The mention of project management may enlist an assorted imagination of what it entails and the exact meaning of the terminology. Baume (2002, p79) asserted that across all disciplines, project management is inevitable and its apt understanding is thus mandatory. To aptly define this term, a sequential understanding of the root words (project and management) is mandatory. What is a project? Literally, this is a prime undertaking targeting the public which has already been planned or even already in progress. Someone else may perceive it to be a plan for a scheme to imply a preliminary outline of an undertaking.
However, this study reckon a project to be a prime undertaking that has been designed to evaluate as well as examine the prevailing practices in addition to proposing appropriate changes and more principally testing the implementation of the prospected changes. All these point at a conclusion that a project is a temporary venture that is undertaken with the aim of accomplishing an inimitable product or service. It usually has a well defined commencement period with a definite endpoint. Techniques such as, the CPM (Critical Path Method) and PERT plays an important role in envisaging the duration with which a given project may undertake as stipulated by Folan (2009, pp123-125). Specific objectives are a characteristic which when accomplished, will mark the completion of the project.
On the other hand, management encompasses planning, organization as well as team building to attain a controlled leadership. This leads to a conclusion that project management is the art or science that organizes all the components of a project (developing a new product or launching a new service or even a marketing promotion) which is typically developed once with a specific undertaking within a specified time. It however consumes resources but the fiscal estimates to be used are limited and planned for. This study analyses the basic components of project management by drawing examples from assorted daily experiences.
2.1 Project Definition
To begin with is the definition of a project to be undertaken. In light of this, the management is tasked with defining what the project entails by giving the essentials of what the adopters or even consumer hope to realize by simply undertaking the project. At this phase of project management, a list of what is to be delivered as well as the specifics of certain activities to be undertaken in the course the specified periods will be defined by the manager. In this regard, the incumbent project manager will be obliged to work handy with the business sponsors who need the project to be implemented.
In addition, stakeholders commonly known as collaborators will be identified as organizations with vested interests in the undertaking and its outcomes to aid in the running of the entire activity. To aptly exemplify this stage, we can draw our attention to the educational context. In this connection, the educational management is tasked with defining the intended changes and providing the reasons as to why the changes are required. The school management will define the time frame of the new undertaking. For instance, a project will be developing an academic laboratory construction for intra-school science experiments as well as for public utility. The definition of such a project identifies construction of an academic building, purchase of laboratory equipment as well as reagents, employment of the laboratory technicians and above all, identifying the contractor. This undertaking has a specific time frame of completion (say one year), has a specific purpose (school scientific experiments and external research exertions), require fiscal planning (for purchases of the construction materials and contracting) and finally call for stakeholders or sponsorship (collaborate in raising the funds and may include the school management and student contributions, government involvement, well wishers).
The mastermind of the project who will be the ultimate manager of the entire process is mandated to provide a framework to outline the sequential adoption of the initiative to all the participants so that initial refinements can be made at this stage of the project. According to Andersen (1995, p47), this stage has to define the undertaking to be independent from other works that is indented to change existing operations in the concerned sector (laboratory research in this case). He further premises that it should have a time frame (one year aforementioned) and ought to be planned involving all the collaborators. Additionally, it will use resources which have to be budgeted at this initial phase after which, critical evaluation of the process will be imminent. The projected outcome is to be stated based on the identifiable objectives (which should either be a service or product; in our case research services) that has to be ultimately institutionalized. All these are undertakings that characterize the first stage of defining the project.
2.2 Project Planning
The second phase is planning for the project. This stage should define all the project activities. In this connection, the project manager will list all the tasks as well as the activities by providing specifics on how each is related to the other. The duration of each task is evaluated and stated bearing in mind the provision of how the individual tasks are tied to the provided deadline. In addition, the manager will be able to relate the tasks so that he or she can establish any form of comparable delays. The manager will further fix milestones with all considerations agreed in the first stage for the dates by which significant aspects ought to be met. Furthermore, the key aspect of this stage is to define all the mandatory requirements essential for the completion of the project. Here, the project manager is tasked with identifying the number of people (often known as the resources) to be involved in the project.
