Posts Tagged ‘Project Management’

What’s included in a project charter

A project charter is a common Project Management tool used to convey key information around the Project and its deliverables. It is produced early on in the project process and is often used to gain approval from key stakeholders for the project to proceed.

When new projects are being proposed its important to collate and share key information amongst decision makers – the project charter provides a vehicle for that activity and in doing so provides a snapshot of the project at approval stage and what led to decisions being made.

Using a project charter infers a certain discipline in project management as a robust charter will include determining objectives, risks and issues and helps mitigate ambiguity about the project approach and targets. This final point is important – for a project to be approved stakeholders need to know beyond reasonable doubt what’s it about and how it will achieve. As such the power of a project charter as a communication tool should not be ignored.

The project charter will usually be authored by a mix of the Project Manager and the Project Sponsor – the actual mix will vary from project to project (and also organization to organization).

What to include in your charter?

While there’s no set template for your charter you’ll want to consider the following:

1/ Objectives
2/ Scope
3/ Stakeholder assessments
4/ Risks
5/ Assumptions and Constraints
6/ Approvals
7/ Cost Appraisal
8/ Initial Timeline

Once signed off by relevant stakeholders the Project Charter acts as the Project Managers authority to proceed and certain elements of the charter can be transferred into a Project Initiation Document if required.

Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 1

One of the challenges that new project managers face is that they are often daunted by knowing what activities and stages should take place within their project timeline. While formal methodologies such as Prince 2 & PMP can provide a basic framework novice Project Managers often find such tools complex and bureaucratic and be put off from the benefits that they can provide an so initiate their project without an understanding of those steps that will facilitate success.

For most projects there are some common steps and activities – these can be adapted into most plans in some guise and while the detail may depend on your deliverable you may wish to include those steps shown below.

Project steps: the essential project elements

1. Project initiation

Project initiation refers to the steps involved in getting your project off the ground and typically this will include:

• Defining the deliverable and it’s benefits (i.e. the reason for undertaking the project)
• Defining the project scope
• Producing some form of cost benefit
• An initial risk assessment and assumptions
• A Stakeholder assessment – who will your project impact – include customers and suppliers to the project consider who will support your project and who may sabotage it!
• Appointment of a steering board
• Project Approval

Depending on the complexity and cost of your project, Project Initiation can take various forms. Often a project charter is produced which summarizes the benefits, costs, risks and high level timeline that the project will take. This can then be presented to appropriate decision makers who allow the project to go ahead.

Formal Project approval is usually required and is especially needed where costs and resources are used. Budget can then be granted, usually with a certain tolerance that once (or if likely to be) exhausted will be referred back to the steering board for review.

2 Risk management

Risk Management is a key Project step – effectively this is the process that captures and manages potential pit falls (for example a failure of hardware to be ready on time in a IT deployment). Risk Management has a number of key attributes namely.

Risk Capture
Risk assessment
Risk avoidance & mitigation
Risk monitoring

For more information check out the following article on Project Risk Management

3 Project Team formation / Project Organization

Once your project is approved you’ll need to form a team to help implement it. Again its size and shape will be dependant on the skills required but most project teams have a number of project related functions that they undertake:

• Help produce and co-ordinate Project Plans
• Undertake Work Packages
• Report on risks and issues
• Communicate to stakeholders

Part 2 of the article can be found here Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 2

Project Management Guide An Introduction to Project Management

Whether you know it or not your business will be engaged in projects – from implementing new technology such as deploying a new systems to launching a new product to moving into new premises to launching a new marketing campaign – these are all forms of projects.

In this Project Management Guide we’ll take a look at what projects are, how they’re constructed and what purpose they serve – together the key steps involved in being successful.

Definition of a project?

Projects are varied but have some common characteristics – projects are not permanent fixtures within a business and last for a defined period (they have a start and end dates). Projects also have a deliverable or task to complete which once completed signifies the end of the project.

Project teams and organization

The first rule of Project Management is that Projects are a team sport – Projects are semi permanent and a project team is characteristically bought together to deliver it and then disbanded, moved to another project or in some cases absorbed into a run team (for example in the case of an IT Project). Project teams are usually built up of personnel with key skills/disciplines who undertake specific roles within the project (this maybe on a permanent or part time basis).

Project timescales

Most projects are carried out within a set timescale – this may include various “gate reviews” where progress is formally monitored and deliverables reviewed before progressing to the next stage. Timescales are a intrinsic element of successful Project Management. Projects without deadlines and defined tasks can amble rather than be focused – they can also be susceptible to scope creep as you think you have time to undertake other tasks and as a result be more costly!

Project Management Methodologies: Formal vs informal

There are a variety of “formal” project methodologies that can be applied to projects these range from the likes of Prince 2, PMI/PMP. These methodologies provide a formal route to managing a project and describe a series of set activities and sequences that take place together with a range of controls that should be applied ensuring a project is being managed correctly and has a higher likelihood of being successful.

One of the questions often asked regarding applying formal project management methods such as Prince 2 is the level of bureaucracy that these methodologies are associated with. Mileage may vary on the methodologies dependant on the size and complexity of the project and size of the team involved however it goes without saying that these formal methods have a lot to offer and can provide a proven route to success.

When things go wrong

When it comes to managing projects – don’t expect things to always run smoothly as they rarely do! – issues and constraints may occur which can impact costs and timescales – while these threats are very real there are certain things that Project Managers can do.

Risk Management in Projects

The first step in running projects smoothly is thorough risk planning – Project Risk Management is identifying and mitigating risks that could occur during your project resulting in a detrimental impact.

The method used for managing risk varies but ensure you include a detailed description of the risk coupled with it’s like hood and probable impact coupled with mitigating activity and owner.

The need for Project Assumptions

The second thing that you can do is to start your project with a set of assumptions – for example one assumption you may have is that you have access to certain staff – the reason for having assumptions is they form part of your project costings and timescales but they also allow you to reassess things if any change.

Project Management steps

Projects can really vary in their deliverables so the steps involved will vary from project to project but there are some common elements that can be attributed to any project

1/ The project sponsor (sometimes the projects customer) defines the objective and deliverable of the project and sets out a case for going ahead (sometimes formalized as a project charter).
2/ The sponsor then obtains agreement from decision makers (and more importantly budget holders!) that the project is viable and required before costs are incurred – this will often take the place of a formal review and examine – costs, timescales assumptions and risks.
3/ If required a project steering team is appointed to monitor the project and provide support and assistance when needed – the make up of a steering team varies but often includes representation from major suppliers to and major customers of the project together with key stakeholders and appropriate decision makers..
4/ Assemble a project team (this will again vary from project to project) and arm them with the required tools.
5/ Undertake a stakeholder analysis and consider what methods of communication will be used to keep stakeholders and the project team updated during the project.
6/ Construct a project plan including owners, deliverables and timescales and review the project with the newly assembled team.
7/ Carryout the initial actions within the project plan – hold regular reviews to ensure that your proceeding as planned – regularly review your risks and consider presenting regularly to your steering committee to appraise them of how your doing – this is especially necessary where problems occur which need impact cost or duration of the project – if things go as planned proceed with implementing your project plan.
8/ At completion of the project – ensure that all requirements have been delivered, document and share any lessons learnt
9/ Disband the project team and steering committee.