Project Management
with Microsoft Project

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Projects, Their Outcomes and Project Management

Projects are efforts to achieve objectives, within finite time and cost expectations. Projects are contrasted with operational activities – the repetitive things performed regularly over time. In some way the dividing line between projects and operational activities is not clear; often an operational activity is a series of small projects. However, what is clear is, healthy projects have a finite end that is reached either when the project objectives have been met or when the project is cancelled.

In this paper the term outcome will be used to mean any project result, whether it is a new or changed product, event or process. Projects produce outcomes like newly design car models, an annual budget, a great party, or a new procedure. The use of the outcome and its value after the project delivers it are the underlying justification for the project.

So, what does it mean to manage a project? It is the application of a broad set of skills to properly initiate, plan, execute, control and close a project. The primary skills are scoping (i.e., describing and agreeing on project objectives and requirements), scheduling, and estimating. Added to these core skills are managing risk and uncertainty, managing quality, communicating, managing ourselves, and collaborating with others, including suppliers of goods and services and everyone else who works on or is affected by the project. The people who are involved or interested in a project are referred to as stakeholders.

To put projects and project management into practical context, it is useful to take a systems view. This view recognizes that everything is operating in a system of interacting people, organizations, things and processes. Change or activity anywhere can have an effect elsewhere. The more one can predict the effect, the greater one's control of the system's performance. In complex systems, no one can ever predict the effect of actions with 100% accuracy. A project is a complex system. Project management itself is also a complex system.

Figure 1, below, is a picture of project management as a system. The Unified Project Management Methodology (UPMM™) is one of many views in use today to describe the various activities in managing projects.

A single project is managed from Originating, the time someone communicates an idea that may someday become a project, through Closing, the completion of the project, if in fact the project becomes a project and is completed.

Surrounding the performance of a single project are activities that support and direct the organization and its ability to perform multiple projects in a complex, changing environment. These activities include Ongoing Improvement, the effort to learn from past experience and improve the way you perform and manage projects; Portfolio Management & Governance, the decision making needed to select, initiate and continue the right projects and to manage the optimum use of scarce resources; and Multi-project Management, the process for looking across all of the projects being performed and managing them as a group to avoid conflicts and promote synergy.

Effective portfolio management and multi-project management are among the most critical factors for successful projects. They address many of the root causes of chronic problems in projects, such as the chronic over burdening of resources and constant priority shifts that create confusion and impact productivity.

Collaboration and Consulting represents the critical need for teamwork, communication, coordination and the management of knowledge and information.


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