(Originally published on Wednesday, July 10, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)
How a major project is handled can either make or break a person’s career—and even his company’s fortune. Unfortunately, many of those new to project management are left to “sink or swim” with insufficient guidance. While in developed nations many people engage in formal training in project management, here in thePhilippinesvirtually all project managers learn about project management on the job.
To be able to grasp the essentials of project management, you must know its definition: a project is a temporary undertaking with a defined beginning and an ending, done to meet unique objectives. Its transient nature means projects are not part of operations that are repetitive work to produce products or services.
While reading this article will not make you an instant expert, the basic ideas of project management listed below would be very helpful in guiding the beginner:
• Clarify the project objectives and requirements. You must document precisely what the project seeks to attain, as well as its constraints. Establish the deadline for completion, the budget, and the quality standards. You must consult with all the departments or persons that will be affected or needed to complete the project. Things like possible legal impediments must be ironed out. A lot of brainstorming and negotiation occurs in this stage. Getting the support of internal and external stakeholders is also important for a project’s success.
• Create the project plan supported by using the appropriate planning tools. Before beginning, you must create a detailed plan. Get detailed cost estimates and setup milestones to monitor progress. Tasks must be arranged in the proper order and the dependencies (a task that must be finished before another task is done) noted. In doing this, it is impossible to organize a project properly without the use of planning tools. There are dozens of possible tools, but there are some that are commonly used. One is the Gantt chart, a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. For better control, the more sophisticated tools often used is the Critical Path Method (CPM) and Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT); these enable you to apply additional resources to relieve bottle necks that delay the whole project.
• Prepare for contingencies. Plan for problems that may be encountered. Build on some slack into your time schedule in order to mitigate the inevitable delays that will result from unforeseen events. Besides the extra time needed, you must also have some allowance in the budget for emergencies that will need additional expenditures.
• Submit timely and well written Project Status Reports. Study how to make project status reports for your superiors. Find out if there is already a prescribed format or precedent before coming up with your own. Reports should be as short as possible without missing important details. Avoid using jargon that may not be understandable to all those who may read your reports. Report if progress is on schedule and being done within the budget. Also, keep copies of your report for future reference.
Effective project management is extremely important and you must try to learn as much as possible to avoid costly mistakes.
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