When we speak about Project Management, Managing Projects or other combinations of those words - what is really going on? By going on, I mean the activities outside the writing of code, pouring of concrete, welding steel, assembling molecules into drugs, assembling atoms into semiconductors, or even reassembling peoples politics into new politics (the project of getting elected to the office of the President of the United States - POTUS)?
While some in the PM community do not separate product from process - and I was an ardent proponent of this point of view at one time. There is benefit in making this separation. If only temporarily for discussion purposes.
Elements of Project Management other than actually doing the real work
- Define authorized work elements - what is this project going to produce or what services is it going to deliver?
- Identify the project's organizational structure - who's doing what work?
- Integrate the cost, schedule, budget controls - how is this work going to be paid for, when will we need to come up with the money, and who is looking after this money?
- Identify someone how controls the indirect costs - who's looking after all the money needed to do the work not related to producing the product or service. Pizza, donuts, training classes?
- Provide some place that integrates the work with the people doing the work - how can we tell who's doing what, when they are doing it, and what the heck are they doing when they are doing it?
- Schedule the work in some way - time is natures way of keeping everything from happening at once - John Archibald Wheeler
- Identify the physical products or services produced by the project - when we're all done, what we we accomplish for the money that was spent?
- Establish a time-phased budget - when will I need money to pay people for the work they are doing? How much money?
- Assign budget to the authorized work - can I tell how much something is going to cost - to some reasonable accuracy - before I start the work?
- Control the authorization of work in some way - who gets to say who works on what parts of the project?
- Sum all the authorized work and the assigned budgets in one place - anybody keeping track of all the money, people, products, and the passage of time at some level meaningful to senior management?
- Identify the measures of progress for the assigned work - how can I tell we're actually making progress?
- Establish overhead budgets - how much money do we need for pizza, donuts, and those classes you want to take?
- Identify the management reserves - how much more money do I need for things I don't know about yet?
- Reconcile the total cost with the total budget and the management reserves - when I add up all the known costs and the costs I can cover for the stuff I don't know about yet - how much is that?
- Record the direct costs in some way meaningful to those paying for them -
- If there is a work breakdown structure assign costs to each element -
- Summarize direct costs to those consuming the money - "who ordered this?" "why did I get this invoice?" "what did I get from this invoice?"
- Record all indirect costs - who's keeping track of how much we're spending on pizza?
- Identify all units costs - how much do each thing we're doing cost by itself?
- Have some kind of material accounting system - if we buy stuff, how much does it cost?
- Periodically generate a project status - let's have talk once in awhile about how much we're spending, what we're delivering, and is everyone happy about this?
- Periodically identify differences between planned and actual schedule and cost performance - do we know if we're going to have enough money or time to finish?
- Identify budgets at a level needed for management control - ask senior management what kind of information they need to make decisions about the project.
- Summarize all this data in ways meaningful to the project's management and stakeholders - roll up information to meet the needs of the reader.
- Implement managerial actions - when things aren't going according to plan, do something about it.
- Develop revised estimates of costs and schedules - when things change, update the cost and schedule to reflect these changes.
- Incorporate any authorized changes - put these new changes back into the plan, so we don't forget we made them.
- Reconcile current budgets with prior budgets - keep track of the changes, so we can remember why we made them.
- Control any desire for retroactive changes to the project data - no fixing the mistakes of the past, sorry the past is a good predictor of the future.
- Allow only authorized revisions to the project's budget and schedule - no cooking the books.
- Document these changes - it didn't happen if there is no paperwork.
Yes Dorothy, these are the 32 criteria for the ANSI/EAI-748B Earned Value Management System certification.
There are other parts to managing projects
The activities above are part of the "management" aspects of the project. Where management is a verb. There are others aspects of a project and its management. But these are usually part of the "human factors" part of the project. People interacting in ways that support or disrupt the project. Confusion about roles and responsibilities. Are the project members cooperating in ways that benefit the project? Is there communication taking place in ways needed to complete the project?
Chicken or Egg?
Which comes first - the project controls or the people aspects? This is a fruitless question - both are needed. But which can we be less interested in? Probably depends on the project. And that's the basis of most of the disconnect in the discussion of the management of projects.