Project management

Project Management Meaning, Characteristics, Objectives

Table of Contents:




Meaning of Project Management

Project management is the discipline that includes an organization’s planning, organising, securing and efficient management of resources to ensure the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. Project management involves controlling, planning, scheduling, and monitoring complex, non-routine tasks essential for achieving the project’s predetermined goals.

The primary challenge in project management lies in successfully achieving all of the project goals and objectives while honouring the project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time and budget. The secondary and more ambitious challenge is to optimize the allocation and integration of inputs required to achieve pre-defined objectives. 

The PMBOK (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) definition of Project Management is the “application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to achieve project requirements”. Project management is accomplished through the application and integration of the project management processes of planning, initiating, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing.

According to the Project Management Institute, “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations”.

Project management is a carefully planned and organized effort to accomplish a specific (and usually) one-time effort, e.g., constructing a residential complex or implementing a new computerized banking system. Project management includes developing a project plan that includes defining project goals, determining strategies to achieve these goals, the identification of necessary resources, and the establishment of budgets and timelines for project completion. It includes carrying out the project plan and implementing careful controls to ensure the project aligns with the plan.

Characteristics of Project Management

The characteristics of project management are:

1) The project manager is the person who brings together all efforts to meet project objectives. Because each project demands a diverse set of skills and resources, it is typical for the actual project tasks to involve individuals from various functional areas or external contractors.

2) The project manager is responsible for integrating people from the different functional areas or contractors who work on the project.

3) While the project manager focuses on delivering a particular product or service at a certain time and cost, functional managers must maintain an ongoing pool of resources in support of organizational goals. As a result, conflicts can arise between functional and project managers regarding the allocation of time and talent to a project.

4) A project might have two chains of command, one functional and one project and people in a project report to both a project manager and a functional manager.

5) A single person, the project manager, heads the project organization and functions independently of the normal chain of command. The project organization reflects the goal-oriented, cross-functional, temporary nature of the project.

6) Accountability, decision making, outcomes, and rewards are collaborative efforts between the project team and supporting functional units.

7) Project management sets into motion work in numerous supporting functions such as HR, accounting procurement and IT.

8) The project manager negotiates directly with functional managers who might be responsible for the individual work tasks and personnel within the project.

9) While the project organization is temporary, the functional or subcontracting units forming it remain permanent. The conclusion of a project involves disbanding the project organization, with team members going back to their functional or subcontracting units.

Objectives of Project Management

The objectives of project management are the following:

1) Time to Completion

Actual progress has to match the planned progress. All the significant stages of the project must take place later than their specified dates and be completed on or before their respective latest completion times so that the entire project is completed on or before the planned completion date. The time-scale objective is highly important because late completion of a project is not very likely to please the project sponsors.

2) Setting Objectives

The objectives in project management must be specific, instead of vague. Such specific objectives will enhance the chance of successfully achieving the desired outcome of the project.

3) Performance and Quality

The project outcome must align with its intended purpose. A one time, quality was seen as the responsibility of the quality control department. In more recent years the concept of total quality management has come into force, with the responsibility for quality shared by all staff starting from top management to the staff at the operational level.

4) Budget

The project must be completed without exceeding the authorised expenditure. Financial resources are not always limitless, and there is a possibility that a project might be abandoned altogether if the funds run out before completion. If it happens, both the monetary resources and effort invested in the project would be rendered null and void, resulting in their complete write-off. In extreme cases, the project contractor may encounter complete financial devastation. Hence, it is imperative to allocate adequate attention to cost budgets and financial management.

Importance of Project Management

The importance of project management is as follows:

1) Compression of Product Life Cycle

One of the most influential factors driving the demand for task management is the shortening of the product life cycle. The time to market for new products with short life cycles has been steadily increasing. A common rule of thumb in the world of high-tech product development is that a six-month project delay can lead to a significant 33 per cent decline in product revenue share. In today’s fast-paced business environment, speed has therefore emerged as a competitive advantage. As a result, more and more organizations are turning to cross-functional project teams to expedite the introduction of new products and services to the market.

2) Global Competition

Today’s open market demands not only cheaper products and services but also better products and services. In response to this demand, the emergence of the quality movement worldwide has resulted in the widespread adoption of ISO 9000 certification as a prerequisite for doing business. Notably, quality improvement and management always involve project management. In fact, for many individuals, their first exposure to project management techniques has been in quality workshops.

Project management, with its focus on time, performance, and cost, is demonstrating its effectiveness as a universal approach to accomplishing tasks.

3) Knowledge Explosion

The growth in new knowledge has led to a surge in project complexity, as projects now incorporate the latest advancements. For example, building a road 25 years ago was a somewhat simple process. Today, each area has increased in complexity, including materials, codes, specifications, aesthetics, equipment and required specialists. Similarly, in today’s digital and electronic age, it is increasingly challenging to find a new product that does not contain at least one microchip. The increasing complexity of products has increased the need to integrate divergent technologies. As a result, project management has emerged as an important discipline for achieving this objective.

4) Corporate Downsizing

Over the past decade, there has been an effective transformation in the landscape of organizational life. To ensure their survival, many companies have found it essential to downsize and focus solely on their core competencies. Middle management is no longer the robust structure it once was. In today’s organizations, which are flatter and more streamlined, where change is a constant, project management is replacing middle management as a way of ensuring that things get done. Corporate downsizing has also brought about a change in the way organizations approach projects. Companies outsource significant segments of project work and project managers have to manage not only their team members but also coordinate with their counterparts in different organizations. 

5) Increased Customer Focus

The intensifying competition has placed a premium on customer satisfaction. In today’s market, customers no longer simply settle for generic products and services; instead, they want customized products and services that cater to their specific needs. This mandate requires a much closer and enhanced level of collaboration between the provider and the receiver. Account executives and sales representatives are assuming the more prominent role as project managers within their organizations, aiming to fulfil the distinct needs and requests of clients. The growing focus on customer satisfaction has prompted the development of customized products and services.

6) Rapid Development of Third World and Closed Economies

The downfall of the Soviet Empire and the gradual opening of Asian Communist countries have created an explosion of pent-up demand within these societies for all manner of infrastructure development and consumer goods. Consequently, western companies are currently in a race to introduce their products and services to emerging markets. To achieve this, many firms are using project management techniques to establish distribution channels and foreign operational bases. These historical changes have created a tremendous market for core project work, particularly in the areas of heavy construction and telecommunications. This demand has emerged as Eastern European and Asian nations endeavour to rejuvenate their ineffective industries and dilapidated infrastructures.

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