- Project management is the art of saying no to things that don’t matter. That’s the fundamental dilemma of project management. You are asked to say yes to something that might or might not happen, and if it doesn’t, you are responsible.
- There are three big challenges in managing a project. The first is how to organize work. The second is how to organize people. And the third is how to avoid conflicts.
Initiate, execute and complete projects on time
If you take a class on project management, the instructor will probably tell you that there are three phases of project development: the Initiation, the Execution, and the Closure. The Initiation is when you figure out what you are trying to accomplish and who is going to do it. In the Execution phase you divide the project up into tasks and appoint people to do these. When you are done with the Execution phase, you have your working product, and you can move on to the Closure phase, where you evaluate what you’ve done and decide what to do next.
But most projects don’t follow these rules.
Project management is a lot of things, but above all it is important. If you are a person who gets things done, project management is how you can work. If you consider a project to be a special case, as most people do, then the most important project management skill is managing expectations. Every project needs an initiation phase, but people rarely bother to talk about that. They don’t think it’s important to set expectations until the project is already in trouble.
This failure to talk about expectations is the root of a lot of project problems. The Initiation phase is when you figure out what you are trying to accomplish and who is going to do it. In other words, it is when you set expectations.
When people talk about setting expectations, though, they don’t usually mean setting expectations for the people who work on the project. They usually mean setting expectations for people who can’t actually see the project. Setting expectations for the people who are going to take your money is an obvious problem, but it is hardly the only one.
For example, you often set expectations for the people who are going to get the product at the end of the project, but don’t set any for other people. For example, many people don’t tell you up front that the project will take much longer than they thought.
If you don’t set expectations up front, the project is likely to take longer than you expect
Choose project management teams
Let me start with the second point.
The most straightforward way to organize people is by function, using job titles, and by giving them different responsibilities. But suppose that you want to hire an assistant. The manager has to decide:
Which job title should we give the person?
What responsibilities should be assigned to that person?
And how do we decide who should be in charge of a particular project?
If you give the person a job title, you will violate the basic principle of functional organization: people should be interchangeable. You can’t put the person in charge of a project, and then just swap him or her out for someone else.
The best alternative is to assign people responsibilities. That way you can swap people in and out of a project, and substitute other people for whoever happens to be in charge.
But what about conflicts?
If you don’t address conflicts, they will tear your project apart.
Here is a simple way to handle conflicts:
The project leader is in charge.
The project leader has to decide who is in charge of each part of the project.
The project leader can only change the project leader.
How does this conflict-resolution method work in practice?
Suppose you are the project leader, and there are two people who want to be in charge of a particular part.
Project leader: “Who do you want to be responsible for this part of the project?”
First person: “I am.”
Second person: “No, you are.”
Project leader: “Who do you want to delegate this part to?”
First person: “Me.”
Second person: “No,
Estimating correctly is key to project success
The relationship between cost and time is very important. If you have to do a project with a tight budget, you have to find out how to do it as cheaply as possible. Then you can plan how long it will take you.
This takes some intelligence. If you try to do a project on a budget, you have to learn to estimate. You have to notice that certain expensive things have to be done early. You have to learn to estimate how much it will cost to do them, not the total amount of money you will have to spend, but how much it will cost to do them. But estimating is harder than it looks. Part of the problem is that many people believe that if you have to do something, you should do it right. If, for example, you have to build an airplane, you should build it the way a Boeing engineer built it.
There’s nothing wrong with building an airplane the way the Boeing engineers did. But it doesn’t save you money. It makes it cost more. If you want to do something cheaper, you have to learn to do things the way other people do them, then figure out how to do it better.
The way we measure the value of a scientific project is really the way any simple project is measured: by the amount it accomplishes. Money is an obvious way of measuring accomplishment. But there are two problems with money: (a) it’s practical; (b) it encourages perverse behavior.
If you spend too much time on planning, you will end up spending too little time on the project. On the other hand, if you concentrate on the project to the exclusion of everything else, you will spend far too much time on it. Even before I started writing this, 40 minutes were already gone and I had not started. What I really needed was to stop writing, and do something else. I spent the next hour making a list of all the things I needed to do. These weren’t all things I had committed to, just things I thought would be useful. But having the list made me stop and think. I ended up spending only about 15 minutes writing. The rest of the time was spent on things that seemed worth thinking about, like the next line, or the next paragraph. This experience taught me that planning is an important activity. But it isn’t the only thing that is important.
Digital project management tools (though they may not call themselves this) are software packages that let online teams communicate and track progress. They are used to manage any project, but most popular for software development, software development by Web standards, Web development projects, and software projects for intranets.
Many project management software packages are Web-based. You can use them from anywhere. Others let you use a local copy of the software, giving you more control over security and administrative issues. Some project management software packages let you manage projects through e-mail, while others provide an integrated interface to e-mail and IM. Project management software packages provide a number of features. Some are project management tools, some are collaboration tools, and some manage customer relationships.
In this article, we’ll look at online project management software tools that may help you complete projects on budget.
Project management: Project management is an organizational tool. It helps groups coordinate and manage projects, from planning to development to deployment. Project management software does some of the project management work. For example, it lets project managers keep track of all tasks, assign tasks to team members, monitor progress, and report on progress.
Project management mainly addresses three issues. The first is resource management. Project management software helps organize the division of labor and keep track of who is doing what and when. The second issue is knowledge management. Project management software often has tools to record what is known about a project. This provides a central place for project managers to store and share information about a project. The third issue is information management. As projects progress, project managers need to keep track of a lot of information. Project management software often has tools to manage this information. For example, project management software often has calendar tools, such as the Gantt chart, that display