Become a professional project manager by following these 15 steps – The Project Management Essentials.

This program is sponsored by the Project Management Research Institute as part of their global evengelization of professional project management. Upon successful completion of this module you will learn the basics of professional project management. You will also receive the ‘PM-Essentials’ certificate from the Project Management Research Institute.

How to proceed?

Read the contents and assess your understanding of the concepts explained in this page by taking the online assessment provided at the end of this page. You can take the assessment multiple times. If your score is above 90%, then you will receive ‘Project Management Essentials’ course completion certificate issued by the Project Management Research Institute.

You are assigned as the project manager for a new project. Here are the steps that will make you a really professional project manager.

Step#1 Understand the purpose of the project and the key stakeholders

Every project is unique. Every project delivers unique products or services. Projects are considered as successful when they are delivered on time, within budget and met the objectives they were intended to meet. Project managers and planners must focus their energies to understand the project well at the beginning of the project, so that many oversight related errors can be eliminated. The best project document to get these information is the ‘Project charter’. Project charter contains;

  • The high level description of the scope of the project
  • The business case of the project
  • The major milestones with dates
  • Major risks
  • Assumptions made while initiating the project
  • Key stakeholders and their name, role and key responsibilities

If the project charter is not yet prepared, then it is a golden opportunity for you to work along with the sponsors to develop the project charter. Project charter gives a good start for the project and gives better continuity for the project.

Step#2 Establish good rapport with the key stakeholders

Any one who is affected positively or negatively by doing the project or by delaying the project is a stakeholder. Stakeholders can be classified into;

  • High power – High interest
  • High power – Low interest
  • Low power – High interest
  • Low power – Low interest

It is very important to have good rapport with the high power – high interest segment of the stakeholders, and this must start from day one.

Step#3 Develop the project management plan

How are we going to really achieve the objectives of the project. Project plan is the document which explains;

  • The projects high level scope
  • Strategy for converting the scope into deliverables
  • Major milestones with dates
  • Scope management plan
  • Schedule management plan
  • Cost management plan
  • Quality goals of the project
  • Plan to achieve the desired quality
  • The major known risks
  • Plan to manage the risks
  • The project team structure
  • Resource management plan
  • Roles and responsibilities of the team
  • Project’s communication plan
  • Procurement plan
  • Change management plan
  • Configuration management plan
  • Knowledge management plan

For small projects, this can be just one document. For large projects, this may be broken down into separate subsidiary plans. For example – for large projects, there is always a dedicated team to perform risk management, hence a separate risk management plan. Same is the case with quality, communications, procurement, human resource etc. For very small projects, everything can be rolled into just one document. Once the project plan is completed, it must be reviewed and approved.

Step#4 Collect detailed requirements

Some projects starts with very high level requirements. For example, the new web site should have payment processing capabilities can be one requirement. One need to have more clarity into this requirement before constructing it. Some of the questions that needs to be answered could be;

  • Should it handle multiple currencies?
  • Should it handle debit cards?
  • Should it handle credit cards?.
  • Should it handle inter-bank transfers?
  • Should there be payment on delivery option?
  • What about re-funds?

Without clarity, the engineers will not be able to build it. In such cases, the project plan should explain how the high level requirements will be elaborated into detailed requirements.

In some instances, details requirements will be provided during the contracting phase itself. In those scenarios, the project plan should explain how the changes to the requirements will be managed during project execution.

Once there is concurrence on the set of requirements from the key stakeholders, then we move on to Step#5, Define scope.

Step#5 Define scope

Once the requirements are frozen, it is reviewed and baselined and the Scope document version 1.0 is released and there after for any changes, it has to follow the change management procedure. Once the scope document version 1.0 is ready, then it is time to move on to Step#6 – Decompose the scope into a work breakdown structure.

Step#6 Decompose the scope into product breakdown structure and then to work breakdown structure

It is easier to manage the pieces than the whole. In other words, if we manage the pieces well, the whole can be accomplished on time, within budget. Project managers use the same logic to break down the large scope document into a product breakdown structure first, and then to a work breakdown structure.

