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The Life of a Project I: Project Management Concepts

25 Sep 2020

Part one of The Life of a Project series will start providing an overview of the project management concepts, the project life cycle and the steps in the project management process. Parts two, three and four will dive deeper into each component of the project life cycle.

Project Management Concepts

Clements and Gido (Clements & Gido, 2009) define a project as an endeavour to accomplish a specific objective through a unique set of interrelated tasks and the effective utilization of resources. Let us break down this definition into the different attributes mentioned.

  • Objective – a project has needs to have a specific purpose. Ask yourself, why are you doing this project? What is the goal or end results of this project?
  • Interdependent tasks – a project consists of different tasks that need to be completed to reach the project objective.
  • Resources – various resources will be used while completing the project. These resources could include people, organizations, equipment, materials and facilities.
  • Time frame – a project can have a limited or infinite life span. Determining the time frame will assist you in managing the project.
  • Customer – a project has a customer, it could be internal or external, but there will always be someone that provides the funds to complete the project.
  • Degree of uncertainty – all project starts off based on assumptions and estimates, which causes a degree of uncertainty.

You can find projects everywhere around you, from building a treehouse, designing a marketing brochure, or planning a wedding, making project management skills such an essential need today.

We understand what a project is, and we know that it is essential to have project management knowledge and skills. Let’s look at the basic project constraints.

  • Scope – the scope of the project is the work that needs to be completed to obtain the objective. For example, in the case of planning a wedding, the scope of the project could include hiring a venue, finding the perfect wedding dress and sending the wedding invites.
  • Cost – the cost of the project is the amount of money that it will take to successfully complete the project. In the case of our wedding example, it will be the overall cost of the wedding.
  • Schedule – the schedule of the project is the specific time frame that the project needs to be completed in. In the case of the wedding example, the scheduled date will be the date of the wedding.

Why would you consider these three basic concepts a constraint? The objective of a project manager is to complete the scope of work in the clients budget in the correct amount of time. Any one of the three basic constraints can easily hinder you in the process.

Triple Constraints Triangle

We have defined a project and looked at the constraints that could hinder you as a project manager to successfully complete your project. Next, we will look at the Life Cycle of a Project.

The Project Life Cycle

Project Phases

All projects start off with Project Initiation. The beginning of it all, in this phase one, we identify a need, problem or opportunity. Let's use the example of a father with a little girl that wants a treehouse. The father (project manager) identified the need of his daughter (the client) who wants a treehouse.

Phase two of the project life cycle is the Planning phase. In our example, the father will start to planing different treehouse designs, a budget, time frame etc. Looking at everything, he needs to be able to successfully complete the project. After careful planning, the project will move to the third phase, which is the Execution phase. In this phase, the father will have to implement his plan, attempting to build a treehouse for his daughter in the specified timeline, budget and scope.

The last phase in the project life cycle is called Closure. The project is completed, and the project needs to be wrapped up. In our example, the father will present the treehouse to his daughter, and she will be able to play in the treehouse. The model used was perhaps a basic one, and you could be working on a much larger scale project, but the basics still stay the same.

If we consider the project life cycle phase one seems straight forward. Identifying a problem or need, but how do we effectively plan this project? How can we ensure that the project is a success? With the correct knowledge, it is easy. You can make use of the Project Management Process.

The Steps in the Project Management Process

The following steps form part of successful planning:

  1. Define the objective – Determine the outcome/goal of the project.
  2. Divide the project scope into smaller pieces – By dividing the project into smaller pieces, it will be easier for you to identify the specific activities.
  3. Define specific activities – Specify what activities needs to be completed to accomplish the objective.
  4. Portray the activities in a network diagram – You can make use of a Network diagram to show the sequence of actions and their interdependencies.
  5. Estimate the time frame – You will determine how long it will take you to complete each activity.
  6. Estimate the costs – You will base your expenses on the number of resources and the quantities of resources needed per activity.
  7. Calculate a project schedule – in calculating the project schedule, you will be able to determine if you can complete the project in the correct time frame within the project budget.

The overall objective of implementing project management techniques in your business or personal life would be to have a successful customer. It doesn’t matter if you are the customer of your own project, the feeling of completing a project on time, in the budget and scope will leave you feeling satisfied. At the Institute of Project Management Ireland, we can help you grow into a great project manager. Our Project Management Framework course introduces you to different tools and techniques of planning for the future projects you are managing. The course is focused on practical examples and is filled with case studies. Applying the knowledge you collect will result in more effectively run projects.

Works Cited:
Clements, J. P. & Gido, J., 2009. Effective Project Management. Fourth ed. Canada: Cengage Learning.