Project Information, History, Intent, and Life Cycle
Gray and Larson, (2008) define project as "a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result." (p 5). Essential feature of a project is that it has a defined beginning and end often subject to time or fund constraint to achieve stakeholder's goals and objectives. Gray and Larson (2008) differentiate between project and program. "A program is a group of related projects designed to accomplish a common goal over an extended period of time." (Gray and Larson, 2008 p 6). Major goal of any project is to satisfy customers' objectives, and features of a project are they:
have established objectives.
Have a life span definitely a start and the end.
Usually involve several professionals and departments.
Have specific costs, time and performance requirements.
However, a project is different from program where workers are performing repetitive operations daily within an organization. Contrarily, a project has a defined start and end. For example, an organization could assign projects to an IT engineers to design different database to clients. Moreover, a project has a set of routing and procedures making it very unique. (Martin, and Tate,2004).
Typically, a project manager controls each project within a program and a major difference between a project and program is the time span and scale. For example, a healthcare organization can have a health program to cure cancer. The cancer program will involve number of projects that will be extended over time, and the organization will derive benefits from the program by managing the project individually. While each project has its own scope and goal, however, 'Program goals are closely related to broad strategic organization goals." (Gray and Larson, 2008 p 7).
Since the creation of mankind, man has implemented series of projects. The cavemen were able to achieve their project objectives by hunting animals in group to feed themselves and other member of the families. However, the history of mega projects started in the last 4,500 years ago, and the pyramid of Giza in Egypt is an example of a mega project that man has successfully completed. Other mega projects completed several thousand of years back are Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, Great Wall of China, and Transcontinental Railway. Typically, all these projects have the same features of modern projects; these projects had a project charter, project sponsor and project justification. Moreover, these projects followed the modern project management process such as planning, monitoring, controlling, executing and closing. Despite the project management process integrated in the projects, however, the project stakeholders did not use professional project managers to implement the projects. Until 1900, engineers, architects and master builders implemented most small and large civil engineering projects. Between 1861 and 1919, Henry Gantt introduced planning and control techniques in the application of engineering, civil construction and other heavy projects. Henry Gantt is famous for its application of Gantt chart in the project management. Moreover, Henri Fayol introduced five management functions that assisted in enhancing a greater understanding of project management. Frederick Taylor also develops scientific management, and tools such as resource allocations and WBS (work breakdown structure), which have become modern project management tools. However, after the Second World War, the project stakeholders started systematically integrating the project management concepts and tools in many complex engineering projects.
Starting from 1950s, stakeholders started integrating project management tools in the core of engineering projects, and project management became identified as a distinct discipline and integrated in the engineering model. For example, CMP (Critical Path Method) was developed to manage plant and maintenance projects. Moreover, United States used PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) for the Polaris missile submarine project.
One of the best ways to illustrate project is to use a project life cycle. A project lifecycle is a series of phase from the project's initiation to closure, and management involved in the project determines number of the project's phases. The project manager can break the project's phases into specific milestones with specific scope of work. Thus, the project lifecycle provides the strategy to manage a project. (Project Management Institute, 2013).
Larson and Gray (2011) argue that project managers can identify project life cycle as the cornerstone for managing successful project. According to Larson, et al. (2011), project life cycle passes through series of sequential stages that include:
Defining a project, planning, executing, and Delivering.
At defining stage, the project stakeholders define specification of the project as well as establishing the project objectives. At this stage, the project manager forms the project team and assigns responsibilities to each project team. At planning stage, the project stakeholders determine the scope of the project and project schedules. At this stage, the project manager will determine the project's budget, quality of the project and people to benefit from the project.
The executing stage of the project involves measure to control costs and specifications. This stage, the stakeholders will also be involved in forecasting measures to control costs and necessary changes for the project's implementation. The final stage is the closing stage that involves delivering the project to the project owners. At this stage, the project team will release the project materials and equipment.
"Project definition: WBS, Responsibility Matrix and Communication Plan"
A project is a temporary activity to create a unique product or service. The temporary nature of a project shows that a project has definite start and end, and the end is reached when the project stakeholders have achieved their objectives. The customer or sponsor may decide to terminate a project if the project is no more needed. However, the concept temporary in the project definition does not mean that the project's duration is short, major objective of a project is to create lasting outcomes. For example, the national monument project is to deliver results that will last for centuries. Moreover, a project can focus on the improvement of a product using a Six-Sigma technique to reduce product defects. A project can also involve delivering a service. For example, a research project is an example of a service project focusing on delivering knowledge outcome. (Project Management Institute, 2013).
However, WBS (work breakdown structure) is a critical project tool that assists in successful completion of a project and a WBS is the process of dividing a project tasks into a manageable form. Key benefits of WBS are that it assists the stakeholders to have a structural vision of project activities to be delivered. The WBS is also defined as a hierarchical decomposition of the total work to be accomplished by the project team. (The Times 101-2014).Typically, the WBS assists project managers to manage all products to be delivered based on the project's specifications. One of the benefits of WBS is that it assists the project manager to evaluate time, costs, as well as technical performances of all tasks to be delivered within the project lifecycle. (Gray and Larson, 2008). Since the project manager assigns costs and time to each task, the strategy will assist in arriving at accurate cost estimate for a project. With the information, the project manager will be able to track costs and project's performances.
However, Gray and Larson, (2008) point that elaborate WBS does not necessarily warrant the scope, and size of a project, in order words, "a responsibility matrix is a grid that shows the project resources assigned to each work package. It is used to illustrate the connections between work packages or activities and project team members" (Project Management Institute, 2013 p 262). The RM (responsibility matrix) is a tool that a project manager use for a project, the RM summarizes the tasks that the project manager will accomplish and identify the project team to carry out the tasks. In order words, RM chart reveals all the project activities as well as participants responsible to carry out the tasks. As being revealed in Fig l, the project manager can use responsibility matrix to list all the tasks to be carried out, and the project team to carry out specific tasks.
Fig 1: Market Research Project Responsibility Matrix
Larson et al. (2011) identify project communication plan as a critical tool to coordinate project team and tracking project schedules. "The purpose of a project communication plan is to express what, who, how, and when information will be transmitted to project stakeholders so schedules, issues, and action items can be tracked." (Larson et al. 2011 p 19). Typically, the communication plan maps how the information flow becomes available to all project team. A robust communication plan assists in mitigating a project failure because it assists team members, customers and other stakeholders to carry out their jobs effectively. Essentially, "the communication plan is usually created by the project manager and/or the project team in the early stage of project planning." (Larson et al. 2011 p 19).Important benefit of communication plan is that it assists in tracking project's issues, schedules and action items, and a project communication plan assists in addressing the…