The objectives of a project are the expected outcomes and benefits to be received upon completion of the project. What the project is projected to achieve can either be specific, measurable or varying and materializing gradually over time. Projects are developed and executed in many settings and the type of project chosen; the time, the budget and the team size are agreed on based on the setting, the objectives of the project and the available resources among other factors. Different organizations have particular individual styles and cultures influencing the manner in which the project work is executed. This paper will look at projects, the many factors that make projects to differ, advantages and disadvantages of the functional and matrix organizations when observed from a project management perspective.
A project is understood to be a temporary endeavor that is executed by an organization, group or institution and that purposes to create a unique service, product or outcome (Berkun, 2005). There are a number of elements that are common to every project such as time, budget and objectives. However, these same elements and others are what cause a difference in projects. The budget for instance is a tool against which expended costs can get measured. The project budget gets to be developed during the preparation stage upon consideration of necessary resources, project execution time span and other cost related aspects.
Every project has a specific budget that is unique to the project alone as the expenses expected to be incurred vary from project to project. Each project will be carried out over a particular time period, will have different resource requirements and will receive varying priorities from top management among other factors. The budget may be affected by some inaccuracies but these inaccuracies should not be used as an excuse for insufficient work (Berkun, 2005). The project schedule has to clearly present the required resources and costs for each and every task. In this way a realistic budget will be formulated. Once the budget is formulated in a realistic manner, an allowance for inaccuracies and uncertainty can then be created. Without the work breakdown structure it is almost impossible to develop a realistic project since estimating the cost of a project depends on how long the project is expected to take.
Two organizations may decide to undertake a similar project based on the expected outcomes of the projects. However the two projects may differ since the two organizations may have different time spans, varying availability of resources and different levels of project prioritization among other project management factors. In this way the project budgets of the two projects will vary hence the underlying concept that project budget is one factor causing projects to differ.
Another factor causing variance in projects is the element of time. Some projects will have strictly tight deadlines while others have flexible and loose deadlines. In the case of a tight deadline often team members find themselves working ridiculous hours and tempers get frayed easily due to the immense pressure. The tight deadline may be intentionally set in order to ensure the project gets done within a short period or the amount of project time needed may be underestimated leading to last minute rush to meet the deadline. As a result of potential underestimation, project management attempts to oversee that appropriate methods are followed when estimating the time required for completion of all the project processes. These methods will have to take into account any unexpected event that may arise and high priority work that may come up in emergency cases. Disregarding these occasions that may come up unexpectedly might bring grave negative consequences on the quality and reliability of the project outcomes and cause late completion of the project. As a result accurate estimation of time is very critical in the project preparation. Without accurate time estimation even top management involvement in the project will be minimal and the people with the authority to sign it off may be less committed. This would be the case since their confidence in the project may get reduced. If errors start getting exposed early enough in the project there is a possibility that others will be experienced in the course of the project execution and top management would not be willing to waste time and commitment in a project showing potential of failure.
It is apparent that the element of time may influence the nature of project therefore it applies as a concept causing variance in projects. Two similar projects (based on the outcomes) may be initialized but because resource allocation, budget, top management involvement and other related factors may vary, the time period estimated for each project may differ. A project with full support of senior management would be executed more effectively, with fewer constraints and with allocation of more resources. In this way projects may vary due to top management involvement. Also project objectives may differ causing projects to be different. There are projects that are initiated with the purpose of bringing an organization profit while other projects may be initiated aiming to assist the vulnerable in the society, achieve Corporate social responsibility and aid in relief and volunteer efforts.
There are some factors that cause a project to vary and yet they do not cause this variance because they are projected to do so but rather because of upcoming developments during the project processes. Every organization needs to undergo a number of processes including planning, initiation, execution, monitoring and controlling and eventual closure of the project which is followed by presentation of a report on the project (Powers and Toney, 1997). Two projects may have similar resources allocated, same budget, time estimated and other related elements. In addition, the two projects can have similar tasks in the preparation/planning and initiation phases but along the way differences begin to arise. The execution phase may get influenced by some challenges such as labor inflation, reduced top management involvement, internal team wrangles and other such constraints. Depending on the problems observed in the monitoring stage, the project management team is expected to come up with recommendations to ensure similar errors do not reoccur and the project is completed free from these errors (Powers and Toney, 1997). Different problems may face each project causing the project management to come up with specific recommendations for each project which would more likely be different from those of the other project. In this way the two projects may be affected in terms of time, quality of outcomes and also types of outcomes may come out different.
Top management involvement in projects is vital in order to realize project success. The project management will mostly determine whether the top management will get involved in the project or not. One particular way of ensuring top management gains interest in the project is by aligning the project with the strategic plan of the organization. If the project contributes significantly to the organization's strategic plan, it would not be difficult to get consent on a number of things from the top management and the top management would be eager to see the outcomes of the project materialize hence they would get involved in the project processes (Goodman et al., 2003).
Without top management involvement resource allocation, project prioritization and strict monitoring of various project processes would be minimal. For a project to be undertaken to a successive completion, the necessary resources must be made available. If top management is not even in the least interested with the project, chances of all resources being allocated are minimal. Additionally, a project with top management involvement tends to be overseen and supervised with seriousness since the project management team face pressure from their seniors to ensure the project does not fail (Management Guide, 2011). When top management is disinterested, the team members, the various supervisors and even the project management team know that in the event that the project fails, there would be nothing to loose and the top management would not mind.
Another way to prioritize a project so that top management can get involved is ensuring the project processes are carried out effectively with minimal inaccuracies and errors (Galbraith, 1971). In this way the project will show signs of success early enough and the commitment and hard work will appeal to the top management. This will prompt the top management to get involved and extend help to ensure the project is not limited in any way.
A matrix organization brings employees with a specific specialty together and organizes them into teams that are assigned special projects. These employees are still retained in their original positions within the company and they still report to their original superiors but at the same time they report to their project manager or leader for the period that the project is in operation. The advantages of this type of organization in the project management scope are the ability to bring employees who share the same knowledge and experience together therefore…