Here is the product breakdown structure for project green woods. To arrive at the product breakdown structure, the project manager and the planning team breaks down the product of the project into major components of the deliverable of the project.

Example of Product Breakdown Structure (PBS)

Once the product breakdown structure (PBS) is ready, then the project manager and the planning team superimpose the product breakdown structure (PBS) with the management and engineering activities that need to be performed to build them.

Example of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The lowest level in the WBS are known as the work packages. In the figure, 1.1 Layout is not a work package, where as 1.1.1 Design and 1.1.2 Approval are work packages.

Additional information about the work packages are captured in the WBS dictionaries.

The scope document, along with the WBS forms the scope baseline version 1.0. Once the work breakdown structure is finalized, the project manager can move on to defining the Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) for the project.

Step#7 Develop the organizational breakdown structure for the project

This is the time to define which organization will perform which work package. The output is the organizational breakdown structure (OBS).

Example of Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) for the Project

At this stage, we have the Product breakdown structure (PBS), Work breakdown structure (WBS) and the Organizational breakdown structure (OBS). We also discussed that the lowest level in the WBS are the work packages. Additional information about the work packages are captured in the WBS dictionaries.

The next step is to decompose the work packages further into activities.

Step#8 Decompose the work packages in to activities

At this stage, work packages are further decomposed into activities. The effort and the resources required for performing the activities are estimated. Now we are ready to move on to Step#9 Sequence activities.

Step#9 Sequence the activities based on their logical sequences

There are four types of dependencies among activities;

  • Finish to Start – Something has to finish for me start with something else. Finish to Start is the most common dependency type among tasks in projects. Design has to be completed and approved before the project manager can start construction work.
  • Finish to Finish – Something has to finish before the project manager can finish something else. Testing has to be completed for the development team to complete defect fixing.
  • Start to Start – Something has to start before the project manager can start something else. Testing has to start for the project team can start defect fixing.
  • Start to Finish – Something has to start for the project manager to finish something else. When the main power supply is restored, the generator can be switched off.
The four types of activity dependencies

The output of the sequence activity step are the activity sequences. Now the project manager is ready to move on to Step#10 – Develop schedule.

Step#10 Develop schedule

During this step, the activity sequences are merged to arrive at the schedule. The schedule provides;

  • Start and end dates for every activity
  • Milestone dates
  • Duration of the project
  • Critical path of the project. The longest path in the schedule network is known as the critical path.
Activity on Arrow diagram

In the diagram above, A,C,D is 30 days duration, where as A,B,D is 25 days. The longest path is ACD. The longest path in the network is known as the critical path. This project will take 30 days to complete.

Step#11 Ensure that the schedule is complete

Ensure that the schedule is complete in all aspects. There should not be any activity in the project, which is not part of the schedule. If something is not part of the schedule, then it is quite likely to be ignored and will invite additional problems during project execution time.

Step#11 Baseline the schedule

Once the project manager and the project team has enough confidence on the schedule, baseline the schedule.

Step#12 Form the team

Now it is time to mobilize the team, orient them towards the project.

Step#13 Allocate resources to the schedule and start the project execution

Perform work and resource allocation. Care must be taken not to overload or under load the resources. This is achieved through trial and error method and is known as resource leveling.

Step#14 Monitor and control the project

Monitor and control the project using the earned value management method

Step#15 Close the project / phase

As and when a phase is completed, the phase must be formally completed, and there must be a formal hand over / take over to the next organization / team. This is applicable at the end of the project as well.

Assess your understanding of the concepts discussed

You can repeat this test as many times as you want. Once you score above 90%, we will email you the ‘PM-Essentials’ course completion certificate issued by the Project Management Research Institute.

Be part of global evangelization of professional project management and help people to achieve more faster without wasting resources. That will protect our planet and make people happier.

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