Microsoft Project 2013 is brimming with features to help you manage any kind of project, but you have to know something about project management to make those features sing.
What’s So Special About Projects?Projects come in all shapes and sizes, from a child’s birthday party to the inauguration of a new president of the United States. What’s the common thread that unites all projects and makes them different from other kinds of work?
Here’s one definition: A project is a unique endeavor with clear cut objectives, a starting point, an ending point, and (usually) a budget.
Unique is the most important word in that definition, because every project is different in some way.
Clear-cut objectives are necessary if you want any hope of reaching the end, staying within budget, and making customers happy.
A project begins at one point in time and ends when it achieves its objectives (although some projects seem interminable).
Budgets play a role in most projects, because few people consider money irrelevant. In addition to achieving the objectives within the desired time frame, you also have to keep the price tag within an acceptable range.
What Is Project Management?Project management is the art of balancing project objectives against the constraints
of time, budget, resource availability, and quality. Achieving that balance requires
skill, experience, and a boatload of techniques.
Novices sometimes think of project management as building a sequence of tasks,
but those in the know recognize that project management starts before a project
officially begins and doesn't end for a while after the project’s objectives are achieved.
There’s no one “right” way to manage projects ,but most methodologies cover the
following five phases
- Getting started. Often called initiating, this first phase of project management is short but important. It’s your only opportunity to get the project off to a good start. In this phase, you answer questions like “Why are we doing this project?” and “Do we really want to do it?” The initial attempts to describe the purpose of a project may produce vague results like “Hold an event to raise money.”But as you identify the stakeholders , you learn what the project is about and what the stakeholders hope to achieve. The more specific you are when you describe a project’s objectives, the greater your chances for success.
- Planning. This phase, is where you draw your road map: the objectives to achieve; the work to perform; who’s going to do that work, when; and how much the whole thing will cost.
- Performing the project. Also referred to as executing, this part of project management lasts a long time,is to keep the project team working on the right things at the right times.
- Keeping things under control.project managers have to monitor projects to see whether they’re on schedule, within budget, and achieving their objectives. In the controlling phase, you measure project performance against the plan, decide what to do if the project is off track, make the necessary adjustments, and then measure again.
- Gaining closure.The closing phase is when you ask for official acceptance that the project is complete—your sign that your job is done.
Identify Who Has a Stake in the ProjectCommitment comes from all levels of an organization, from the executive-level project sponsor to the people who work on the project every day. Project stakeholders get their name because they have a stake in the project’s outcome. They either give something to your project—like the managers who provide the resources you use or they want something from it, like the sponsors who support your fundraiser in exchange for publicity.
Identifying stakeholders can be tough. Some people don’t realize they’re stakeholders, like the development team that learns about a project when they receive a list of requirements for a new website. Other people pretend to be stakeholders but aren't, like a department that gets chummy because they see your project as an inexpensive way to get their new database. If you’re not careful, your project can gain extraneous requirements but no additional money.
Types of stakeholders:
- Project customers are easy to spot, because they’re the ones with the checkbooks.
- Project sponsors are the folks who want the project to succeed and have the authority to make things happen, like the regional director who’s backing the fundraising project.
- Functional managers (also called line managers) run departments like marketing,finance, and IT.
- Team members who do project work are stakeholders, too, because they perform the tasks that make up the project.
- Project managers are stakeholders, because your reputation and livelihood depend on the success of your projects.
- End users of the project result are also stakeholders.
Project objectives help you identify which groups participate in achieving those objectives.
The responsibility matrix identifies the groups involved in a project and their level of involvement, so it acts as a checklist of stakeholder groups.
Of course, you still have to identify the specific people to work with within those groups. When you start to build your project team, the list of functional managers and team members falls into place.