Countless books have been written on the subject of Project Management, communicating different approaches to leveraging resources to execute a scope of work. Many people have managed projects for years, without really knowing much about the science of Project Management.
There are many different methodologies you could employ, (PMBOK, PRINCE2, Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, etc.), and even more tools you could use to help your projects be more successful.
What do all of these have in common? If we could summarize every project management methodology into a single sentence, it would be: "Plan the work, then work the plan."
The power of the ProjectAI platform is entirely based on a system-agnostic approach to project data. To do this, we leverage the latest technologies and advanced data science, and apply them to the basic fundamentals of project management.
Plan the Work
Planning is a frequently misunderstood process, and getting it right requires the right perspective, and the right level of awareness about what you know, and what you don't know. After all, planning involves predicting the future, which is not always easy. Let's break down the key aspects of the planning process:
Problem Framing & Requirements Definition
Why? Do you really understand what the project is trying to achieve? Do you understand what the customer really wants and needs? Do you understand any boundary conditions, or fixed constraints? Do you know who all the key stakeholders are, and how they could influence the project? This step is often skipped by many project teams, who may deliver a great project, but it doesn't solve the right problem.
Scope Definition & Decomposition
What? Now that you know understand the requirements, what needs to be done to meet them? This process involves breaking down the project into manageable components of work, and understanding the goods or services (deliverables) that will result. This involves the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which will be the basis for how the project will be estimated and controlled. This is the most important step in the process, as the WBS provides the "common thread" through your project, so you can understand how all of the other pieces come together. Learn more about Scope Management.
Contracting & Execution Strategy
How? Now that you know what you need to do, the next question is: how will you do it? How will you procure the resources you need? How will you manage them? What's more important to you: cost or schedule? How will you ensure that the project has the right things at the right time? What are the key decisions you need to make?
Planning & Scheduling
When? Many people often confused by the difference between planning and scheduling. Planning is the process of understanding the necessary high-level sequence of the work, and the key dependencies that could affect the outcome. This frequently involves a combination of both working from the start of the project (forward pass), and working from the required end date (backward pass). Scheduling involves the detailed definition of activities, their logical sequence, and the resources required to complete them, and the duration required to complete each with the available resources. There are several methods to do this, but the most commonly used is the Critical Path Method (CPM), used to understand the activities that are driving the minimum duration for the project. Several widely used tools are available to help (e.g. Microsoft Project, Oracle Primavera P6, etc.)
How much? Having defined the scope, the strategy, the schedule, and the resources, you now have enough information to build an estimate of the total cost of the project. This can be simple or complex. Do you understand the accuracy of your estimates? This involves not only the cost of the resources directly employed or consumed in the project, but in everything else that may be required (indirect cost). Do you understand how prices may change over time? Which currencies will you use, and how will changes in the exchange rates affect you? How do you know you have a reasonable cost target? What is the likely range of cost outcomes?
What can go wrong? Projects usually have some degree of risk. Can something happen that affects the outcome? What are the key risks, and what can be reasonably done about them? How can we maximise any opportunities, and minimize any threats? Are the right controls in place, and how effective are they?
What do you get? Understanding how each project contributes to the business strategy is critical to informing portfolio decisions, using a combination of economic metrics (net present value, internal rate of return, payback period, etc.) and other scoring metrics to help figure out where each project sits in the portfolio, and which are the best use of scarce human and capital resources.
Work the Plan
Once you have enough confidence in the plan, and have made a decision to go forward with the project, how do you keep the project on track?
Procurement & Contract Management
How do you engage the market to procure the necessary goods and services to deliver the project? What purchase orders have been issued, and which contracts have been executed? How do you monitor correspondence related to the contracts? How are variations managed? How are claims / disputes handled? There are also many tools that can help with this.
How do you know how much work has actually been completed? How much work should have been completed by now? How much are you liable to pay to achieve this work? Answering these questions can tell you a lot about how your project is going, and also help you forecast how the project will turn out. ProjectAI uses the concept of Earned Value Management, among other techniques, to understand project performance, and it's one of many techniques for helping to predict future outcomes.
Planning & Scheduling
As the project progresses, you can track the actual start and finish of the activities versus the original plan (the baseline). This can show you which things are deviating, and helps you decide what can be done to bring the project back on track.
Cost Engineering / Cost Control
Throughout execution, costs may change from the original estimate, and many documents will be received to report on what has been spent, and what will be spent. How do you want to manage this? Which accounting systems will you use? How do you efficiently move the data between the various systems? How do you manage contingency? How does the past influence the future? How will the cost be incurred over time? How much cash do you need, and when will you need it?
Scope Control / Change Management
Project plans aren't always perfect. Things happen that we didn't expect. How do we ensure that changes are really needed? How will potential changes affect the project? How can we minimize or eliminate changes? How do we ensure that the cost and schedule are updated with the latest changes?
Other Project Processes
Numerous other processes are also used to support projects, and the information associated with them can be very powerful. The ProjectAI platform can also be used to integrate other data sets such as:
- Health and Safety Data
- Environmental and Regulatory Permits
- Inventory Control
- Equipment Utilization
- Construction Commodities
- Resource Management / Time Tracking
- Document Management
Once the work has been completed, how do you know you have received all the deliverables? Where do you store them? Have they been transferred to the customer / end user? Did you get the outcome you expected? What was the final cost and schedule of the work? What did you learn from the project? How can you make your next project even better?