Consequently, the expenses (commonly the cost) to be used are stated in this stage. The manager will have to assess the prospectus assumptions as well as the risks that are likely to be pinned to the onset of the project Fernando (2006). In addition, the project manager will be required to identify the possible constraints of the projected undertaking. These constraints are commonly pinned to the schedule and the available resources. However, the costs and the scope of the entire undertaking are equally crucial determinants of the impending constraints. Factually, changes experienced in one constraint are bound to affect the other related tasks and thus the completion of the project. For instance, a budget constriction may impinge on the figure of the populace that can work on the project, thus daunting a resource constriction. Similarly, if extra features are incorporated to be part of project’s scope, then scheduling, budgeting as well as resources could be affected.
In the case of constructing the school laboratory, this stage will define major activities to be hiring of the contractor, purchasing for the construction materials as well as identifying the number of resource persons to be employed in the course of the construction. As pertains setting the milestones and completion of key stages, the project manager may decide to partition the one year duration into quarterly periods. For instance, the first three months comprise of laying the building foundation, employing the first group of resource persons among others. The second quarter may entail raising the first two storey floors that has to consequentially lead to completion of all the five anticipated floors after the third quarter. The final period will encompass fitting up the appliances and purchase of the needed reagents, equipment as well as materials. The impending risks can be identified to be extra costs in cases of accidents, unpredictable rise on the cost of the construction materials in the course of the project not mentioning pull out of sponsorship.
The remedies here will include prior medical or life insurance for all the resource persons, purchase of construction materials at once or tendering the project to qualified bidders and finally budgeting within the limits of the available funds. Continued involvement of all the stakeholders at all the stages may aid in curbing premature exits before completion of the project. This in essence identifies lingering constraints which are as well addressed under the risks. Important to note is that this stage is principally an evaluation and no constructions have been started according to Williams and Toby (2008, p142). It is purely defining the procedural intended activities outlining the key stages theoretically.
2.3 Project Execution
The third phase can simply be put as the execution stage. This essentially builds the entire project team. In this connection, the project manager is well acquainted with the number of resources in addition to the estimate of the budget he or she intends to work with for the completion of the project (Fernando, 2006). Thus, the project manager will then assign those resources (working force) as well as allocate the budget to assorted tasks within the project. This marks the commencement of the project work. In the case of the intended construction, the project manager will allocate his management team that will oversee the running of the specific departments such as the budgeting, the foreman supervision, and the assessment team among others. In addition, an agreed fraction of the payment will be made to the contractor at this stage that will assemble his team to embark on laying the building’s foundation.
2.4 Controlling the Project
Controlling the Project is another outstanding aspect of project management. In this connection, the project manager is tasked with updating the project strategies to reflect on the actual time that elapses for each task to be completed. By way of keeping up to date with the details of the sequential progress, the project manager is capable of understanding how well the project is progressing on overall scale Appelo (2009). This further helps in identifying the likely risks or constraints that can emerge thus put in place strategic measures to minimize their effects or manifestation. For instance, in the construction, an updated progress will guide in assessing the market conditions for the construction materials, the effectiveness of the contractor as well as the quality of work being done. Assessing his team members in all the departments for any consequential changes will be facilitated at this stage. This stage additionally provides the project manager with the opportunity to collect information and, write a report on the progress which may be required in the subsequent meetings with the collaborators.
To effectively do this, occasional invitation of the stakeholders will be required as well as holding meetings with his team members and the contracted group so that effective updating can be delivered. This not only minimizes the squabbles within the project but enhances smooth progression.
2.5 Closure of the Project
The final stage is the Closure of the Project. During this phase, the project manager calls upon all the project team as well as the business owner (in this case the school) plus all those with vested interests on the outcome (collaborators) to analyze the final outcome of the entire undertaking. This stage provides an opportunity for the entire participant to assess their contribution towards the project not mentioning the costs and resources falling within the projected framework.
To recap this study, it is evident that project management is an art or science that oversees progress and completion of a planned undertaking. It commences by defining the intended activity, then planning for it, execution and controlling but with a time frame of closure. Key aspects are the resources, costs, time and scope as exemplified by the construction of a research laboratory in this study.