Project-Management-Institute) modern ways of managing projects consist of five groups (project phases):
– Monitoring and Controlling
In current terminology those elements are also recognized as processes being executed repetitively for each project phase. Since incorrect planning can hardly be compensated later on, the phase of planning should be given appropriate attention. Above all, the main duty of the project manager is to keep the project continuously in time, budget and quality. To achieve this goal, the three common constraints (time, cost, scope) of a project are to be kept in a mutual balance.
Approaches, methods and tools
Basic approaches to project strategies can be implemented through the problem definition and solution approach which falls into the following steps:
– Detailed definition of the problem
– Consideration of feasible alternative options
– Selection of a certain path
– Execution (including monitoring and controlling)
– Final evaluation of results
Project manager should be aware that problem definition always implies detailed evaluation of current status coming along with definition of nominal conditions.
In order to standardize systemic approaches, several project methods have been developed, some of them were internationally recognized, possessing a „leak-proof“ quality assured approach. The project method „Prince2“ represents the „de facto standard“ on PM-methods.
It provides an appropriate way to manage projects within a clearly defined framework including continuous monitoring of process and defined error-handling. Another common project method is the „Critical Path Method“ (CPM) it defines a critical chain of major tasks that will determine the minimum time required for a project to be completed.
To ease routine jobs in project management´s day-to-day-business and to enable project manager to provide significant charts and reports on project results, a large number of computer-aided tools and techniques have been developed. Most of them support common project techniques such as Gantt-Charting or Critical Path Method (CPM), some software products provide specific solutions like tracking project´s progress or visualization of as-if-scenarios.