An Executive Guide to Project Management

The Business Need

Project management frameworks and methodologies address the need to meet business objectives on time and within budget. Sound methodologies draw on the mass of practical experience in project management and encapsulate best practices. When applied appropriately these methodologies provide the tools to create a dependable route map that assists those leading an organisation through a significant change. The skills and techniques required to manage a project differ from those necessary to manage business as usual. Adhering to an effective methodology therefore helps ensure that unfamiliar tasks and responsibilities are understood; risks are managed and work is focused on business objectives and priorities.

PRINCE

PRINCE (note 1) is a well-established public domain methodology that has been widely used . Key features of robust project management methodologies such as PRINCE are:

Business Case

Projects should be underpinned by the preparation of a clear business case. The business case sets out the business drivers for the project that allows all those involved to understand this rationale and to situate their work in that business context. The business case also evidences the organisation’s commitment to the project.

A Structured Approach

Work should be organised into well-defined stages and tasks, identifying personnel and resources required, the end stage products that will be delivered and the work that will be undertaken. Dependencies and timing are also planned so that progress can be tracked against time, budget and products.

Typically the project plan may need to be revised in light of changing circumstances, risks that materialise or further information that comes to light as the project progresses. When situations are identified that are expected to have a material impact on scope the issue is referred to the Project Board (see below). This ensures that the project remains focused on, and justified in relation to, the business benefits. In extreme cases a decision can be taken to disband the project where appropriate.

Clear Roles & Responsibilities

Key roles and responsibilities should be defined so that all those involved in the project understand the contribution they are expected to make and how this relates to other roles. This interim organisational structure, which is distinct from the organisation applying for business as usual, is established for the duration of the project and disbanded at the end of the project. The roles include:

• Project Board. The project board is responsible for the ultimate outcome of the project. At the outset it approves the project scope. It also approves products delivered at the end of each stage (it may delegate product assurance as appropriate) and authorises the launch of subsequent stages. This provides the primary means for the project board to ensure that the project remains on track. The project manager periodically reports project progress to the project board. The board is responsible for resolving material issues impacting project scope (cost, delivery date, end products, staffing, other resources) brought to its attention by the project manager.

• Project Manager. The project manager is responsible for planning (what will be done) and scheduling (when it will be done and by who), tracking progress and monitoring budgets. The project manager takes day-to-day operational decisions but remains accountable to the project board. The project manager refers matters that will materially impact the scope of the project (products, completion date, cost or personnel) to the project board for resolution.

• Executive. The Executive (or customer) is the person who commissions and authorises the project. The executive is a member of the project board.

• User. The User is the person who will use the result of the project. A User representative is a member of the project board.

• Supplier. The Supplier (or specialist) provides the expertise necessary to do the work. The Supplier is represented on the on the project board.

• Task Manager. The Task Manager is responsible for managing a particular task assigned to him. The Task Manager reports to the project manager in respect of the relevant task.

Risk Management

Risks should be explicitly identified and managed. The risk management process is continuous and begins with project initiation. Significant risks and changes in risks should be reported to the project board.

Meetings

Formal project board meetings should be linked to key events:

• Project Initiation at which the project initiation document is approved (see below)

• End Stage Assessments at which the products delivered for that stage are approved. (Products are quality assured against previously agreed specifications).

• Project Closure.

The project manager also conducts checkpoint reviews with project personnel to monitor progress. These form the basis for periodic Highlight Reports issued to inform the project board of progress.

Project Initiation Document

At the outset a project initiation document (“PID”) should define the project. It will include:

• a project description

• the business case

• the project organisation

• the initial project plan

Skills, Knowledge & Abilities

A proven project management methodology can provide the tools to prepare a route map but a successful project depends on assigning staff with the appropriate skills, knowledge and abilities to plan and perform the work. A sound plan cannot compensate for deploying staff that do not have the requisite business and technical knowledge.

References

For further information on project management and PRINCE see:

• Managing Successful Projects using PRINCE 2, published by the Stationery Office

• PRINCE 2: A Practical Handbook, Colin Bentley, published by Butterworth-Heinemann UK

• Practical PRINCE 2 (forthcoming 2002), Colin Bentley, published by the Stationery Office

Appendix –Key Documents

The following key documents or equivalents will be used on most projects (this list follows PRINCE terminology):

• Business Case - setting out the business rationale for the project

• Project Initiation Document - defining the scope and organisation of the project, it forms the basis for managing the project.

• Project Plan – defining stages, identifying personnel and resources required, and the work that will be undertaken and dependencies between tasks and stages.

• Issue Log – tracking significant issues

• Highlight Report – giving a periodic snapshot of project status

• Product Description – used to check actual products delivered meet the previously defined criteria

• Request for Change – used to control scope change

• Risk Log – tracking significant risks and risk management activity

• End Stage Report – issued to the project board at the end of a stage

• Work Package – defining discrete parcels of work to be completed

• End Project Report – concluding a project

Endnotes

(1) PRINCE (Projects in Controlled Environments) was developed for IT project management by the UK Government Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in 1989. It has subsequently been improved and expanded in the light of practical experience to provide an approach for the management of all types of projects. The current version, PRINCE2, was developed in 1996. PRINCE is a registered trademark of CCTA

 

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